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South African President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa South African President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa   (AFP or licensors)

South Africa political situation: an opportunity for justice and renewal

As the people of South African and observers across the globe await the end of the "Zuma era," a Comboni missionary father, expert in South African affairs, talks of the unfolding crisis and of hopes for the future.

By Linda Bordoni

South Africa's ruling African National Congress has formally asked President Jacob Zuma to resign "for the sake of the country".

But despite the ANC's top leadership deciding to "recall" him "urgently", Zuma is still in power, and expected to respond to the request on Wednesday.

Zuma, who has been President since 2009, has been dogged by hundreds of corruption allegations and charges.

Comboni missionary father, and South Africa expert Efrem Tresoldi, told Linda Bordoni that the people of South Africa are watching the political developments with high expectations and hope for much needed change within  the ruling Party.

A historical time for South Africa and an opportunity for change

Tresoldi said that this historical moment provides a chance for the ANC – the ruling Party – to  prove itself to be the leading political force in the country.

He said that if the National Executive Committee is able to force Zuma to leave his seat and to allow things to develop and take a new direction it will be a victory for the Party.

“Because behind all this there really is the desire of many, many people in South Africa to see real change in the ANC and also in the country” he said.

Tresoldi noted that the trust that so many had put in the Party that Nelson Mandela led to power,  has been tainted by so many misgivings carried out by Zuma and by his entourage during the nine years of his presidency.

“I think that what the people of South Africa want to see from the ANC is a real change of direction to allow the African National Congress to become the moral force of the country, able to respond to the many challenges of the country: unemployment, security and also to be able to give some hope to the youth” he said.

Most South Africans, he agreed, would like to uphold Mandela’s legacy, “that is why this moment is so crucial for the country”.

ANC not as compact as it would like to appear

Regarding the fact that Zuma seems to be dragging his feet and hanging on despite incredible pressure,  Tresoldi says this is probably a sign that the ANC is not as compact as it would like to appear, and that there are still elements within the Party who want Zuma to stay (for whatever interests they may have) but he is convinced that the timeframe for Zuma to step down is there.

“I think the deadline is there and cannot be beyond next week” he said.

Tresoldi also agrees that impeachment would be another big blow for Zuma as it would foresee serious judicial consequences as well as a loss of dignity “so, if he is reasonable, he should resign”.

He also commented on the fact that many South Africans might want to be seeing Zuma “taken to Court to face the might of the law because of all his wrongdoing and all the money that has been syphoned from the coffers of the state because of his dealings with friends and the Gupta family”

Desire for justice and rebirth 

There is definitely a desire for justice, he said, and the wish to see Zuma treated as a citizen of just and democratic South Africa.

Tresoldi also remarked on the fact that this year marks 100 years from the birth of Mandela, and that people would like to see the renewal of the Party that Madiba put on such a high level thanks to his ideals of justice and peace and freedom.

Finally he recalled the position of the Bishops of Southern Africa who just days ago released a message asking Zuma to put the good of the country first and foremost, “a not very veiled request, Tresoldi said, for him to step down”.        

Listen to the interview with fr Efrem Tresoldi
13 February 2018, 17:10