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The Zuma situation

Jeremy Gordin on all the dark plotting against the ANC president

JOHANNESBURG – Monday was my birthday: 58 years’ old, hardly been kissed and never taken a bribe. Last night (Wednesday night) was the start of the Jewish New Year – and, yes, may all you goyim out there also have a sweet and happy new year. My blood sugar seems reasonably stable. The weather’s bloody marvellous.

So I ought to be jolly and clear headed. Yet I’m feeling a bit blue and bamboozled. Why? I hear you cry. Well, because I can’t figure out what’s happening in the ANC, or the tripartite alliance to be more precise, with specific reference (as they say) to JG Zuma.

I believe it was John the Baptist, before his head was lopped off, who said, talking about the messiah to come: “His fan [is] in his hand, and he will throughly [thoroughly?] purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire”.

That, I believe, is Matthew 3:12 in the King James Version (which I prefer) and John was saying was that one really has to separate the wheat from the chaff. So here goes.

We start with the learned Anthony Butler’s piece that appeared in Business Day last week. Butler’s piece is “pretty serious shit”, as my friend Roy would have grunted some 40 years ago as we squatted in the Roman ruins at AchZiv and puffed on some Lebanese hash.

Butler says – without any humming and hawing, it’s one of the advantages of holding these vershtunkende columnists to 600 words – he says that Zuma’s “enemies” want to have him kicked out: “recalled,” as we say in polite ANC society. And that the only issue for them (though it’s a big one) is choosing the right moment.

Butler continues that there are three good reasons (in the view of his “enemies”) for dumping Zuma: his “haphazard personal ethics” (the rapid enrichment of his family), his penchant for making babies out of wedlock, and the “absence of a wider vision for the country”.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18) – yes, sure, but that last reason sounds just a trifle pretentious, no? Who had or has vision? Barack Obama with his anodyne lucky packet sayings? Thabo Mbeki with his convoluted codswallop? Julius Malema with his illiterate throat clearings? Nicholas Sarkozy? Gwede Mantashe? Professor Steven “the babe magnet” Friedman?

Having said which, I must say that Zuma’s handling of the boodle that went to his son and nephew has been very strange. It is as though someone set him up to look bad, and yet still he continues (this was in the Sunday Times interview) to behave as though he really has no idea how unsavoury and out of line the whole thing has been. I dunno; maybe he really doesn’t get it; sometimes it’s difficult to tell with Zuma.

But, Butler continues, if Zuma does indeed have the proverbial ANC dildo shoved up his wazoo some time soon, there could be serious “political instability” and the Zulus (aka the KwaZulu ANC and all who sail and bail in her) could really come tearing down the hills with blood glinting on the blades of their assegais.

Still, in Butler’s view, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) – Zwelinzima Vavi’s sweet mob – are annoyed with JGZ – and want to dump him and they know it has to be done before 2012, when he comes up for his second term, because by then Zuma and his allies will have entrenched themselves.

When will this “recall” happen? Well, Butler doesn’t say – he says only that the “enemies” want it to happen before 2012 (the ANC national conference in Manaung).

Clearly Zuma’s recall is not going to be at the upcoming National General Council (NGC). There are going to be too many Zulu chaps with big sticks there – who will whack on the noggin anyone who has a bad word to say about Msholozi.

Oh yeah, I’d best introduce at this point the Sunday column of Mondli Makhanya, the editor of a centre of excellence and the best-paid weekly columnist in the country. He wrote something along the lines of “what goes around, comes around” – i.e. remember Polokwane and how that was the end of Thabo Mbeki and how the same sort of thing is going to happen to JGZ at the upcoming NGC.

I would write this off as chaff rather than wheat. Yet what does occur to me is that all that needs to be done to “recall” Zuma, as happened to Mbeki, is for a majority of the National Executive Committee (NEC) to want to do it. And there would be nothing Zuma could do about it.

And clearly there is all sorts of kak going on in the NEC. For one thing, I made a couple of phone calls and I am told, for what it is worth, that many of the stories now coming out about how “vulnerable” Zuma is and how his former allies are turning on him, etc, etc – the bulk of these stories are said to be emanating from the camps of Tokyo Sexwale, Matthews Phosa, and various other hopefuls.

Then there’s the role of Siphiwe Nyanda. He’s powerful in Gauteng; what’s he up to? At this point we ask ourselves, well, why doesn’t that jolly Stalinist, Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe, simply thump the table, both literally and figuratively, and tell everyone to behave him- or herself?

Trouble is that he’s under pressure. Apparently he has been pushing for a bit of a cleanup – codes of conduct and so forth – and an end to wholesale corruption. This is not popular with most folk.

In addition, Fikile Mbalula, little Julie Malema’s predecessor at the yoof league and, in the words of the song, a smooth operator, is pushing for the “recall” of Mantashe because he wants the job. And little Julie is doing everything he’s told to do – including taunting Zuma ad nauseam. “Malema in Zuma face-off” and “Juju Slams Zuma Deals” were yesterday’s newspaper headlines.

But we return for a moment to Butler’s phrase, “Zuma’s enemies”. Does Zuma indeed have enemies?

I guess he has been too laissez faire, too Zumaesque, with regard to a number of issues (e.g., Malema), and the proverbial centre is indeed not holding. The kids (some of them older than I) are running wild and intending to break the furniture and smash the crockery.

In addition, something’s gone wrong with the quality of the Zuma-Vavi relationship. Zuma has been known to shut people out for no apparent reason – but, well, it’s not a clever thing to do with the general-secretary of the trade union federation. Unfortunately he can call on hundreds of plump folk to come out on the street and be nasty. (And I’m not being fatist – you have to admit that TV footage of any of the latest strike action has looked like an ad for the glories of obesity.)

Anyway, have you and I learned anything from this 1100-word winnowing exercise?

Yes, I think we have. Zuma and/or Mantashe – and perhaps the NEC as a whole – really need to behave like adults, read the ANC riot act, tape up little Julie’s mouth, and tell everyone at the NGC to stop behaving like street children on a glue binge.

If not, Zuma is going to get the finger, “rigid and stiff” (as Frank Zappa would have it), and it’s not going to be pretty for us bystanders. The only thing we’re going to be able to say is that democracy is a glorious thing, isn’t it, and isn’t the ANC a gloriously democratic organisation!

Have a happy 5771.

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