Zuma: The people of Mzansi have had enough

Jeremy Gordin says the booing of the President at the Mandela memorial was a watershed

So as I strode manfully up Tyrone Avenue yesterday (Wednesday) morning, I espied a friend of mine, a waiter at one of the restaurants.

"Vus machst du, Mr Mazambalela?" I asked him, as is my wont, adding, "Why'd you boo my man, Gedleyihlekisa?" (Of course I knew full well that he had not been at the Mandela memorial at FNB stadium, because he would have been fired from his job.)

Now my friend might not be an intemellectual like Xolela Mangcu, Richard Calland or Pallo Jordan, but he's pretty quick-witted.

"Mr Khumalo," he replied (we have these pet names for one another, what can I tell you?), without missing a beat, "e-tolls, Marikana, Nkandla. That's the story."

There you have it: e-tolls, Marikana, Nkandla.

But let's go back, for a delicious moment, to the event.

As Jacob Zuma walked into the stadium and his ugly punim (I say it affectionately of course) came up on the screen, the booing rose like a tsunami wave (remember Zwelinzima Vavi and the "Zuma tsunami"? remember Zwelinzima Vavi?) and crashed down resoundingly - and we were all left darkling, as the Fool in Lear put it, or rather going "Duh!" and looking bewildered.

I was gob-smacked. I can't remember ever having been so gob-smacked since I slid out of the old lady's womb 60 or so years ago and found all these weird folk staring at me.

Some people will tell you that it was a bunch of EFF okes who started it. People will tell you all sorts of things. Don't believe ‘em. It doesn't matter who started it - it spread (if you'll pardon the changed simile) like wildfire.

Now then, this afternoon I ran into Ray Hartley, the former editor of the Sunday Times - and he said it was to a large extent about e-tolls.

"You see," he said, "people are annoyed about another R450 a month - exacerbated by Zuma taking all that money for his palace at the same time. It's the guy with his first battered Tazz. He loves it driving around it, but now these guys want that extra bunch of money ..."

Well, yeah, I see Hartley's point, though I think it's the guys with the new VW Polos as well. More than them, though, I think it's the guys - and I know more than a few - who really don't even have a pot in which to perform the proverbial, but they have big and shiny Beemers ...It's just the ol' Seffrican way of life.

All I'm saying is that - and I haven't thought about it that much, because I don't use the highway much - all I'm saying is that people really are annoyed about the toll roads, much more so than I (for one) have realized.

"Nah," says my learned colleague Reggy Moalusi, deputy editor of the Daily Sun, "it's Nkandla. You can't take the people's money like that - and talk so much rubbish about it. We're not idiots and we don't like it."

But never mind Hartley and Moalusi, they're journalists - and what do journalists know?

Now I have a friend - whom I shall not name -and s/he is very senior in the ANC and more loyal to the party than Pravin Gordhan or Mac Maharaj - so much so there was a time when you could not utter a vaguely anti-ANC sentiment in this person's hearing.  

Well, s/he was in the stadium - s/he was right there - and not turning a blind eye for once - and when I asked whether s/he thought that the booing was the kiss of death for Jacob Zuma, whether s/he thought that there are going to be plenty of ANC meetings in smoke-filled rooms debating when to "recall" Zuma, s/he said: "I don't know about that, but if there is the slightest feeling of discomfort in the Union Buildings, then all I can say is that it's bloody well time. Nkandla, and the lies, are just unacceptable ..."

S/he argued that the gantries were probably planned before Zuma was president and that, if he'd had any brains, Zuma would have had that oxygen-thief of a national police commissioner Riah Phiyega fall on her sword for Marikana - and be done with it. "But as for Nkandla ... Zuma's just gone too far this time."

Bottom line is: the people of Mzansi are pissed off with Zuma, very pissed off. That's why they booed him and cheered Thabo Mbeki and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela - some proverbial salt for his wounds.

What's remarkable is that no one seemed to know it was coming. No one told us what people were feeling. Maybe those who say that the majority of people in this country do not have newspapers that truly represent them - are correct. For, as I say, the booing seem to come out of nowhere - at the Nelson Mandela memorial of all places - and in front of many of the world's so-called leaders.

For me, the booing was one of the most heartening sounds I have heard in this country for a long, long time. I think it was a watershed moment. The people shall govern. The people shall also speak out - it seems.

Zuma and his cronies' behaviour with regard to Thuli Madonsela, the public protector, and her Nkandla report, and the ongoing farce related to it - interrupted, ironically, by Mandela's death - have been truly appalling.

I'm pretty sure that there are going to be some sacrificial lambs. I'd bet that Thulas Nxesi, the minister of public works, is not going to be around two months from now. But the big question is: will anyone tell Zuma that he needs to step down - either now or after the election? Is there anyone left in the ANC's top echelon big enough, principled enough, to do it?

In truth, I don't think so. I guess all we can do for the moment is keep booing.

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