South Africa is in a deep political crisis that could force out president Jacob Zuma.
Zuma sacked half his cabinet last week, including the finance minister Pravin Gordhan. Gordhan had said a secret intelligence report had shown Zuma was plotting with the country’s enemies, but nobody really believes that.
The crisis is partly about Zuma’s attempts to stop investigations into his corruption. In particular, he does not want his dealings with the ultra-rich Gupta family revealed.
Zuma’s move has crystallised many different strands of opposition against him—from socialists and trade unions but also from pro-corporate elements.
At the start of this week people calling for Zuma’s removal were organising protests, sit-ins and discussing strikes.
Gordhan, a veteran of the fight against apartheid, said it was time for South Africans to revive the spirit of that struggle.
The country’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa denounced Zuma’s sackings as “unacceptable”. The South African Communist Party, which is part of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government, said, “We have reached a decisive moment. In the view of the party leadership, Zuma must now resign.
“It is a struggle against a network of patronage in defence of our hard-won democratic sovereignty. Let us roll back corporate capture of the state.”
The CEO Initiative, a coalition of top business leaders, said it was “gravely concerned and disappointed” by Zuma.
It is crucial that the anti-Zuma movement is militant and dominated by the left. It must not be held back because of a wish to keep the right on board.
This is not just about an individual. It is about the whole trajectory of South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.
The newly-formed South African Federation of Trade Unions, which has broken links with the ANC, said, “The ANC government embraced the worst kind of free-market capitalist fundamentalism.
“This arose from the negotiated settlement which led to the democratic breakthrough of 1994 but which also guaranteed the continuation of monopoly, white-owned capitalism.
“As a result we have become the most unequal society in the world with one of the worst levels of unemployment and 14 million facing hunger.
“This is at the heart of the ANC crisis, made even worse by the domination of the Zuma/Gupta faction which is hell-bent on creating the worst possible type of corrupt and unaccountable capitalism.”