The Sunday newspapers were a glut of bad news.
The bloodbath President Jacob Zuma created with his axing of his cabinet on March 31, 2017 will have repercussions for years -- as will the failure of the ANC's top leadership to hold him to account.
There was gloating by Zuma loyalists over the country's downgrade to sub-investment or junk status, by two global rating agencies, in the Sunday Times. Their remarks not only showed a breathtaking ignorance of basic economics, but the bizarre self-delusion that comes with years of having to lie to one's self in order to be able to sleep at night.
Another Zuma ally, Black Business Council president Danisa Baloyi, told the group: "Who really cares?
Many South Africans don't have billions on the stock exchange. Those with money should transform this economy. Most black people are born in junk status so they aren't bothered."
In City Press the bomb we were waiting for dropped: with Pravin Gordhan's seat still warm after his axing Zuma is finally getting what he wanted: the nuclear deal, probably with Russia as the forerunner. Gordhan refused to sign off on the deal given the financial ruin it will probably entail for the country. The most cynical aspect of the story was the timelines. Zuma knows his time in power is limited, and thus possibly his opportunity to line his bank account before he leaves and loses access to state patronage. He is technically president of the ANC till December 2017 and president of the country till about April 2019, if he is not kicked out sooner. Witness, then, the timeline for the nuclear deal to be signed, according to City Press:
After the request for proposals is issued in June, the deadline for bids is September, for evaluation in December. The winning bidder will be decided in March 2018 and the contract signed between December next year and March 2019.
We have also revealed how Sars, a once stellar institution, is so beset by skills lost and the politicisation of the unit that revenue collection is in serious danger, which means less money to actually do all this work of "radical economic transformation" we keep talking about. Lifting millions of South Africans out of poverty won't happen if we can't collect the money to do so. If Sars breaks, South Africa breaks.
And the Mail & Guardian on Friday revealed that dissenters within the ANC were allegedly facing death threats.
In the midst of all of this it's easy to forget Easter is around the corner. But the message of this time in the calendar offers a powerful rebuke to those who are intent on dragging South Africa down with so selfish and dark an intent.
Christians just celebrated Palm Sunday on Sunday, which kicks of the Holy Week, or Passion Week as it is known. It marks Jesus entry into Jerusalem a week before his crucifixion. He doesn't come in on chariots, or with great fanfare. Not a blue light in sight, in fact.
The remarkable fact of Palm Sunday is in its name. Jesus chooses the humblest mode of transport he could fine: a donkey. And as he rode into Jerusalem it was ordinary people who took off their cloaks and cut branches off trees to lay down as a carpet for him to enter. The simplicity of his arrival, and his dependence not on enforced power but the freely granted support of ordinary people should speak volumes to the current administration, as they no doubt will make their rounds to churches in this time.
Holy Monday, which is marked today, traditionally remembers an even more apt moment in the run up to Christ's crucifixion: Jesus' luminously furious cleaning out of the temple from those who profited from and exploited the poor. "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you make it a den of robbers," reads those famous lines. I always imagine him shouting it out. I mean, we love to think of Jesus as this sort of glowing, floating angelic being but he was literally overturning tables at this point, and driving out the money-changers. That sounds pretty physical, and angry to me. To put it mildly the Jesus that Zuma loves to talk about so often hates the exploitation of the poor. In several places in the Bible it warns of the terrible fate of those, especially rules, who do this and fail to uplift and protect their people.
It is unlikely that Zuma and his loyalists will think of any of this in the run up to Easter this Holy Week. They are too busy justifying dark deeds in secret corners, and justifying it with twisted, conspiracy-fuelled theories about how they're addressing racism and uplifting the poor. Meanwhile our cost of borrowing has rocketed, sucking in more money for merely servicing our debt and less for things that are crucial to the most vulnerable in our society: healthcare, housing, grants and more. That's just one consequence of what he's done.
Tomorrow marks Holy Tuesday and this is where Christians remember, among others, the "seven woes" Jesus delivered to the Pharisees, those rank hypocrites. It's a stunning rebuke: a biting, seething take down of those in power who would impoverish those below them -- spiritually in this case. Here are a selection of just some of the choice terms Jesus uses to describe them:
- Children of hell
- Blind guides
- Whitewashed tombs,
- Serpents, brood of vipers, who were unlikely to "escape being sentenced to hell".
The ANC, and Zuma in particular, love to boast that they will rule "till Jesus returns". Perhaps Zuma himself should spend more time thinking about what Jesus would actually say to him should that happen.
Ahead of Easter 2017, The Huffington Post South Africa is delving into what faith and spirituality means to South Africans here and now. Against the backdrop of a renewed wave of thought around decolonisation, a new generation are rediscovering their traditional beliefs, while some are reconciling with Christianity. And on another note, we tell South Africa's real good news story: our remarkable and peaceful religious diversity. In a world fractured along religious extremism, we have a large Christian population with significant Muslim and Jewish communities, who often come together peacefully and with purpose, as has been evinced at the memorials for departed struggle stalwart, Ahmed Kathrada. Read the rest of the special report here, or choose from our selection below: