STAND-IN:  President Jacob Zuma arrives at Kings Park Stadium at a national prayer day event on Sunday. Premier Senzo Mchunu had been scheduled to deliver the welcoming remarks. Picture: THULI DLAMINI
STAND-IN: President Jacob Zuma arrives at Kings Park Stadium at a national prayer day event in May. Picture: THULI DLAMINI

THERE is no question about the legal legitimacy of President Jacob Zuma holding office. "The one who laughs while crushing his enemies" was duly elected. But in SA’s system of democracy voters do not choose or remove the president. Only the governing party can do so. Hence my wish that the rest of the ANC’s top six move quickly and firmly to recall Zuma from duty.

If the ANC leadership could put party loyalties, patronage and infighting aside and honestly seek to promote the good of all citizens, it would already have acted. Here’s why: the basic motivation for recalling the president is that he has lost the moral legitimacy to be SA’s first citizen. The Constitutional Court has ruled that he compromised his oath of office. His other legal troubles and constant efforts to delay his day in court have led to a loss of confidence in his moral authority to lead. In short, he simply saps too much energy from the national psyche.

However, Zuma’s removal alone will not save us. It needs to coincide with other spheres of leadership stepping up: the government and private business leaders need to trust one another and work together for the common good of our country. The problem on the government’s side is ideological doublespeak. Business remains uncertain as to its actual common position on basic policy issues. There is not enough consistent direction on which one can count for longer-term investment.

The problem on the business side is that the legitimate promotion of sectional interests (evident in the array of organised business bodies) makes a common stand on big questions difficult. There must be a better way to structure public policy and private capacities to optimise economic growth, job creation and a more inclusive economy.

We simply cannot wait for Nenegate-type events before the government and business seriously talk and seek solutions. If we could negotiate a political transition and a new constitution under severe pressure, we surely can negotiate a common economic vision and policy certainties — with the National Development Plan as a consensus-seeking base document.

With regard to state-owned enterprises, a lot is made about a "developmental state", but we do not easily agree on what this phrase actually means in practice or what the precise role of the state should be. It cannot mean that state monopolies in crucial areas such as broadcasting, energy and transport lurch from one crisis to the next, consuming more resources than they contribute. It cannot mean that politically connected but technically unqualified people are deployed, and boards are packed with friends, with constant interference from politicians. State-owned enterprises need to be led by professional technocrats, not friends of the president.

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It would be disingenuous of me, as a leader in higher education, to overlook the role of universities. I would plead that they should retain their relative autonomy in determining access and class fees. After all, there is a good reason why academic freedom is written into our constitution, and why public universities are established by separate laws of Parliament. And that is, they are not state departments and should not be subjected to the setting of class fees from either a form of central bargaining or by presidential decree.

There are solutions to students’ and universities’ legitimate concerns of financial exclusion. But they will not be derived from the current situation in which students hold the government hostage and the government, in turn, oversteps its mandate. A workable medium-term strategy should come from a combined effort by the government, student representatives and rectors.

We live in a vibrant democracy, with a strong civil society and with media freedom still intact. For the sake of our future, more South Africans need to put pressure on the ANC leadership to get rid of Zuma. This is no laughing matter.

Prof Naudé is director of the University of Stellenbosch Business School.