On the Intentional Labour Day in Bloemfontein, President Jacob Zuma, was hustled off the podium by his handlers as the crowd got rowdy. The mostly COSATU – the Confederation of South African Trade Unions – were heckling him to resign.
Zuma might have vowed that in the din of this crowd, he could discern the “forlorn cry of the titihoya”, out of the South African veld trees, that novelist, Alan Paton, wrote about some 60 years ago in his novel, “Cry, the Beloved Country”. Then, the country was crying indeed, for the anti-Apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela was in Polsmoor prison; and the chasm of the racial divide between the Black and White was wide to the chagrin of the “Coloured” population.
In 1994, he came out of prison to a rapturous countrywide welcome, mastered by his party, the African National Congress (ANC). Almost single-handedly, Mandela reversed the apartheid cry and replaced it with the “rainbow” democracy. He led a constitutional re-alignment that became the envy of the world.
Where many had feared that South Africa would descend into reverse racial revenge in the advent of a Black-led regime, Mandela’s “humble stature” at the head of his ANC was able to calm down the racial fears.
Twenty-three years later, Mandela is dead, and Zuma is at the head of the ANC. It is now a different party that the South African trade unions ushered into power. There have been splinters, most notably by the trade union and ANC youth; that fragment is now the party, the Economic Freedom Party, led by the erstwhile, Julius Malema.
Zuma tried to re-kindle and rehash that Mandela nostalgia to the working crowd at Bloemfontein. “Amandla,” he shouted with a clenched-raised fist, no doubt in imitation of Mandela, then. This would be an interpretation of the workers’ salute of “Solidarity”. Previously, Mandela would have received the inevitable unison crowd cry, “Iwetu”, referring to, “Ours”.
He tried a second time, but the sound came mangled from his throat, as his bodyguard drew him away. “Enough is Enough,” one poster read. Zuma must have realized he was no longer wanted by the Black South Africans. It is his own doing! The forlorn cry of the titihoya was full circle!
Five years after coming into office in 2009, Zuma’s disposition showed up. The National Prosecution Authority (NPA), had accused him of 783 counts of corruption, fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. He had all the charges dropped. The NPA had never preferred anything against Mandela’ yet the ANC had induced Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, to resign.
Three matters have largely brought Zuma to national disdain. After many mentions of infidelity, including a satirical painting of him with his genitals hanging out of his zipper, Zuma recently had a case of his appointee, the South African Airways (SAA) boss, Dudu Myeni, in his hands. Apart from denials that she is his mistress, he defended her when she short-changed the process of procurement in the corporation. In his time, Mandela even dismissed his wife, Winnie Madikizela, when as minister of Culture; she defied his orders when she paid an unofficial trip to Ghana.
Mandela also showed personal discipline when he did not turn his home in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, into a paradise. Not so Zuma, who abused State funds to the rune of 20 million dollars to make his home in Nkandla into a palace comparable to such historical places, like Buckingham in England. He has evaded all attempts to refund the money to the State coffers.
Then, there is the issue of the uranium deal with Russia, intended to provide additional power to the industries. The deal worth 65 billion dollars is understood to be brokered by one of his sons. Zuma has bypassed the ideal Eskom company in such a power issue. Such financial dealings have also been at the beset of the nationally and roundly disliked Indian Gupta family, which is at the center of all Zuma’s money laundering.
The most recent Zuma problem surfaced with the sacking of the respectable and fiscally astute finance minister, Pravin Gordhan. It came about when Zuma went through three other financial ministerial appointments in a very short time. Gorhan’s sacking underlined Zuma’s policy of “Cadre Deployment”; of putting even incompetent ANC members at the helm of important government or industry positions.
It has brought corruption chaos in government positions and jobs. One of the hardest hit is in the educational sector where head teachers are demonstrably corrupt to the disadvantage of the learners. Contrast this to the Mandela time when he forsook all his state salary to the Mandela Educational Foundation that catered for the learners.
To cap it all, Zuma is now fronting his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to take over the helm of the ANC as the country gears for the next general election next year. He is hoping that from her commission in the African Union, she will superintend his survival in the African National Congtess. Mandela never did anything like that with his second wife, Graca Machel.
l Post Script: Three former presidents: F.W. de Klerk, Kgalema Motlanthe and Thabo Mbeki, have basically called on Jacob Zuma top resign because of his violating the constitution and acts of corruption.