The Nelson Mandela Foundation has added its voice to the growing swell of civil society discontent and frustration over the current state of the nation, particularly President Jacob Zuma’s leadership, saying “it is painful for us at the Nelson Mandela Foundation to bear witness to the wheels coming off the vehicle of our state”.
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The Foundation released a statement on Tuesday in which it said the country was “reaping the results of a political trend of personalising matters of state around a single individual leader”, which it said was deplorable in a constitutional democracy.
“We have seen a weakening of critical institutions such as the South African Revenue Service, the National Prosecuting Authority and law enforcement bodies due to political meddling for private interests.
“The ability and commitment of the head of state to be a ‘constitutional being’ is one of the wheels of our state. The unanimous judgment of the Constitutional Court of the republic in the matter of President Zuma and the use of state resources on a private residence was one such test. It is increasingly a national consensus that he has failed the test,” reads the statement.
The foundation has raised particular concern about the erosion of the country’s democracy and the threat of state capture surrounding the allegations that Zuma’s close friends, the Gupta family, have unduly influenced the appointment of cabinet ministers and administrative heads at state-owned companies to serve their interests.
“As this particular wheel rolls away, other critical institutions of state break off to follow it. The legislative, business, and public service sectors of the country are severely affected, compromising the ability of the state to serve the people. A battle now rages to keep Sars attached to the vehicle of state. What public discourse has described as ‘state capture’ by private and political interests is, we believe, a real threat to the republic.”
It also berated the state of the country’s education system, saying it has been captured to political interests, and bemoaned the failure to decisively deal with the ongoing impasse over free tertiary education.
“Another wheel is an accessible and well-functioning education system. Arguably this wheel has never been fully attached, but the failures of the last two decades threaten that it rolls away. Schools, in our view, particularly those in townships and rural areas, have largely been captured to political interests and have deteriorated to unimaginable levels.
“And now universities are being brought to their knees as they lurch from crisis to crisis, while a semblance of normality is enforced under what are effectively states of emergency. This is not sustainable for any education system. The potential collapse of universities will damage our democracy to its core.
“We call on the governing party to take the steps necessary to ensure that the vehicle of state be protected and placed in safe and capable hands. And we join the call for a national convention of stakeholders to begin to reimagine South Africa’s future beyond the unsustainable stresses of the moment,” the statement concludes.