The curious cases of Jacob Zuma

    The phrase, “…absolute power corrupts absolutely…,” comes to mind when you realise that the ANC has been in control for over two decades. It has been a forerunner showing very little signs of slowing down until the latest local elections.

    It’s been a very bumpy ride for opposition parties since 1994. They have found themselves constantly lagging behind the ANC that has indefinitely enjoyed the majority of the power. However, we’ve witnessed two major breakaway parties from the ANC during the Zuma era. If opposition parties have been praying for a miracle, President Jacob Zuma seems to be the unlikely ray of hope.

     Is Jacob Zuma the best thing that has ever happened to opposition parties in the post-apartheid era? For the first time in our young democracy we have seen the ANC lose major metros in the latest local elections. This was caused by a variety of incidences involving president Zuma.

    When Zuma replaces Thabo Mbeki as ANC president he is charged with fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering 10 days later. A court ruling has charges against Zuma dropped on 12 September, 2008. The Judge believes there are signs of a conspiracy but the Supreme Court of Appeals dismisses this judgment on 12 January 2009. Did this mean back to square one? No. On April 6, 2009 charges against him are dropped.

    Recently however, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela provides another Zuma highlight on the 19th of March 2014. Zuma has unduly benefitted from a publicly-funded presidential security upgrade to his private Nkandla residence which is in excess of R246 million. However, South Africans reaffirm their faith in him by re-electing him as president on May 7, 2014.

    In response to the Nkandla Report Thuli Madonsela is accused of being a spy by Deputy Minister of Defence and Military veterans, Kebby Maphatsoe on September 2014. Maphatsoe quickly withdrew the allegations, but still questions the former Public Protector’s credibility. Some have dismissed the allegations against Madonsela as a dubious conspiracy theory. The same can be said about the controversy surrounding Jacob Zuma. Are we paranoid? Is there a conspiracy to disgrace the president?

    Zuma was first investigated on November 2002 for charges that include improper influence in a controversial arms deal and financial benefits due to the influence. The case was dropped on August 23, 2003, with former NDPP Bulelani Ngcuka citing “insufficient evidence” as the reason.

    Zuma’s former financial advisor Schabir Shaik is seen by some as the biggest political scapegoat of all time. It is believed he took the fall for Zuma on June 2, 2005 when he is found guilty on two counts of fraud and another of corruption. Judge Hillary Squire said the relationship between Zuma and Shaik is ‘generally corrupt.’ Shaik does not agree. Now out on medical parole, Schabir Shaik has once referred to himself and Zuma as ‘fall guys,’ insisting that the president never personally benefitted from the arms deal. Shaik is even willing to testify in court.

    As a result, Mbeki relieves Zuma of his duties as deputy president and as a member of parliament on June 14, 2005 and shortly thereafter the NPA announces that it will charge Zuma with two counts of corruption. Six months later he is back in court, charged with the rape of a well-known HIV activist and he is celebrated as a hero when he beats another case and is acquitted of the rape charges on May 8, 2008. A year later the man who beat a rape charge is trusted by the majority of voting South Africans and is sworn in as president of the Republic of South Africa on May 9, 2009.

    Barely a year into his first term as president, Zuma makes South African history when he survives a motion of no confidence in parliament. This doesn’t seem to bother the ruling party and he is re-elected as ANC president.

    The Nkandla Report returns to spoil Zuma’s victory parade when The South African Constitutional Court rules that he acted unconstitutionally by using state funds to upgrade his private home and is ordered to pay back a portion of the money on March 31, 2016. He made very little of the binding Nkandla Report and casually apologised for breaking the law at a press conference on 1 April, 2016.

    During this time Zuma was like manna from heaven and opposition parties were having a feast in a build up to the 2016 local elections where the ANC lost 3 major metros. Was this a backlash of the Zuma drama? The ANC continued to stand firmly behind their president despite eating humble pie in the elections.

    An attempt to discredit Thuli Madonsela is underway when an inquiry is opened to test allegations that she is a CIA spy.  The charges were laid by an ANC member.

    Thuli Madonsela, however, has the last roll of the dice on November 2, 2016 when she publishes a 355-page “State of Capture” report that implicates Zuma in allegations including cronyism, questionable business deals and ministerial appointments. The report recommends that Zuma appoint a commission of inquiry with a judge chosen by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng within 30 days to investigate the allegations. But a defiant Zuma insists that he has the prerogative as president to pick the judge.

    Many Zuma supporters think that Madonsela concluded the State of Capture Report as a final political gift for the DA and that she has apparently been promised a big political role by the DA for the 2019 elections. If that is true, would it be farfetched to believe that Jacob Zuma is like a political Trojan horse that is internally dismantling the party that produced honourable leaders such as Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela? We have seen the economy suffocate, unemployment rates reaching record highs including student and civil society unrest. Is this all a coincidence?

    Pro-Zuma activists believe that these problems were inherited from the Thabo Mbeki administration. But Zuma has been president since 2009, surely 7 years is enough to fix some of the problems.

    Mandela’s duty was to unite and reconnect South Africa to the rest of the world after the painful Apartheid era. Thabo Mbeki promoted pan-Africanism and took South Africa’s economy to great heights. Even FW De Klerk played a role in facilitating the release of Mandela and the first democratic elections in South Africa. They have all left an honourable political footprint.  What will we remember Zuma for, his Nkandla homestead?

    He has spent most of his tenure as president fighting court battles and constantly proving himself to the South African public. Some believe this is a conspiracy against the president, but if not the president and the ruling party, who else must take the blame? Some think it’s a race issue with many pro-Zuma activists accusing Thuli Madonsela of protecting ‘White Capital.’ Without the Nkandla Report judgment, Jacob Zuma would have successfully violated the Constitution and stolen millions in Rands of taxpayer money. Majority of these taxpayers are black, so it is very baffling when it is said that Madonsela is protecting ‘White Capital.’ The same can be said about the State of Capture Report.

    There have been meetings with the ANC’s National Executive Council (NEC), motions for votes of no confidence, and stalwarts and veterans voicing out their dissatisfaction with the Zuma-led government.  Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s deputy, has recently called on leaders to listen to the people and not be arrogant. Does this also include Jacob Zuma? Take a thorough look around you and objectively decide how the Zuma administration has affected you.

    • Vuyisile Fihla, a recent Politics graduate from the University of Johannesburg.

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