By Charlie Kimber
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South Africa: getting rid of corrupt president isn’t enough

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Issue 2591
South Africa: getting rid of corrupt president isn’t enough

South African president Jacob Zuma has resigned.

He was forced out after a huge struggle because the parliament was set to debate a motion of no confidence in him on Thursday.

The motion was originally proposed by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) which has grown by speaking to the left of the ANC.

Its motion was to be amended by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to retain the “no confidence” elements but with a different preamble and reasoning.

No opposition to such a motion was expected, and Zuma would have been humiliatingly voted out.

Even with this hanging over him, Zuma did not go easily. On Wednesday afternoon he gave an angry TV interview in an attempt to justify his refusal to obey his own party’s order to step down.

Only later did he step down.


The corrupt politician had reportedly agreed to resign last Sunday. Zuma then decided to fight back—and outrageously said he wanted three months’ notice and guarantees about his future.

The following day a 13-hour meeting of the ruling African National Congress’s (ANC) national executive voted by two-thirds to demand Zuma was removed from office.

At a press conference on Tuesday, ANC secretary general Ace Magashule said, “In its wisdom the ANC resolved to recall president Zuma in accordance with its constitution.

“All necessary parliamentary processes that arise from this decision will now ensue.”

But the former Zuma supporter also added, “When we took this decision, we didn’t take this decision because Jacob Zuma has done anything wrong.”

Opposition parties are calling for next year’s general election to be brought forward.

That should happen, and Zuma and all his cronies should be removed from public offices, forced to pay back what they have looted, and face jail for any crimes.

There must be no amnesties.


Zuma’s links to the super-rich Gupta family lie behind his downfall. The Guptas have business links to Zuma and his family and a string of witnesses say they had influence over lucrative state contracts and appointments.

None of this bothered the corporations and the rich. It was only when he started to destabilise the economy that they suddenly discovered that Zuma was a plunderer on an extraordinary scale.

When he sacked finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015, hurling the economy into further chaos and disrupting profit-making, big business turned on Zuma. 

Parliament will now elect a new president. It is almost certain to be former miners’ union leader—and then corporate boss—Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa was a non-executive director of Lonmin, the firm that worked with the police to carry out the killings of strikers at the Marikana mine in 2012.

Ramaphosa demanded “action” against the strikers.

This emphasises that, whatever Zuma’s crimes, and they are many, the rot goes much deeper than the corruption of one man.

Zuma came to office in 2009 as a supposedly left alternative to president Thabo Mbeki, who had delivered neoliberalism fatally laced with denial of the ravages of Aids.

But Zuma kept to the same pro-corporate road – and expected a monstrous payoff in return.

Capitalist policies have wrecked South Africa


The end of apartheid in 1994 was a huge victory, but economic power in South Africa remains firmly in the hands of multinationals, white bosses and a thin layer of very rich black people.

Just removing Zuma will make no difference unless there is far more fundamental change.

The Numsa metalworkers’ union last week tweeted, “Nothing has changed in the governing party. The same culture of cronyism and corruption continues unabated.

“Ramaphosa has only replaced one group of capitalist looters with another.”

The ANC’s crisis is so deep that South African Communist Party (SACP) announced last weekend that it would be standing separately in the 2019 general election. It has been part of the “triple alliance” with the ANC and the Cosatu union federation.

SACP first deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said the party would now be part of what he called a “popular front”.

But this week the SACP has also said there must be a “speedy reconfiguration of the Alliance, principled and programmatic unity to ensure that a reconfigured ANC headed Alliance decisively wins elections in 2019 and beyond”. That suggests that some cabinet posts might tempt the SACP away from its independent position.

Zuma’s fall is welcome—but South African workers need a complete break from the policy of working in alliance with big business.

That requires struggle and a new socialist force.

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