With President Jacob Zuma at its helm, the ANC has reached its Waterloo, writes Xolela Mangcu.
Johannesburg – In one judgment, in one hour, in one historic moment, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng spoke for the pained hearts of millions of South Africans, saying in effect about the capriciousness of Jacob Zuma: “Enough is enough.”
Rare are the moments when a judge has spoken with such clarity on the most vital threat to a nation’s existence.
We know of Senator Howard Baker’s famous rhetorical question about Richard Nixon’s attempt to cover up for his illegality during Watergate: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”
Justice Mogoeng’s stinging repudiation of Zuma was best captured in his description of the public protector as the “biblical David that stood against the Goliath” of impropriety and corruption of government officials.
As soon as Justice Mogoeng began taking us on a tour de force of constitutional jurisprudence I knew trouble was coming Zuma’s way, and deservedly so.
Justice Mogoeng’s demeanour as he delivered the judgment was striking. It was the greatest judicial take-down of a sitting president in memory – administered with the serenity and calmness of a man who was conscious of the gravity of the moment.
He knew he had an entire nation and a watching world behind him.
I hung on each and every word, and the message was unmistakable: Zuma had violated his oath of office.
Justice Mogoeng’s rebuke extended beyond Zuma to include the National Assembly.
The irony is that his ruling is not only against the ANC caucus for its complicity in Zuma’s illegality.
As a constituent part of Parliament, even the parties that brought the matter to court are sullied by the judgment.
Just in case no one was listening, Justice Mogoeng was telling us we are deep in the throes of a constitutional crisis.
The logical and sensible way out is to dissolve Parliament and call for new elections.
The ANC should move its headquarters from Saxonwold back to Luthuli House.
All those who clapped and laughed along with Zuma should hang their heads in shame and walk gently into the sunset.
One of the lowest moment of this Parliament was when Naledi Pandor, the granddaughter of ZK Matthews, the esteemed intellectual and originator of the Freedom Charter, stood up to sing praises for Zuma.
Surely she had enough authority and pedigree in the party to be the one to point to his wayward conduct?
But then again, as Justice Mogoeng repeatedly reminded us, we do well to put our trust in institutions over individuals.
A new generation of ANC leaders who know how to think institutionally must rise within the ANC if the party is to survive another day.
Hugh Heclo, author and former professor of government at Harvard, has described what it means to think institutionally as follows – and I hope ANC members will take out their pens and write this down: “There is something estimable and decisive beyond me and my immediate personal inclinations. In approaching a major choice, the question is not: How can I get what I want?
“It is the duty-laden question that asks: What expectations and conduct are appropriate to my position and the choices I might make?
“What is it larger than myself into which I am drawn?”
What is it larger than yourselves into which you are drawn?
If Nelson Mandela had thought only for himself, he would have spent his life as a millionaire lawyer instead of a lone prisoner in a cold cell for three decades.
If Steve Biko thought only about himself he would have spent his life coining it as a medical doctor instead of dying what Sydney Kentridge described as a “lonely death on a mat on a stone floor”.
But these people felt there was something larger than themselves.
If the leadership of this organisation of my great-grandfather cannot emulate those leaders, then it must stop speaking in the name of the people while looting from them.
If the party cannot articulate a moral raison d’être then it must close shop before it steals more from our children.
The shortage of visionary leadership in the ANC is truly astonishing in a party founded and led by visionaries such as Walter Rubusana, Pixley Seme, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and Albertina Sisulu.
These were all good and decent human beings who would not steal anything from anybody, let alone from the mouths of their children.
Zuma has built himself a R240-million estate in one of the poorest districts in the land and has spent years telling us he was entitled to it, while breaking his oath of office.
As Christian Amanpour would say: “Really, now, Mr President?”
And his parliamentary cronies applauded the pillaging at every step, as if they were characters straight out of Ngugi wa Thiongo’s novel, Devil on the Cross. You could smell the stink of the rot in the party from a distance.
With Zuma at its helm, the ANC has reached its Waterloo. If it had any political nous, it would prevail on the man to step down, elect a new leader and call general elections.
But then I would not put it past them to mock Justice Mogoeng in the same way they have mocked Thuli Madonsela, in the same way they have mocked Mandela, and everyone who has dared to show them the folly of their ways.
I doff my hat to Justice Mogoeng and his colleagues for protecting our constitution and reaffirming our institutions.
The Black Consciousness part in me also says “Thank you” for what you have done for black people.
In the past few years we have begun walking with our heads hanging in shame, taunted in the name of Zuma and his kleptocrats – and by his laughter at his transgressions.
When asked why he laughs, Zuma says he cannot control himself. And that is precisely the point, Mr President.
Zwelinzima Vavi is right in calling on South Africans to stop being spectators, as if our futures were not being affected by Zuma, the Guptas and their cronies.
It behoves all of us, black and white, official opposition parties and ruling party members, to save our country from Jacob Zuma.
I have thought long and hard about whether I should apologise to Justice Mogoeng for my disgust at the manner in which he was appointed over Dikgang Moseneke.
Justice Mogoeng has taught us something honourable: that when individuals enter institutions they begin to “think institutionally”.
The Sunday Independent