"Mr Zuma's errors and blunders, quite early in his incumbency were critical glimpses at the quality of an average ANC cadre in South Africa post 1994, a matter the ANC self-identified as worrisome."
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.