2016 was a harrowing year, summed up in a few words and phrases: Nkandla. State capture. Looting. Corruption. The Guptas. Brian Molefe. Mosebenzi Zwane. David Mohlobo. And, of course, Jacob Zuma.
But for me, the difficulties of 2016 have created a sense of great anticipation for 2017. They present new opportunities – summed up in phrases like “civil society finding its voice”, “the people taking control of their destiny again”, “an end to state capture and looting”, and “the end of Jacob Zuma”.
Whether Zuma makes it to the ANC conference in December, or doesn’t even last long enough to present the State of the Nation address on 9 February, it is clear that we are slowly ridding ourselves of the worst president the ANC has even known, and a man who has brought shame upon the identity of democratic South Africa.
And when Zuma goes, we will begin to see the unravelling of the corrupt networks he facilitated during his term in office. The Gupta stranglehold on state-owned entities will be loosened. We will begin to restore integrity and respect to organs of the state. Our prosecutorial system will focus on the real crooks, rather than those who are blocking the looting and state capture.
And we will find the smallenyana skeletons that lurk in the closets of our current leaders, and flush them out.
People who have made a living out of stealing state resources, and robbing the poor to feed the rich, must get out of office in 2017 – whether that office is in a corporate office park, a government building, or in a complex (or shebeen) in Saxonwold.
In 2017, the post-Zuma era, we must elect – and monitor – leadership that respects the values of our Constitution, which promotes ethical conduct and accountability, and which promotes and protects our sovereignty.
Of course, none of this will happen on its own.
In the same way that ordinary citizens found their voice again in 2016 through campaigns like Save South Africa, and in the same way that civil society united in 2016 to rid us of corrupt and captured leaders, we will have to embark on a second phase of struggle throughout 2017, and beyond.
We will have to put all our energies behind developing a checklist for the leaders who will emerge in the post-Zuma society. It must be clear to our leaders that they must hold positive values, and those values must be respected.
We will have to ring-fence their personal and public conduct to ensure they are not led into temptation again, and that we hold them accountable.
That, really, must be the main focus of all of us in 2017: to make sure we do not replace one group of crooks with another. We will have to constantly remind our leaders that they represent the will of the people, not the will of one or two influential families. We will have to constantly assert that they are accountable to all of us, not to the handful of people who can make them rich.