POLITICS
17/02/2018 12:40 SAST | Updated 17/02/2018 13:04 SAST

The Looters Are On The Run And The Republic Is Holding Firm

It has been a remarkable week: a new president and the Guptas being hunted. Our constitutional order is still standing.

South Africa's newly-minted president Cyril Ramaphosa reviews a guard of honour as he arrives to deliver his State of the National address at the Parliament in Cape Town, on February 16, 2018.
The State of the Nation address is an annual mix of political pageantry and policy announcements, but the flagship event was postponed last week as Zuma battled to stay in office. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Brenton GEACH        (Photo credit should read BRENTON GEACH/AFP/Getty Images)
BRENTON GEACH via Getty Images
South Africa's newly-minted president Cyril Ramaphosa reviews a guard of honour as he arrives to deliver his State of the National address at the Parliament in Cape Town, on February 16, 2018. The State of the Nation address is an annual mix of political pageantry and policy announcements, but the flagship event was postponed last week as Zuma battled to stay in office. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Brenton GEACH (Photo credit should read BRENTON GEACH/AFP/Getty Images)

ANALYSIS

Much will be written about President Cyril Ramaphosa's maiden state of the nation address two days after the Valentine's Massacre of 2018, when Jacob Zuma resigned and the Guptas were raided.

We have to dig into policy and plans and dissect what Ramaphosa really wants to achieve. How does he plan to reindustrialise a deindustrialised country and how does he plan to create jobs? How will he get government's stuck-in-the-mud land reform plan going and is there any way to get universal healthcare scoped, never mind implemented?

The ceremony and symbolism of an event where the three arms of state gather, in a maturing democracy on the African continent, cannot be understated.

There are many gaps in government policy and many debates to be had. And the mere fact that we're talking about policy is an enormous step forward.

AFP/Getty Images
South African flags are seen during a ceremony ahead of South Africa's newly-minted president National address at the Parliament in Cape Town, on February 16, 2018. The State of the Nation address is an annual mix of political pageantry and policy announcements, but the flagship event was postponed last week as Zuma battled to stay in office. / AFP PHOTO / X00388 / Nasief Manie (Photo credit should read NASIEF MANIE/AFP/Getty Images)

But Friday night, 16 February 2018, was testament to our constitutional order holding up. The ceremony and symbolism of an event where the three arms of state gather, in a maturing democracy on the African continent, cannot be understated. Neither should it be overstated. We have, after all, set ourselves a high bar.

In one week Ajay Gupta was declared a fugitive from justice, Jacob Zuma, the godfather of state capture, resigned and his son Duduzane went missing, various arrests were made and Rampahosa was elevated to the presidency.

South Africans have over the last decade become used to scandal and grand corruption as part of their staple. We've had to live under a president and a governing party that have not merely paid lip service to constitutionalism and rule of law, but have physically acted contrary to it. This year's state of the nation address, watched by millions across the country, is testament to our order holding firm.

AFP/Getty Images
Soldiers stand during a ceremony ahead of South Africa's newly-minted president National address at the Parliament in Cape Town, on February 16, 2018. The State of the Nation address is an annual mix of political pageantry and policy announcements, but the flagship event was postponed last week as Zuma battled to stay in office. / AFP PHOTO / X00388 / Brenton GEACH (Photo credit should read BRENTON GEACH/AFP/Getty Images)

In one week Ajay Gupta was declared a fugitive from justice, Jacob Zuma, the godfather of state capture, resigned and his son Duduzane went missing, various arrests were made and Rampahosa was elevated to the presidency. You don't get much more dramatic than that.

One diplomat from a major South African trading partner said after the speech that "you", meaning South Africans, "can be proud" of what has been achieved here.

And just to emphasise the point: Ajay Gupta is on the run. It really is beyond remarkable.

One diplomat from a major South African trading partner said after the speech that "you", meaning South Africans, "can be proud" of what has been achieved here. "Your constitution and institutions may be bruised, but it survived. You can be proud of what you achieved."

Another diplomat, the ambassador of a major global actor and also a significant trading partner, said "it was South Africans who brought him (Zuma) down".

Evidence of the bruising, of which the diplomat spoke of, is everywhere. Of the three arms of state only the judiciary has emerged stronger. The state is a sick man, bloated and riven by cancerous corruption.

Indeed, when green-robed Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, along with Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo (who will lead the inquiry into state capture) and the rest of the judiciary were welcomed to rapturous applause in the National Assembly chamber, it was a significant moment in our history. Our judiciary, having been called "counter-revolutionary" and the chief justice, before he was appointed, a "lap dog" of then president Jacob Zuma, has shown its steel. And its stronger than Spanish Toledo.

This country held firm against the onslaught of, in the words of the internal resistance in the ANC, "gangsters" who appropriated power to loot the state. They did this in the face of the enormous developmental challenges we have, which makes their actions all the more treasonous.

We will have to interrogate and critique the Ramaphosa government. The buck, in Harry Truman's words, now stops with him.

Evidence of the bruising, of which the diplomat spoke of, is everywhere. Of the three arms of state only the judiciary has emerged stronger. The state is a sick man, bloated and riven by cancerous corruption. The legislature has been fractured by weak leadership, distrust between parties and a chronic neglect of its oversight function. Much needs to be done.

RUVAN BOSHOFF via Getty Images
South Africa's newly-minted president Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the National address at the Parliament in Cape Town, on February 16, 2018. The State of the Nation address is an annual mix of political pageantry and policy announcements, but the flagship event was postponed last week as Zuma battled to stay in office. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ruvan BOSHOFF (Photo credit should read RUVAN BOSHOFF/AFP/Getty Images)

We will have to interrogate and critique the Ramaphosa government. The buck, in Harry Truman's words, now stops with him. He will have to construct his leadership core and take the lead on policy. There will be false starts and disappointments. It's a given.

But on Friday we saw the gangsters and the looters and the rent seekers on the run.

The ANC will have to be held accountable for their enabling role in state capture and the malleable way in which they just rolled over for the Zuptas. Yes, the party's internal resistance succeeded, but now they need to press on and clean house.

But on Friday we saw the gangsters and the looters and the rent seekers on the run. We saw the chief justice enter the chamber of the legislature, with elected representatives cheering them on. And we saw a new head of state, with many faults of his own, committing to serve the country and the Constitution.

Our republic is still standing.