Editorial: The year we all spoke up

Next week we will publish our famous year-end edition of the Mail & Guardian, containing our annual assessment of each member of the Cabinet.

Those report cards are never easy, as we seek to capture the successes and failings of each minister while allowing for factors beyond their control.

All the drama of the past week did not make that job any easier, as finance ministers came and went and the short-term future of the country shifted radically in a matter of hours. But some good did come of all that furious motion – people standing up and saying: “No more, not in our name.”

We decided some time ago to theme our final issue of 2015 around citizens demanding change. That decision flowed largely from the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall protests, but #ZumaMustFall served as confirmation. South Africans really did find their voices in 2015, be they students or activists or Capetonians who think a picnic is a grand way to topple a president.

In some ways it is all the better that #ZumaMustFall is an impotent expression of anger with no chance of achieving change, unlike the student protests. We see no prospect of the ANC recalling Jacob Zuma from the presidency in the short term, or of Parliament voting on a motion of no confidence. It will take a lot more, perhaps the loss of key metropolitan councils in the upcoming local government elections, for either scenario to become possible.

But South Africa has a proud tradition of railing against what is wrong, even when such condemnation is futile or self-defeating.

#ZumaMustFall may cause ANC fence-sitters to defend their leader, increasing his power rather than reducing it. But they are speaking their minds, at the top of their voices. In a year when democratic institutions came under siege and the future looked bleak, that show of democracy is a ray of pure sunshine.

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