Zuma’s Dramatic Exit: Let the Ass-Kissing Begin

For all South Africans struggling to be heard, the time is now.

Jacob Zuma is no longer President of South Africa. His resignation comes after years of corruption and generally poor leadership. While many South Africans welcomed his resignation and even rejoiced, we need to truly realise the magnitude of this moment and where it leaves us.

While finishing schoolwork last night, I listened to Zuma's address. It was, for the most part, hilarious particularly Zuma's 'innocent' insistence that he had done nothing wrong and thus failed to understand why the public and more especially his party wanted him to leave. You know that lie you tell others but somehow eventually start believing and ardently defending yourself? Yeah, that was Zuma's address in a nutshell. He resigned soon after.

The moment was crucial for one particular reason: It showed how the collective efforts of civil society, the media and even the opposition (just this once I'm sure) came together to eventually say “enough." But where does this leave us, the South African people?

We're, in fact, in an advantageous position and no, I'm not just talking about how the Rand has strengthened—although that's great for us as well. I'm talking about how external pressures forced the ANC's hand. Neither they nor Zuma himself wanted him to go. However, because the ANC has been divided for so long, they can no longer afford to lose the confidence of South Africans. In short, the ANC has been forced into a corner where every move they now make is critical if they want to win the national elections in 2019. This makes them vulnerable—something that is great for us (yay!). See, politicians never do what they swear to do when they take office. But, back them into an impossible corner and suddenly they're more than willing to make good on their promises. In fact, they're more than willing to kiss our ass if we prod them hard enough.

Right now, South Africans need to prod and prod damn hard. Zuma's exit is a victory, but we shouldn't allow it to end here. We'd be the biggest fools if we did. To all our #FeesMustFall activists, now is the time to begin building momentum for what could be the most promising protests we've had thus far. We may have been carelessly tossed about each year and endured countless announcements about free education becoming a reality only to discover they were merely political ploys but what better time than now to raise our voices yet again? To all the activists fighting for #LifeEsidimeni to be recognised as the tragedy it was, what better time than now? To those still fighting for both the deceased and remaining miners whom the Marikana tragedy claimed, now is the time to fight even more.

In essence, if anyone is supposed to capitalise on Zuma's exit and the ANC's vulnerability, it sure as hell should be us as the South African public. For a long time, we have not had the leverage to engage meaningfully with the government regarding what is constitutionally ours anyway. And now, we don't have to have any leverage because the ANC, and any other party for that matter, is likely to be looking for ways to kiss our ass in order to ensure our votes at the ballot box count in their favour. I don't know about you, but I like that dynamic. It will be quite refreshing really to not have to grovel for our basic human rights even if it is only until the final votes have been tallied.

There has never been a greater time to seize the opportunity than now! And so to all my South Africans, our message to the ANC and the government in general is (or at least should be) unequivocally simple: you can kiss our liberated ass.

Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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