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Travel to Southern Africa

” ’twas a rough night” (Macbeth)

” ’twas a rough night” (Macbeth)

Switch out “night” for “week” and we leap from a darkly plotted murderous night in age-old Scotland to the same in South Africa in the days/nights since ex-President Jacob Zuma reluctantly entered prison gates to serve a 15-month sentence for contempt of court.

There are excellent articles by seasoned journalists who can convey better than I both the conflagration and its origins (seemingly a potent mix of political agendas and instigation and soul-destroying poverty finding a brief moment in which to soften the hunger).  For those interested in such analysis, try NEW FRAME , UrbanJodi and Daily Maverick.

For the purposes of this website, a comparatively emotionless note is more suitable.  We haven’t confirmed who penned this (and we credit “them” for it, not us), bit it will give you, our clients, the precis of where we are.

“Dear friends,

Many of you outside of South Africa are wondering what is really going on. So here is a very simple outline. The thing is obviously far more complex and nuanced than can be set out in a brief note but this will give you some picture of what is really happening.

Following the 1994 democratic elections in South Africa, South Africa did really well economically until about 2008. That was also the year that Jacob Zuma was elected president of the ANC. At that point in time, some had a sense of disquiet already. But little did any of us understand then the extent of the corruption and weakening of government institutions that would follow. We have no clear idea of the extent of what was stolen during the Jacob Zuma years, other than that it is a stupendous sum of money which this country certainly cannot afford. Eventually, however, the internal tide within the ANC started to slowly turn against Jacob Zuma. On 18 December 2017 Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as the president of the ANC (and also subsequently became the president of South Africa). But it was a very narrow margin of victory.

It is understood that Cyril Ramaphosa is fundamentally a principled man; certainly, determined to clean up the history of corruption we have seen since 2008. Various steps have been taken by him and the ANC under his guidance to give effect to this. One of the things that was done was to establish a Commission of Inquiry chaired by Raymond Zondo, who is the Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa. The purpose of this Commission was to investigate the corruption issues and to expose them to the light of day.

Jacob Zuma was required to appear in front of the Commission. He effectively refused to do so. He was ordered by the Constitutional Court to do so. He defied the order of the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court in turn ordered his imprisonment for a period of 15 months for contempt of court. This, whatever you call it, is fundamentally the rule of law in action.

Initially there was resistance to imprisonment by Jacob Zuma and his supporters. A week ago, however, Jacob Zuma submitted himself to imprisonment. And then all hell broke loose.

[……….] Jacob Zuma has his powerbase in KwaZulu Natal, where the riots have been at their worst [……..] Within the Jacob Zuma camp, individuals set about instigating the so-called protests, riots and looting that you have seen in the media. To a significant extent they leveraged the problems of poverty and inequality in South Africa to achieve their ends. Very often in this country we have areas where many very poor people are resident adjacent to commercial complexes. This was an ideal combination to exploit. In addition to that there are the existing fissures along race lines that exist in our society which were also available to leverage […….]

The gameplan was to create a situation which would force the hand of the current government. Ideally, it would result in an overreaction by the security forces, with the result that many of the poor and vulnerable would be killed [……]. If that occurred, it would likely force the resignation or removal of Cyril Ramaphosa as president. Meaning the Jacob Zuma camp would have achieved their objective. This is one reason given why the security forces have been so careful not to use excessive force in dealing with the riots and the looters.

While there is still a lot of instability in KwaZulu Natal and certain pockets in Gauteng, what is now starting to emerge quite clearly is that the gambit by the Jacob Zuma camp has failed. South African society of all walks has turned its face against this insurrection.  South Africans are a strange nation in many ways. They argue and fight amongst themselves but when pushed to the edge, they always pull together for the common good. This has happened again and again over the decades.

This has been perhaps a necessary test of our democracy and of the rule of law. Make no mistake, South Africa has many very real challenges. But South Africa will pass through this and will put the locust years behind it.”