Season of hope and action supplants a decade of despair
South Africa has entered a new age of hope, leaving behind what former president Thabo Mbeki correctly described, just more than a year ago, as the age of despair. Addressing captains of industry at the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies awards in November 2016, Mbeki said he had observed how the country had slid from the age of hope that had been ushered in by the election of Nelson Mandela as its first democratically elected president.
That season of hope did not last long, ending abruptly when Jacob Zuma was elected to the highest office in the land in 2009, after the NPA controversially decided not to pursue a raft of charges against him.
Mbeki said: "The hard reality we face today is that our country is trapped in a general and deepening political, economic and social crisis which has, for many, begun to turn what was an age of hope into an age of despair. It is obvious that over the years, progressively since 1994, some negative features have emerged in our governing party, the ANC, which the organisation itself has recognised, including the disease of the abuse of political power for personal enrichment."Those who disagreed or dared to challenge Zuma were consigned to oblivion. The list is too long to publish all the names. But that list includes the names of former ministers, leaders of the ANC, senior government officials and executives in state-owned companies.
Not only did Zuma cripple our institutions of democracy, he also diminished our ability to defend ourselves as a nation and to fight crime, by hobbling our law enforcement agencies.
When he took over in 2009, the unemployment rate was at 23.7 %. As he left office on Thursday evening, the unemployment rate had risen to 27%. Under his watch every sector of the economy bled jobs apace.
Our debt ratings were downgraded to junk. The rand took a beating and investors gave our economy a wide berth.
Despite all this, multiple efforts to boot him out of office failed dismally, including eight votes of no confidence in parliament, as the ANC protected him throughout.
But over the past few weeks a wind of change has howled through the governing party and law enforcement institutions. The change started in December with the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the ANC. As the country prepared for his swearing-in as state president, law enforcement awoke from its slumber.
The Zuma patronage network started crumbling on Wednesday as the Hawks raided the Gupta family compound in Saxonwold and the homes of their associates. By that evening no fewer than five people had been arrested. By the end of the week that number had risen to eight.
As we wrote this last night, the police were hot on the heels of the three Gupta brothers and the president's son Duduzane.