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OPINION: It's futile to axe Jacob Zuma without a future plan

By Nompumelelo Runji | 2017-04-20 13:26:15.0

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, COPE’s Mosiuoa Lekota, EFF’s Dali Mpofu and DA’s Mmusi Mamane at a briefing on how they are going to fight for President Jacob Zuma to step down. Pic: Kabelo Mokoena. © Sowetan

Leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) Bantu Holomisa has called for a national summit to deliberate on a vision for South Africa.

He argues that aimless protesting will not bring about the changes to the country's political and economic system that are so desperately needed.

The governing party as well as the opposition have all used the core issues of ownership of the economy, economic growth that has not translated into development, investment that has not translated into job creation and industrialisation as political ping pong balls.

But they have actually been playing with the lives of the majority who suffered under apartheid and suffers now in a democratic dispensation.

It is disingenuous of President Jacob Zuma to label all those who participated in protest action against him as anti-poor.

It is equally disingenuous of opposition parties and civil society to protest against Zuma without acknowledging and making a commitment to address the structural impediments to the realisation of a truly free and equal South Africa.

Should Zuma go, SA will still need a government that has the political will to make the difficult decisions and take the necessary actions to dismantle the current structure of the country's political economy.

Whereas the apartheid state was premised on division, exclusion and marginalisation - sanctioning the citizenship of whites whilst denying that of blacks - this democratic state is premised on inclusion and unity with a common citizenship.

A citizen enjoys all the rights and privileges contained in the constitution. This includes all the political rights and civil liberties as well as the socioeconomic rights that entitle all citizens to basic social goods such as housing, healthcare, sanitation, education and food.

The extension of socioeconomic rights is informed by the understanding that it is not possible to give full meaning to political rights if the economic injustices perpetuated by apartheid on black people are not addressed and redressed.

Thus, for black people to realise full citizenship, they must be included not only in the political system but in the enjoyment of economic prosperity and of social goods.

To the extent that the ideals espoused in the constitution are yet to be fully realised, then it must be assumed that the nation continues to be in transition.

The reality is that the experience of citizenship - as defined above - is disparate. Exclusion and marginalisation continue.

Poverty and food insecurity abounds among blacks. Although the ANC government has extended access to housing, water, sanitation, healthcare and education, the availability, reliability and quality of these services leave much to be desired.

If opposition parties and civil society are truly committed to the constitutional ideal, they must be willing to acknowledge that there are serious structural changes that need to be made.

Although 1994 was a turning point the danger is to construe it as the culmination rather than the beginning of the work of truly dismantling the deep-rooted repressive, extractive and exploitative structure of the political economy bequeathed by apartheid.

Sitting in the rainbow nation comfort zone, there has been a neglect of addressing the very real issues that are rupturing and indeed threatening long-term stability.

It is encouraging to see that there are leaders in the opposition waking up to the reality that civic activism based on a narrow aim of Zuma stepping down is not worth the energy and resources that are being committed to it.

If opposition parties and broader civil society fail to identify concrete demands and adopt a programme of action around the core threats to peaceful coexistence in the country, then the rolling mass action is a cacophony polluting the sociopolitical atmosphere.

The change of government achieved in 1994 and the adoption of a new constitution in 1996 was not the end of a transition to a new South Africa but only the beginning.

Former president Nelson Mandela's words are notable: "Some say that freedom has now been achieved. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and more difficult road."