|Patricia Agupusi, PhD
I attended a talk by Vishwas Satgar ─ ‘The Crisis of South African Democracy: The Challenge to Civil Society and Transformative Politics’ hosted by the Development and Governance of Watson Institute Brown University on April 26th, 2017. It was a well-articulated discourse on the political economy of South Africa, which is of great interest to me given my current work in the same area. Meanwhile, I will focus mostly on how the South African politics of which the speaker called Zumafication is a reflection of the growing global politics of nationalism/populism. Satgar did not explicitly define Zumafication but from his analysis it implies the rise of Zuma and how he captured the ANC through populist rhetoric and rallying. Having captured power he purged out every threat and used state power to scourge those who fight against his corrupted tendencies. The talk was richly interconnected to the global politics of past few years, and there were no end of questions and insights from the audience on each problem of state capture in South Africa and the current political climate. Given all that has been going on since Zuma got into power, I wondered how long the ANC tripartite alliance would hold. In my 2011 paper, published just after Zuma took power, I argue that the onus is dependent on the ability of the oppositions especially the then newly established Congress of the People (COPE) and Democratic Alliance to mobilize and form a strong opposition, or the country will remain a one party dominant system, making democracy vulnerable. Zuma has continued to use his populist facade persona and rhetoric to gain some mass support while exploiting the political capital of ANC and gap in opposition. Obviously a new force – state capture has taken over South African political discourse. Whether this will transcend race and lead a mobilization that would be impactful in the next presidential election in 2019 will remain to be seen. One thing for sure South African state has been captured.