The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
By Alec Hogg
During the early 1990s, as South Africa started changing, the much-maligned SABC suddenly became a viable career option for every journalist. It was a halcyon period for the national broadcaster – a brief window in time when the National Party’s hands were off and the ANC’s hands not yet on.
But it took a while for the grip of the old guard to be prized from the tiller. As Economics Editor, it was my privilege to blood many previously banned ANC leaders on television. Among them trade union firebrand Jay Naidoo, whose interview prompted the SABC’s chairman Dr Christo Viljoen to demand that I be fired for “allowing a communist onto the kassie.”
Such was the hopeful spirit of the time my bosses were sufficiently emboldened to not only ignore Viljoen’s demand, but give me his letter as a keepsake with a chuckle over the obvious apoplexy. But that was most unusual. Before and since, the SABC chairmanship has carried considerable weight – largely because they were in effect the representative of the ultimate patron, the State President.
Given South African politics and the importance attached to control of the SABC, it was heartening to see Monday’s Presidential confirmation of Khanyisile Kweyama as the new SABC chairman. And that all but one of the other four members of the newly constituted board are, like her, aligned with a political grouping opposing the country’s compromised President Jacob Zuma.
But not 24 hours later, Zuma once again destroyed that rational optimism with yesterday’s shock announcement. He decreed that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was to immediately abort an investment roadshow. Gordhan was instructed to return from London forthwith, cancel the New York leg, and stop his deputy Mcebisi Jonas from taking a flight to join him in the US.
Zuma’s unprecedented humiliation of the FinMin triggered a slump in the Rand and set rumour mills whirring. Everyone now agrees his long anticipated cabinet reshuffle is imminent with Gordhan certain to get the chop. A “usually reliable source” (i.e. 50% chance of being right) reckons the other economic cluster ministers, Ebrahim Patel and Rob Davies, will also be fired, along with former Mining Minister Ngoako Ramathlodi and the ineffective Higher Education boss Blade Nzimande. Various Zuma favourites are tipped to succeed them.
My sources within the anti-Zuma faction say it’s now or never. They believe if ANC stalwarts stand meekly by; if civil society fails to react; if business takes the path of least resistance; the Zuptoid network of patronage will expand beyond the point of no return. And then, they say, you may as well apply the last rites to Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation and its globally admired Constitution.
Right now it’s hard to know who or what to believe. Rumour and speculation remains just that. But one thing is certain. This is going to be a week to remember for South Africans everywhere.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.