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"Mr Zuma's errors and blunders, quiete early in his incumbency were critical glimpses of the quality of an average ANC cadre in south Africa post 1994, a matter the ANC it's self identified as worriesome"


Jacob Zuma: The Virtual Image of the Limits of Constituted Power in South Africa post-1994?

by VS Vellem


It is not worth it in this brief reflection to repeat and assess the validity of the debates in favor or against Mr Jacob Zuma demitting office — stepping down as President in order to allow the restoration of the trust, indeed “vulnerable trust” South Africans have bestowed in the African National Congress (ANC), ‘Mandela’s ANC’ for the past twenty two years. No doubt, as one of the leading organizations for the movement of black liberation, the prestigious history of the ANC cannot be denied and this is shown among others by its own members who have echoed the sentiments voiced out by a cross section of our public life for Mr Zuma to demit office. Mr Zuma’s errors and blunders, quite early in his incumbency were critical glimpses of the quality of an average ANC cadre in South Africa post 1994, a matter the ANC itself identified as worrisome.

Reflecting from the perspective of faith on the recent Constitutional Court’s veerdict on Inkandla and the ANC’s response, I am prompted to deeply ponder what the technical distinction between “constituted power” and “constituting power” is. We should, I contend, make a distinction between these two forms of power. A mandate that is given to those in power is “constituted power”. These public officials, including the governing party are given the authority and domain to exercise their power in leading the nation to better prospects of life for all. They govern according to the rules or the law of an established order or pact, as credited public officials for the life or betterment of the life of the community as a whole. The symbols, institutions and all artefacts of our democratic dispensation are legitimated by a mandate that originates from a pre-established consensus to liberate blacks for the liberation of all in South Africa.

Mr Zuma recently, on Workers Day, said that one has to humble himself or herself when people demand change by accepting to step down. But he strangely qualified this by saying people should nonetheless follow democratic process, by implication, respect the vote cast to give him and the ANC the mandate to govern and effect their change possibly when the time for another round of elections come. This for me, is but one example that captures the psyche of the ANC with Mr Zuma as its virtual image.

There is a difference between constituted and constituting power that dangerously questions this mandate, it seems Mr Zuma and the ANC have forgotten! Two important aspects must be remembered. To be constituted as a governing power is not equal to the transfer of power from those who have their faith entrusted to you who indeed are a form of a constituting power. You see, Mr Zuma and the ANC have now shown beyond any reasonable doubt that they can command and govern as if they were the source of power rather than recipients of “vulnerable trust” which requires reciprocity as constitutive of the mandate of the ANC. To govern as if a source of power is dangerous to our faith as believers. It is a betrayal of the vulnerable trust — the trust of the poor surviving masses and their hopes. Yet this “vulnerable trust”, as a constituting form of power, is forever proportional to the extent to which the reciprocation of those constituted as power submit and obey the trust and faith of the vulnerable. Any form of disproportion, results in dictatorship or tyranny and inevitably protest. Do not only equate protest to what has become the dominant narrative of the response of the poor communities that agonize for service only. No! As a form of power itself, protest delegitimizes and renders even the most tyrannical of constituted forms of power inefficacious.

As a child of the black Reformed faith, when we say we are justified by faith, not by law, we refer to the critical consciousness that builds up as a new form of constituting power by ceasing to believe and bestowing our faith in those whose reciprocation is an insult to our lives.


Constituting power ruptures! The extent of the ANC’s injustice and ill-fated trust in itself as a source of power yet in perpetual betrayal of the trust and faith of the vulnerable is proportional to the justification by faith alone for the search of a new legitimacy.



Consultative meeting ecumenical movement in
post-apartheid South Africa

Friday, 29 April 2016, 09:00-15:00
VENUE Johannesburg, at Khotso House (Chapel-1st floor)

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Increasing community mobilization for stronger local democracy and community-driven development


ESSET as a mediator between the poor and the justice system aims at Increasing community mobilization for stronger local democracy and community-driven development. ESSET believes that every citizen of this country deserves a decent living and basic service delivery, as the South African constitution states. Read more...


Xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa: A Theological Reflection

March 2016. ESSET’s 2015-2017 strategic plan points out that the church continues to guide us with contextual analysis of unjust acts in our country, and ESSET strongly believes in the God of the marginalized, and the God who cares. Therefore, in view of this, the theological reflection paper on xenophobia notes that xenophobia is a crisis that impels us to return to the Bible and search for the Word of God that is relevant to the xenophobic attacks; and that the church can play a vital role in making life worth living for victims of xenophobic attacks in South Africa and should draw social and political concerns in its rights.


The objective of the paper was to stimulate theological debate on xenophobia. The paper highlights the statistics of xenophobic attacks in South Africa. It also highlights the underlying factors that lead to xenophobic attacks.


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Thabo Molefe gets a slap on the wrist for raping and murdering Thembelihle Sokela

December 2015. On Wednesday 30 July 2015 at the Pretoria North Magistrate’s court, Judge Mokgosi sentenced Thembelihle Sokhela’s rapist and murderer to 22 years in Jail. Read more...



The Informal Trading Sector in SADC: Legal, Policy and Programmatic Support

ESSET The Informal Trading Sector in SADC: Legal, Policy and Programmatic Support


A Desk Study by the Ecumenical Service for
Socio-Economic Transformation (ESSET)

November 2015. ESSET’s view is that the active participation of women informal traders must provide the voice and compass to inform programmatic support in the sector. It must also be noted that the sector is not heterogeneous and particular circumstances should be looked at on a case by case basis.
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ESSET’s Gender-Based Violence Workshop 2015

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ESSET’s Gender-Based Violence Workshop 2015

November 2015. On the 18 and 19 November 2015, at Soweto Zola, Extension 1, ESSET had a workshop on Gender-Based Violence. The workshop was held with a youth group that has a community-driven development programme. The workshop was to raise awareness about causes and factors influencing gender-based violence. The workshop also created a space for young voices to get talking about issues of patriarchy, culture, socialisation, and religion.