NEWS & ANALYSIS

Zuma's date in the dock

Andrew Donaldson asks if it is not discriminatory to rush such an ordinary citizen to court

A FAMOUS GROUSE

THERE was another, somewhat smaller prayer vigil on Thursday evening. Here at the Mahogany Ridge we rolled out the supplication mambo in the hope that Jacob Zuma’s date in the dock not be subjected to further delays and, notwithstanding the anticipated procedural postponements, his corruption trial gets underway sometime this century.

Admittedly, ours wasn’t that much of a prayer vigil. More of a pagan bacchanal. True, time was spent on our knees, but that’s because we were legless. To our credit, though, we only threw our names away after the effigies had been burnt. 

This after reports that Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, wanted the case pushed back “until a reasonable time” to first deal with bids to have his client pay back the millions in legal fees stumped up by the state over the years in which he’d kept Accused Number One out of court.

More to the point, and being the wily agent from below that he is, Hulley also wants to take on review national director of public prosecutor Shaun Abrahams’s decision that Zuma face the criminal charges that were dropped in April 2009.

And why not? Considering how the matter has dragged on over the years, Zuma’s indictment and the summons to appear in court, served not quite six weeks after he was forced to resign as president of the country, do appear to be thoughtless, reckless acts.

Why this unseemly haste? If one were to uphold the principle that, regardless of our station in life, we are all equal before the law, then surely many more years should have passed before Abrahams decided to bring Zuma, now an “ordinary citizen”, before the beak. 

That Stalingrad defence? It should work for everybody, presidents and paupers alike.

And, of course, why should there even be a trial if Zuma was innocent? This, at least, was the thinking among supporters at the all-night vigil in Durban’s Albert Park, who prayed that angels, and not just Hulley, would protect their hero when he appeared before Judge Themba Sishi yesterday morning.

The Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama was there as well, claiming that, once again, white monopoly capital was behind Zuma’s problems — thus providing further proof that conspiracy theories, no matter how outlandish, remain extraordinarily useful in providing the hard of thinking with an intellectual veneer.

There was, as expected, some singing. One tune, according to Eyewitness News, apparently suggested that were Zuma to be prosecuted then a cow would give birth to a human being. 

Some Ridge regulars have posited that something may have been lost in the translation here. But others have argued that it could explain the current ubiquity of Carl Niehaus.

These days he claims to be the spokesperson for the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association. But that may not be the case at all. 

What is certain, though, is that, like Chicken Man, Niehaus is everywhere, a crazed photobomber with a supernatural ability to appear in the background of any news footage of every political rally in any part of the country over the past two years. Was he teleporting about the place from cow to cow?

It was hardly surprising, then, that he was at Albert Park, and giving some hapless News24 reporter the lowdown on his wardrobe. 

Something of a style maven, Niehaus has brought a certain elan to the MK uniform. He fastens, for example, his web belt somewhere between his navel and sternum, thus avoiding the boep-over-the-buckle fashion travesties that are customary when paunchy men of a certain age take to camouflage. It also helps when doing the toyi-toyi which, in Niehaus’s case, is certainly very interesting.

Now, however, he was explaining when an ANC T-shirt was, in fact, not an ANC T-shirt. This followed a ruling by the party’s executive committee that members attending the prayer vigil not wear official ANC regalia, a decision that Zuma supporters openly ignored.

“We can’t really try to prescribe to people what they can sell at the vigil and also we can’t prescribe or police what people will be wearing when they arrive [on Friday],” Niehaus said.

“I’m not wearing an ANC T-shirt tonight. I’m wearing a T-shirt of the Inkululeko Foundation, which is an independent non-profit organisation that supports military veterans. I’m wearing specifically this T-shirt because Comrade Zuma is a military veteran.”

Who knows, but there may even one day be a trendy Zuma T-shirt with a prison number on it. And maybe some good will come of it, rather like the 46664 Aids benefit concerts in honour of Nelson Mandela. 

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.