South Africa is awaiting the results of the ANC's leadership election at a baking hot Nasrec exhibition centre. Bleary-eyed delegates are having lunch in one of the large cavernous dining halls in the complex, while the rumour mill is working overtime. Despite the mundanity of the actual making of history –– lunch, counting of votes, trudging to the plenary hall in the hot sun –– Monday is set to go down as one of the most important turning points in South Africa's postapartheid history.
Eight other dates of significance:
May 8, 1996
The Constituent Assembly votes to adopt the final Constitution.
The motion to adopt the country's supreme law was passed on the very last day before a self-imposed deadline for MPs to finalise the country's founding document. The National Party, part of then-President Nelson Mandela's Government of National Unity, was planning to vote against the Constitution, which would have forced a national referendum. It didn't happen, and the framework of law that has over the past couple years become increasingly important was signed into the statute books later that year.
June 16, 1999
Thabo Mbeki succeeds Mandela as the country's second democratic president, after the ANC narrowly loses out on a two-thirds majority at the polls.
Mandela had always said he would serve only one presidential term, breaking with the post-liberation African tradition of strongmen leaders reluctant to give up power. The country's second general election went off without a hitch, and a peaceful, constitutional transfer of power between Mandela and Mbeki showed the world South Africa wasn't a fluke.
January 18, 2001
A joint report by advocates Frank Kahn and Jan Lubbe from the office of the director of public prosecutions in Western Cape recommends to then-justice minister Penuell Maduna that a full-scale investigation into the so-called arms deal be launched.
The investigation was quashed in parliament by the ANC's caucus –– and government, under Mbeki, resisted all attempts to get to the bottom of allegations about large-scale bribery in the multimillion-dollar deal. The ANC lost its innocence, and the party has been unable to shake allegations of malfeasance and corruption ever since.
June 14, 2005
Mbeki fires then-Deputy President Jacob Zuma and announces his decision at a joint sitting of parliament.
It followed a judgment by the KwaZulu-Natal High Court that Zuma's friend and benefactor, Schabir Shaik, was guilty of several counts of fraud and corruption. The judgment left a cloud of corruption hanging over Zuma, and led to a ferocious battle inside the ANC for control of party and country.
December 18, 2007
Zuma is elected ANC president at the party's elective conference at Polokwane.
His overwhelming victory led to a clean-out of the party's top echelons and a change of direction for the country under Zuma's leadership. Zuma centralised power in Luthuli House and in the ANC, and immediately moved to assert his influence over government.
September 20, 2008
The ANC recalls Mbeki as state president after a fraught eight months in which Mbeki was at the helm of government, with Zuma in charge of the governing party.
It followed a marathon meeting of the ANC's NEC, during which the party took the far-reaching decision to effectively fire a president before his term of office ended. It caused major uncertainty in the markets, and was a decision which haunted the party for years to come.
March 30, 2016
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng delivers a scathing judgment finding that Zuma has failed to respect and uphold the Constitution.
The judgment came after the public protector's findings that Zuma had unduly benefited from state funds used in construction at his Nkandla home in rural KwaZulu-Natal. He had steadfastly refused to abide by the public protector's findings, and enlisted the support of parliament and the executive to shield himself from accountability.
November 2, 2016
The North Gauteng High Court orders that the public protector's report into state capture be published, after Zuma attempted to prevent its release.
The report exposed the extent of state capture, and revealed that Zuma and his executive never attempted to investigate serious allegations of wrongdoing and corruption. It formed the basis of investigations into grand corruption and was another hammer blow to Zuma's integrity.