[OPINION] Accused Number One Zuma must go

As of Friday, President Jacob Zuma is Accused Number One. The long and the short of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment handed down in the so-called Spy Tapes matter is that Zuma should have been charged in 2009 and should never have become president. But that is all water under the bridge. The question is what is to be done now, with less than 8 weeks to the ANC elective conference.

Thus far, the Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams has not shown his hand. All we know is that Zuma’s legal team will make representations to him. Given Abrahams’ track record of cozying up to power, it seems highly unlikely that we will see Zuma prosecuted. And so after years of saying he wants his day in court, Zuma will continue fighting a prosecution. The irony of it all.

When asked for comment on the matter by a news reporter, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe attempted to make light of the matter. Mantashe seems to believe this is an internal ANC matter. He has sought guidance from ANC veterans as to how to respond to the ruling. “We are back to that 2007 point now. What would you advise us to do? Do we do what is fashionable to say Zuma must go now, or are we going to bring wisdom of managing this crisis point facing the movement. Can the December conference help us turn the corner and come out of it a better ANC?” Cyril Ramaphosa said he needed to ‘study the judgment’.

The problem is that Zuma is the sitting president and so the ANC owes the country an explanation for its actions after the SCA judgment. We have become so inured to the ANC’s factionalism and corruption that the country hardly blinked at Mantashe’s disingenuous response. As citizens we are entitled to know why it is that the ANC will not recall Zuma. Surely there is a proper case to be made for this to happen? It is hardly ‘fashionable’ to call for Zuma to go, it has become urgent and necessary. For each day that Zuma remains in power, the country is dragged further and further down the abyss of corruption and mismanagement.

Both the Minister of Finance and his deputy now openly talk of borrowing money from the IMF and the World Bank. Debt costs and the reason we would need to hold out a begging bowl is because of corruption within state-owned enterprises like Eskom and SAA. It seems the philosophy is not to insist on clean governance and accountability, but rather to fund corruption through borrowing. Debt costs and it will be ordinary citizens who pay the deep price for this.

Ministers like Gigaba and the captured Lynne Brown at Public Enterprises are comfortable with this excess because they do so with the same impunity their boss displays. This past weekend a beleaguered Pravin Gordhan delivered the annual Ahmed Kathrada lecture. His was a clarion call to end the capture of the state and ensure that decent men and women are driven to public service once more.

In these late Zuma years, the state will continue in its dysfunction with those honest public servants doing their best to keep the state capture project at bay. But its tentacles within the state are deep and so it will take a mammoth effort from them, but also from citizens and trade unions, no matter their divided state, to stand up and speak out against bailouts, increased electricity tariffs and other nefarious means of funding corruption.

Recalling Zuma will not be the panacea for all ills, but it would provide an opportunity to clean up the mess he and his corrupt cronies have created. It would provide a chance too to reimagine a state that works in the interests of all citizens.

But the ANC will not recall Zuma now. We know that. So it’s up to Abrahams to exercise his constitutional duty. But we also know that he prefers to do the bidding of his political bosses. His has been a shameless tenure and like Mokotedi Mpshe, his deeds will come back to haunt him.

Judith February is based at the Institute for Security Studies. Follow her on Twitter: @judith_february