President Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS

Whoever emerges victorious at the ANC leadership conference in Nasrec this week must ensure that President Jacob Zuma doesn't stay in office a day longer.

They must take the bull by the horns, as it were, and show him the door forthwith. That should be the first order of business for the new ANC leader.

A state of extreme exasperation and agitation has gripped the land, almost paralysing it. We are gatvol. We're tired. We're breathless. We've had enough. We can't take it any longer. This nightmare, this insanity, must end. Zuma must not only be put out to pasture; he must also be granted his wish - his day in court. The new leader must happily oblige.

There are those who'll rightly argue that only the voters should have the honour of removing a sitting president, or any elected official for that matter. But Zuma has already been rendered unfit to hold his office by the Nkandla judgment, reinforced by the two ground-breaking decisions of the High Court in Pretoria the past two weeks.

Zuma has to a large extent determined the terrain on which the battle to succeed him has been fought. He's been the narrative, the elephant in the room. Candidates were judged not by the soundness of their policies or the content of their characters, but by whether they're a continuation of Zuma's corrupt dynasty or a break from the stench and awfulness of his administration.

Come to think of it, Cyril Ramaphosa was even castigated for venturing some policy positions. The man is a candidate for the highest office in the land and we're not interested to know about his character, his likes and dislikes or what he thinks about the issues that concern us? Are we really serious? No wonder we've been blessed with the presidency of an untutored conman.

We should demand to know everything of anybody with leadership aspirations - down to which way he combs his hair or how many sugars he takes with his tea. It's called full disclosure. An informed citizenry is unlikely to be taken for a ride by sharp-suited crooks and other charlatans.
There were always only two candidates in this race. The crowded field gave the campaign a veneer of an open, therefore more democratic, contest. But the others are just bridesmaids. From the outset it was a shoot-out between Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the heir apparent.

Dlamini-Zuma, initially touted as a shoo-in for the ANC top job, has run a poor, even arrogant, campaign. A campaign should be about putting one's best foot forward, going out of one's way and comfort zone to make friends and influence people. She botched it. It's almost as if she set out to deliberately rile and antagonise the people who matter in any politician's life, the voters.

Leadership is about judgment. The decisions that a candidate makes give the electorate a taste of what kind of leader they will be once entrusted with the levers of power. Dlamini-Zuma has been unwise, negligent in fact, to hitch a ride on her ex-husband's wagon and his crooked cronies.

She didn't need to, even if Zuma were as clean as a whistle. She could have run on her own record, and she's got plenty. In fact, when it comes to government experience, Ramaphosa can hardly hold a candle to her. That advantage she could have deployed to good effect.

The fact that she's opted for sanctuary under Zuma's opulently obnoxious tent is a sign of either insufferable arrogance or debilitating insecurity - arrogant that she can win despite the weight of Zuma's scandal or an inability to stand on her own two feet. Either way, she now owns Zuma's mess.

Ramaphosa, if he wins, has a lot of convincing to do. Why did he come to Zuma's rescue, especially in Mangaung five years ago when Zuma looked like he was ready for the taking? Having agreed to carry water for Zuma, why did he remain silent or stay put as Zuma and his friends and family plundered the state under his nose? Why didn't he at least raise the alarm?

Of all the other candidates, Ramaphosa was the one closest to the scene of the crime. Were it not for Thuli Madonsela's sterling work, the country would still be oblivious of the immeasurable harm done to it by Zuma and the Guptas.

Even now, after all that we know about state capture and its malfeasance, Ramaphosa's response has been either muted or obfuscatory. He's been eager to dodge the metaphorical bullet, rather than bite it.

For instance, the decision by the High Court in Pretoria giving him responsibility to appoint the new head of the NPA should be a godsend. Instead, Ramaphosa seems eager to give it a wide berth, viewing it almost as a hospital pass.
Does Ramaphosa have the nuts to take on the difficult job ahead? Not even his most fervent supporters have an honest answer to that question.

Whoever wins has to take on Zuma. He's the big boulder that has to be pushed out of the way. Zuma's biggest sin is that he has stained and soiled our collective soul. He's corrupted our morals. Our proud democracy now lies in tatters.

In a way, the courts have already laid out the road ahead for the winner. Zuma will have to vacate his office. A new head of the NPA will have to be appointed. The charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering against Zuma will have to be reinstated. And the long-awaited commission of inquiry into state capture must finally see the light of day.

A complete and thorough clean-out will have to be undertaken. Anything less will be unacceptable.