Time to think outside the box in which Zuma tried to bury our young democracy

02 December 2018 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES

In a moment laden with grim irony, the lights went out at the high court in Pietermaritzburg on Friday as our former president appeared in the dock on corruption charges.
Just as "Montezuma's revenge" is the colloquialism for diarrhoea suffered by travellers to Mexico, perhaps "Jacob Zuma's revenge" should be the phrase used to describe the load-shedding that looks increasingly likely to punctuate next year's celebrations of the 25th anniversary of freedom. There can be no doubt that the ordure in which South Africans find themselves trapped rained down from the Union Buildings during the nine years Zuma was in charge.
The accused was said to be feeling unwell in court on Friday, but it is easy to imagine how otherwise he would have been openly chuckling at the spectacle of the court fumbling around in the dark. He has laughed in our faces often enough, after all.
If Zuma had any shame, he would have been grateful for the cloak of gloom that enveloped the court, because Friday's load-shedding ended another appalling week not only for Eskom but for the enablers of his misrule.
In particular, Malusi Gigaba received a mauling during evidence to the state-capture commission from former SAA chair Cheryl Carolus. Gigaba and another of Zuma's ill-starred public enterprises ministers, Lynne Brown, were also named as miscreants by MPs who conducted a months-long inquiry into shenanigans at Eskom.
The public enterprises committee recommended that deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo should summon Gigaba, Brown and a host of others whose tainted names are well known to punch-drunk South Africans to explain their roles "during the period corruption and corporate capture flourished at Eskom".
Revealing a welter of dismal statistics in the power utility's interim results on Wednesday, chair Jabu Mabuza said the cost of servicing its debt pile of R419bn (that's more than R7,300 for every South African) was R45bn. This isn't a once-off payment. It falls due every year, and represents the bill South African taxpayers will continue to foot for the looting on Zuma's watch.
Figures with similarly mind-boggling numbers of zeroes at the end continue to pile up as it becomes apparent how endemic the capture process was in all tiers of government and in other state institutions. Fired SA Revenue Service commissioner Tom Moyane presided over a tax collection shortfall of R100bn since 2014, for example, and the likes of Denel, the SABC and SAA are sinking in a sea of red ink.
Once he has completed his municipal audits for 2017-18, auditor-general Kimi Makwetu expects to find irregular expenditure of around R51bn, and our report today about the unprecedented security threats against him and his staff provides another indication of the forces of capture's continued determination.
The spectre of load-shedding returned to haunt President Cyril Ramaphosa as he landed in Argentina, where his challenging mission this weekend was to persuade leaders of the G20 at their summit in Buenos Aires that SA deserves support and investment from the world's wealthiest nations. At the same time, Cosatu is girding its loins for a clash with Ramaphosa over finance minister Tito Mboweni's predilection for independent thought, a panicky DA is desperately trying to detect corruption in and around Ramaphosa, and the EFF is simply becoming dangerous.
In the early 1990s, when SA was facing its seminal turning point, Ramaphosa was part of the ANC leadership team that decided Nelson Mandela should lead a government of national unity. It lasted three years and, despite its obvious shortcomings, it forced everyone to put the national interest first.
As he faces numerous crises that add up to a potentially catastrophic tipping point for our young democracy, perhaps a government with a few opposition ministers - much like Barack Obama's first cabinet - is an arrow Ramaphosa needs to consider drawing from his quiver.

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