Zuma’s ’unmistakable line of march’
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OPINION: The name Zuma acts like a virus. It unscrambles the mental algorithms of those that hate him. Zuma used the Welcoming Prayer event address what appears to be a disturbing trend, writes Professor Sipho Seepe.
Former president Jacob Zuma is a mercurial character, difficult to grasp. Predictable and unpredictable at the same time. He confounds friends and foes. To borrow from Winston Churchill, he is “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.
Few of us would reach out to sworn political opponents in their hours of need. Especially when there is nothing to gain. But this is exactly what Zuma did in relation to Helen Zille, the former leader of the DA.
Zille says: “I will never forget that, shortly after I had been suspended by my own party, during a time when I was almost completely shunned by people in the DA whose lives and careers I had helped build, it was President Zuma who reached out to me … This conversation was one of the few times, during that personal ordeal, when the tears streamed down my face, because this encounter was so counter-intuitive. He did not have to reach out to me.”
Yes, Zuma’s humanity can make you cry. But Zuma can be equally frustrating. Those that hate him do so with a demonic zeal. This is the lot that celebrated his incarceration, without trial. The fact that this made a mockery of our constitutional democracy didn’t matter. Under apartheid he was at least tried before being convicted.
But Zuma rises even as he falls. This was most evident during the launch of the ANC election manifesto. In his opening remarks, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the presence of former presidents of the Republic, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe. It was only when Ramaphosa extended his greetings to Zuma that the crowd went wild. The known Zuma haters, who were sitting right in front of the crowd, must have been mortified.
No amount of hate and the investment in assassinating his character has succeeded in destroying the love he evokes among ordinary members of the ANC.
This much was evident when the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee (PEC) reportedly accused the judiciary “of favouring President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration while being biased against former president Jacob Zuma. The criticism is in a report the PEC delivered in a closed meeting with ANC national officials last month, following the unrest that claimed more than 300 lives in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.”
This sense of grievance was uppermost in the minds of the organisers of the National Welcoming Prayer event on Thursday. The event served to remind attendees and Zuma’s supporters about how institutions of democracy can easily be abused. The incarceration of the former president without trial is a stench that cannot be easily be removed.
In his message of support, the leader of the UDM, Bantu Holomisa, not considered a friend of Zuma, spoke for many when he observed that it “is lamentable that government and its institutions are suffering from selective amnesia when it comes to putting people on trial. Even-handedness and fairness seem to have disappeared into thin air as the same rules do not apply to everyone.”
Addressing the well-wishers via video link, Zuma recalled being asked to make a representation “indicating what I thought would be a suitable sentence were I to be found guilty of contempt. This felt like I was called on to suggest which rope should be used to hang me; without having pleaded to any charge and been prosecuted in a court.”
This is the kind of nonsense that we can expect from the courts when dealing with Zuma. The name Zuma acts like a virus. It unscrambles the mental algorithms of those that hate him.
Zuma used the Welcoming Prayer event address what appears to be a disturbing trend. He noted that Rule of Law appears to be “used as weapons to avenge oneself against political opponents; and to suppress alternative viewpoints. The Rule of Law is losing its essential power to build a strong and united nation. It is becoming a source of conflict rather than a mechanism to adjudicate and resolve civil and political conflicts.”
Reports suggesting that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has “dragged its feet” when it comes to prosecuting Oscar Mabuyane, the Premier of the Eastern Cape, give credence to perceptions that Ramaphosa’s political allies are shielded from criminal prosecution.
Information reportedly implicating Mabuyane was handed to the NPA more than five months ago by the Hawks. This reluctance stands in glaring contrast to the speed with which the NPA embarrassingly rushed to prosecute Duduzane Zuma on the basis of flimsy media allegations. The NPA left the court with a tail between its legs.
This being an electioneering season, the decision by Ramaphosa to reach out to Zuma during the ANC manifesto launch, and the attitude taken by KZN ANC PEC could arguably be self-serving. The overtures may as well be genuine. And for his part, Zuma did not disappoint. He used the National Welcoming Prayer event to punt for the party.
Zuma said the “ANC will succeed because the people in their millions will rise with it. It will succeed because at the end of the day, all social forces in the country, black or white, know that an ANC that is rooted among the people is the most reliable partner for true freedom and peace”.
Despite the bad treatment Zuma may have received from party leaders, he displayed no signs of sulking. His support and loyalty to the ANC is unwavering. He urged supporters not to conflate what the party represents with the actions of individual members.
Zuma closed his remarks by providing hope to those that might be disheartened by the developments within the ANC.
He pointed out that “those who truly love the ANC, have the duty to strengthen its structures and also to ensure that it retains local state power in every municipality. The 55th National Conference will review the progress during the current leadership term.” This was an unmistakable line of march from a former commander in chief.
* Professor Sipho Seepe is Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Institutional Support at the University of Zululand.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.