On December 16th, thousands of South Africans called for the resignation of their president by marching in various major cities. President Jacob Zuma has faced heavy criticism regarding his handling of the country’s finances. In a move that surprised and angered many, President Zuma fired and replaced Nhlanhla Nene, a respected finance minister, with lawyer David van Rooyen, who has no experience in government financial affairs. After just 4 days, the concern of investors and the sharp decline of the value of the rand forced Zuma to appoint van Rooyen as the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and subsequently name Pravin Gordhan as the new finance minister. This restored some confidence as Gordhan served as finance minister from 2009 to 2014. Critics want the African National Congress, or the A.N.C to ‘recall’ Zuma, but the A.N.C continues to stand by him. Political analysts believe that the A.N.C will comply with these requests only if they lose a significant number of voters in the metropolitan elections. But the protesters that carried out the demonstrations on Wednesdays were mostly white South Africans, while the bulk of the A.N.C’s support comes from blacks. Only the polls will tell whether Zuma has let control slip completely from his grasp.
This is another example of racial divisions intersecting with politics in Africa. A.N.C. is backed mostly by black South Africans, a group which they attach some portion of their identity to. In a country still recovering from the deep scars of racial oppression, similar to America, some of these groups continue to be contrarian for the sake of maintaining old racist positions. These issues do not only apply to South Africa or even Africa in general; in Southern America, extreme white conservatives and people of color still debate over displaying the Confederate flag. Though from a political standpoint it would be the logical thing to do to bring the flag down, racial connotations associated with the flag have made the situation much more complicated. If anything, this situation in South Africa enforces the need to take intersectionality into account when dealing with political issues. As is the case with most controversial decisions and events, there are many factors at play. The people of South Africa can only act reasonably when they acknowledge the whole picture.