Anti-Zuma protests – ‘This is just the beginning’

2017-04-14 16:22

The ANC should brace itself for public protest marches against President Jacob Zuma to continue, experts have warned.

They have forecast sporadic, albeit less-organised, demonstrations by established political entities to take place even in small towns, because citizen participation in the call for Zuma to step down is giving communities a sense of common purpose, they claim.

After a wave of rolling mass demonstrations against the president, City Press asked political analysts and a psychologist about the significance of citizen participation and future prospects of mass action against the resilient Zuma presidency.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said protests would gather momentum.

Economic Freedom Fighters commander-in-chief Julius Malema promised rolling action that would take place across provinces. A similar sentiment was expressed by lobby group Save SA, pledging to continue embarking on protests.

“We will see sporadic protests here and there,” Fikeni said, adding that it was also likely that – if things continue unchanged and the economy performs badly – trade unions could step in and lockdown the country.

He said problems were mounting for the ANC as internal revolt was also gaining momentum within the governing party.

Susan Booysen, professor at the Wits School of Governance at the University of the Witwatersrand, said it was worth noting that it was people from different classes and races who were involved in these protests and that the numbers were growing.

She said protests had put pressure on the centres of power in the ANC.

Recent surveys also indicate growing negative sentiments against Zuma.

“Any political party that does not take account of this is stupid. The effect of mass mobilisation will have an impact within the ANC national executive committee (NEC) on whether it can take a decision to recall Zuma.”

“The NEC has been [tasked] with an immense responsibility to take stock of what is happening in the ANC and the country; if they don’t listen, it could lead to a disastrous period in the ANC,” Booysen said.

Retired law professor and constitutional law expert Shadrack Gutto said Wednesday’s mass demonstration had set precedence that could push ANC members to say, “let’s do something now before he 2019 elections”.

“The problem is who will be the interim president at this particular time. The ANC isn’t clear on an outstanding leader, because Zuma has been dominant in leadership and has not allowed those capable to rise up to be an alternative,” Gutto said.

Zuma’s statement that he would be willing to step down if the ANC made such a decision signalled that he was beginning to realise what was happening in the country, Gutto said.

Political analyst Sipho Seepe said protests were likely to continue because they had nothing to do with policy issues such as those affecting education, poverty and unemployment.

He said the recall of former president Thabo Mbeki did not help improve the lives of black people.

“If they succeed in removing Zuma, the lives of black people will remain the same,” Seepe said, adding that Zuma’s recall could destroy the ANC.

Psychologist Phyllis Ndlovu said protests seemed to “unify individuals” around a common purpose, despite the lack of immediate tangible results in the form of the president resigning. She said only a few protesters who joined in just for the ride might walk away with a defeatist attitude.

“Lack of immediate results will not have a homogenous effect on everyone. Those that have a clearly defined personal purpose and personal conviction are likely to innovate and come up with other ways of achieving their results.

“I suspect those who employ a deeper analysis and an understanding of the current sociopolitical context will tend to have a broader and more comprehensive approach to the protests, instead of seeing #ZumaMustFall as a panacea for all solutions,” Ndlovu explained.

She said beyond the common goal, people are individually driven and motivated by different things.

“Different intentions account for each one. Some are deeply disturbed and are saying, ‘not in my name’. Others are supporting their role models without necessarily having personal convictions on the matter. Others are on the bandwagon of populism, with minimal appreciation of the meaning of the strike,” she said.

She said people responded differently based on their political maturity, personal resilience, socioeconomic circumstances and support.

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February 18 2018