18/07/2017 19:24 SAST | Updated 18/07/2017 19:24 SAST

Analysis: Civil Society May Be The Bullet That Zuma And State Captured Ministers Can't Dodge

Civil society has demonstrated its power in the past.

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Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has reiterated his calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down, saying if leaders are not helping in achieving South Africa's aspirations, they must "move aside".

Gordhan was speaking to the media at the Conference for the Future of South Africa, where more than 100 civil society institutions gathered to discuss political issues affecting the country, with particular emphasis on state capture and corruption.

Gordhan said the work being done by these institutions was very important, both for the future of the country and for the future of democracy.

"We need to recall the aspirations Mandela and his generation had for us as a democracy and as a country... That generation also understood that when we get our freedom, we are going to be confronted with a whole host of new problems and challenges," Gordhan said.

"Corruption in South Africa among business, government and civil society is a cancer that we need to be a lot more mindful of and fight. State capture is a serious issue because public monies contributed by the taxpayers of South Africa, or borrowed in the name of taxpayers, is being filtered away for a benefit of a handful of foreigners and locals."

He said that money could have been used for improving the lives of citizens.

"We have to ask ourselves, what were the aspirations that Nelson Mandela and his generation had for our country? If the president or anyone else is not helping us to fulfil that aspiration... then clearly, we must have a situation where those who are responsible must move aside and let good people run this country," Gordhan said.

The conference came to a close after five commissions were held to discuss, among others, legal and constitutional interventions and the role of Parliament and public servants in eradicating state capture.

It resolved to establish a small body to act as a representative of all civil society organisations involved and source funds to support their campaigns as well as hold demonstrations outside parliament and across the country under the banner of civil society.

The role of civil society
Civil society has been instrumental in shaping South African history both prior to and post democracy.

For instance, it was instrumental in undermining the Black Local Authorities which was established by the government in 1982 to govern the black urban areas. Civil society organisations challenged its legality, and eventually brought it to a halt. Civil society also contributed to forcing the National Party to concede that South Africa needed true democracy.

The last time civil society organisations banded together, thousands of South Africans took to the streets calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down in April. It was an eleventh-hour appeal for action after Zuma sacked Gordhan in a midnight cabinet reshuffle that led the economy into a downward spiral.

But the impact was undeniable.

Civil society banded with opposition parties to host sporadic protests in major cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

Although Zuma has not complied, the protests served as an eye-opener of sorts, with more and more from within and from outside the ANC now calling for the president's head to roll.

Now there is a concerted effort for a united front in civil society, with a common purpose of fixing South Africa, its government and most of all, getting rid of Zuma.

Although Tuesday's conference has yet to work out the fine details of how it will go forward on its plan, the interest shown in the initiative by more than a hundred organisations is telling.

Civil society has demonstrated its power in the past, and if it launches an attack on Zuma and state capture in a collaborative effort, it may turn into a bullet the president may not be able to dodge.