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But Cyril you lied to us: Barney Mthombothi

By Barney Mthombothi

Dear Cyril,

Pardon my impertinence in addressing you by your first name. The informality will hopefully allow for some honest straight talk.

That day at Nasrec almost five years ago was a day of contrasting emotions. The sigh of relief that greeted your victory was palpable. A yoke had been removed from our necks. You sat there, tears streaming down your face, relieved and excited at achieving a life’s ambition. Zuma, on the other hand, sat stunned and dejected, disbelieving what had just happened. For South Africans who had endured nine years of Zuma’s misrule, that picture of a corrupt bully finally humbled made up for all the hurt and frustration.

Your first state of the nation address was like a breath of fresh air. Finally, an adult was in charge of the country. And you talked big. You were going to reconfigure your cabinet, which you haven’t. The problems at Eskom were soon to be a thing of the past; they aren’t. Our economic malaise was to receive top priority. By the time you finished speaking, and for days and months thereafter, everybody was humming Thuma Mina. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. It’s all turned sour now.

The optimism has evaporated. Ramaphoria, that little halo around your head, is now a distant memory, if not a swear word. So much goodwill needlessly squandered. There was an opening, an opportunity, to do great things, to turn this ship around. Instead it’s almost as if you’re pouring gasoline on the fire started by your predecessor. I wish you had lost at Nasrec. Under Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma the ANC would have either splintered or gone on to lose the election. The country stands a better chance of survival with the ANC either dead or out of power. Instead you gave people false hope.

Many held their noses and voted ANC in the hope of giving power to your elbow. They were duped —  unwittingly also voting for Ace Magashule and his gang.

A growing perception is that you’re a coward. That you haven’t got the bottle. That you’re scared of Julius Malema, for instance. In politics, perception is reality. That has now become your emblem. It’s imperative that you make that pilgrimage to Marikana, which has become an unnecessary albatross around your neck, and an outsized influence on government conduct. During the July unrest, for instance, police were told not to use unnecessary force for fear of repeating the unfortunate incident in Marikana. So they locked themselves in their offices while mobs rampaged and looted a stone’s throw away. Winnie Mandela, who volunteered to accompany you to Marikana, is no more. Malema has spurned you. But why a president of the country would require an escort to any part of the country is difficult to fathom.

You came to power on an anti-corruption ticket. But you also said your mission was to unite the ANC. But uniting the ANC means getting into bed with corrupt individuals. How’s that fighting corruption? The obvious thing to do is to wage an unrelenting fight against corruption. The party would have no option but to tag along because the country would be behind you. However, your reputation as a corruption fighter has been tarnished by the PPE thieving, some of it committed by people close to you. You promised to keep the public informed about action taken against those involved. That’s yet another promise broken. Just as you’ve failed to keep your promise to have the masterminds behind the July unrest arrested. A leader must keep his word.

We often boast that we have the finest constitution in the world. But the test for our democracy will come when the ANC, on losing the election, decides to step down peacefully

We often boast that we have the finest constitution in the world. But the test for our democracy will come when the ANC, on losing the election, decides to step down peacefully. Until then, we will have to reserve our judgment. For, if the ANC was prepared in July to burn down the country simply to settle party squabbles, one can only imagine what would happen when the stakes are much higher, when it’s fighting to stay in power. You cannot be trusted to stand up for the constitution. Just as you didn’t seem to have the stomach to protect it when Zuma challenged it. You gave a wink and a nod for his release, hiding behind Arthur Fraser.

Many people are invested in the ANC staying in power. All parts of the state are crawling with acolytes who would have much to lose  — the army, police, parastatals and the BEE types who guffawed heartily when you made fun of Nathi Mthethwa’s ridiculous flag

Some are still clinging to the fiction that you’re the country’s only hope; the alternatives don’t bear thinking about. We’ve gone past that stage. If Armageddon is to be our reality, let’s have it now and be done with it. We won’t solve the problem or dodge the bullet by postponing the inevitable. The nettle needs to be grasped now before irreversible damage is done to the country. Neither you nor the ANC are the solution though. You’re not only bereft of ideas, you dug us into this hole; you’re the authors of our misery. It’s as if the ANC spent years in exile fighting, not to liberate the country, but to destroy it. And they’ve done a good job of it.

Firing incompetent people doesn’t seem to be your thing. You move them around like deck chairs on the Titanic. That woman at the NPA was supposed to be the game changer. But she has sat on her hands, doing very little if anything. The first order of business for the new government in two years will be to fire her. You can’t do it. You’re too nice.

It’s not as if people expect you to perform miracles. They’re merely asking you to deliver on your promises. Stop acting like a victim or a supplicant. You have the power, Mr President. Use it.

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