Remember, remember the second of November. After a day of high drama in court, outside on the streets, thousands of people gathered to demand an end to the blatant abuse of the state for the enrichment of the politically connected.
Come Thursday morning and nothing has really changed.
We know a lot more about the extent of the abuse of the state and its institutions.
But where do we go from here? As the protest capital of the world, we’ve seen a new urgency in the demands for political change. And it’s certainly been mirrored in the local election results. But JZ remains supreme. His supporters remain ascendant in the ANC NEC.
So what does happen to the likes of the Save South Africa campaign? Can they actually push forward to influence anything above their own conscience?
If their event this week in Pretoria was anything to go by, then they certainly have a lot of work to do.
— Mail & Guardian (@MG_Reporter) November 2, 2016
With CEOs in attendance at a church and entertainment by Johnny Clegg, the event illustrated the most vocal constituencies in the Save South Africa campaign. The event also showed the failures of the Save South Africa campaign to interpret the construction of a social movement beyond a “politically active, socially concerned and educated section of the ‘metropolitan middle class’, or, in simple language, the chattering class.
As mini South African flags fluttered in the breeze, it was a moment you’d expect someone to nudge you and ask: “What a vaab hey?”
ANC stalwart Barbara Hogan and Lawson Naidoo led the proceedings, as religious leaders said their prayers. As Ray McCauley, Paul Mashatile and other speakers condemned the irresponsible ANC, that silly Shaun Abrahams (when will he prosecute Zuma?) and the state of the country – the CEOs in the crowd sat quietly. The main squeezes at the event could be found in the reserved seats at the front of the church, where Colin Coleman, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, and General Bantu Holomisa knew they were being seen.
Retired judge Zak Yacoob was the only speaker to prod at the support of CEOs. “We welcome them in joining us in this campaign, but in the end when we get to it, we will need to talk about fair labour practices, we have to talk about fair wages,” he said.
Sipho Pityana, the ANC stalwart who’s made headlines with his recent criticism of the president and one of the star organisers of the Save South Africa campaign, might have shifted a little in his seat with that remark. Pityana was among the last to speak, but when he did, we were alerted to a kerfuffle happening at the gates of the church grounds.
“Everyone get away from the fence,” a grumpy organiser yelled to Save South Africa comrades who were raising their fists at the crowds of EFF supporters marching on the street outside.
The EFF protesters had been locked out of the church because, according to the organiser, they had attempted to swipe the banners Save South Africa had neatly pinned to the church wall. If you were inside the church grounds, you wouldn’t be let out until the EFF passed and when challenged on this point a member of Save South Africa was adamant the EFF just didn’t understand how to save the country.
“If we let them in, people won’t see the difference between us and them,” he said.
“What is the difference between you and them?” someone asked.
They have “rowdy elements” who “don’t understand what we stand for” was the Save South Africa man’s reply. The demands of Save South Africa and the EFF are much the same: Zuma must go, Abrahams must go, and to hell with state capture. The EFF had a demand about free education too.
While the EFF’s thousands of mostly young, poor, black supporters painted Tshwane in red, and the prim, neatly conducted Save South Africa listened to Johnny Clegg crooning a musical intermission in the plan to save the country, Zuma’s lawyers were busy trying to withdraw the president’s application to interdict the state capture report.
Zuma’s ANC is in big trouble and the man himself is in Zimbabwe, distancing himself from how much a whole lot of people want him gone.
The EFF said that they and only they were responsible for the release of the state capture report – askies to the DA, Cope, and UDM: it appears Malema forgot to mention your efforts – and to celebrate they marched to Union Buildings to demand Zuma step down.
— Mail & Guardian (@MG_Reporter) November 2, 2016
The public outcry is here and it has been for some time. But Zuma is not. We know that there will be stories to come from this report over the next few weeks and then there will be stories from the judicial commission we will all salivate over.
The courts have given hope that there are parts of the country that have not been captured. That the public protector’s report was released is a demonstration that there is still some democracy left – and it is, in some way, some of the most important parts of our democracy that still remain free.
Saving South Africa is about more than just kicking Zuma out. Yacoob is confident that those conversations will happen.
But for now, for all the public outcry against him, Zuma is still our president. What indeed will it take to make him go? Can a motley crew of CEOs and struggle stalwarts persuade him in anyway?
We’d best not hold our breath just yet.