Brian Molefe: What Zuma will do

Jeremy Gordin writes that to understand the President one must first step into his shoes

Do you ever think about President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma’s problems?

As an erstwhile Swedish friend might have said: Jag tro inte (“I think not”). I would venture to say that not even journalist Ranjeni Munusamy – who has made writing about Zuma into a fine, albeit prolix, art – even if the story is about a monsoon, she’ll somehow get Zuma into it – not even she, I suspect, thinks at all about the Nkandla crooner’s difficulties as perceived by him.

The reason for the lack of empathy for the energetic 74-year-old is not complex. With the exception of that oil-spill of bizarre sycophants, who can be viewed on the ANC benches in the national assembly or at cabinet meetings, Seffricans – including me most days – feel about President Zuma in roughly the same way that Julius “little Julie” Malema does. (Or that he claims to feel – with him you can’t always tell.)

But here’s the problem: if you don’t do your best to stand in the other’s oke’s shoes (even if just occasionally), you don’t have even a clue about what he’s going to do; and if what he’s going to do might affect you and the things you claim to care about, well, that’s not very smart on your part. Is it?

I have of late been studying the work of Mūsā ibn Maymūn, a 12th-century thinker and what has struck me inter alia is the extent to which ibn Maymūn drove himself into a slough of despond with his own intellectual/spiritual anxieties. How should he deal with the impending Rabbanite/Karaite split? (Almost similar to, say, the trade union movement threatening to quit the tri-partite alliance.) What should he do about the corrosive advances of Reason on his cherished Revelation? (Almost similar – but not quite – to the march of Neoliberalism on the intellectual halls, if they exist, of the National Democratic Revolution.) These are but some of the issues that kept ibn Maymūn awake through the dark reaches of the night.

But I don’t think anything keeps Zuma from sleeping; and I don’t think he worries about anything that might be said to come close to the spiritual/intellectual zone. For example, contrary to what some smart people will tell you, I don’t believe Zuma gives a tinker’s about the NDR or Marxism; that’s just a red (ha-ha) herring. In short, if asked off-the-record, Zuma would probably say Ideology is a striker for Leicester City.

I think Zuma’s problems – his concerns – are much more down-to-earth. Like mine. Or maybe even yours?

What might they be? Well, Zuma doesn’t have to be concerned about employment or salary. As far as we can tell, he doesn’t have to worry about bond repayments on his (“private”) property; the Seffrican taxpayer has in any case already assisted with various refurbishments. He doesn’t have to fret about paying the vershtunkende municipality for electricity, etc. He doesn’t have to angst about coughing up for his children’s edjamacation (and say what you like about the fellow, he’s always been in his own way a staunch family man); I’m sure the education of dependents is covered by his present employment contract.

The rapacious Receiver of Revenue? Well, ja, those who remember relatively recent history – unlike the 14-year-old ideologues and twitter mechanics presently comprising most of the fourth estate – will recall that Zuma was a decade or so ago almostshtupped by the RofR; now, however, I’m sure the president of the land gets to have a personal consultation with a representative of Tom “sorry, I never saw your email” Moyane’s team.

I could go on about Zuma not having to concern himself with a pension, short and long-term insurance, other investments, food and beverage costs, cellular and other communications costs, haberdashery and personal grooming costs for himself or his wives, legal costs (though there have been certain annoying recent exceptions), and so on and so forth – but I’ll stop now.

So, what then are Zuma’s worrying problems? I want to suggest that there exist two main ones.

First, the president needs to make sure that he doesn’t end up in chookie. As you know, the DA and in particular its chairman James “Jimmy” Selfe have been like dogs with a bone regarding the issue of Zuma’s alleged former crimes – the “783 charges of fraud, corruption and money-laundering” (as if the charges are all vastly different and don’t relate to one issue). This stuff could bite Zuma painfully in the posterior, especially when he leaves office. And, although Zuma has (with the assistance of human greed, incompetence, and stupidity) managed quite skillfully to castrate the National Prosecuting Authority, he hasn’t (yet) managed to do so to the judiciary.

Moreover, to avoid chookie, Zuma must ensure – when he quits the Union Buildings – that the skeletons in various cupboards are not suddenly trotted out; and, “simultaneous” with this, he must ensure that those in the pound seats when he leaves Pretoria are in some measure sympathetic to him; if push comes to shove, he might need a pardon.

Zuma’s second problem is needing to “honour” fully his “relationship” with those who want access to the money trough in general and his financial backers or strategists in particular.

For Zuma does have an Achilles heel. It’s related to his feeling of entitlement, which is of course in turn related to believing – or, in Zuma’s case, knowing – that you have throughout your life been unfairly deprived; you don’t go through life being teased and then berated for being a quasi-literate philistine without resentment, however much Zuma might giggle now, or whatever he says now.

Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein would probably have called Zuma’s feeling of entitlement “Envy”. But let’s not be too intemellectual about this. To be as concise as possible, it’s about “I’m-a-struggle-hero-I went-to-Robben-Island-for-10 years-giving-up-my-life-and-home-etc.-I-worked-hard for-the-liberation-of-Africans-how-come-I-and my family-didn’t-get-to-share-in-all-the-luscious-fruit- that-all-my-so-called-comrades-did?”

This “entitlement” has resulted in obsessive relationships with (mainly financially) powerful people who have sworn by all that is holy that they just want to help Zuma get the things to which he’s after all entitled. Bizarrely, there is some sense in which Zuma does seem to believe that there are free lunches. That these relationships are obsessive – or rather, perhaps, “obsessional” – is made clear by Zuma taking obviously moronic and dangerous (to himself!) steps, so as to “keep trust” with his “friends”.

These “steps” are of course often apparently illegal too – but just as Zuma doesn’t grasp that he’s not entitled to illegal fruit, he doesn’t really “understand” that the law and Constitution apply to him as well; I suspect he’s faintly affronted  and bamboozled by the very thought.

So, for example, he unceremoniously dumps Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister, replacing him with weekend special Des van Rooyen, and is taken aback when this is met with howls of disapproval from nearly all quarters. I don’t think Zuma had a momentary cerebral eclipse by the way; bearing in mind the thickness of the cotton wool in which he is kept, especially by the aforementioned oil-spill of sycophants, I think he simply didn’t “get it”; he simply didn’t “realize” (until it was too late) what the effects of what he was doing would be.

In terms of sorting out his problems, Zuma has done not-too-badly, you have to admit. He has control of state-owned enterprises and he has, as mentioned, gelded the NPA. The problem is that his move to take over the treasury went badly sideways; and also, what happens if Cyril Ramaphosa becomes ANC president? What about those skeletons and that pardon?

Now then, the media has been squawking lately about Zuma appointing the Saxonwold shebeen queen, Brian Molefe, as finance minister. I don’t think Zuma would be that stupid, do you? More likely, he’d appoint Molefe as deputy-finance minister and dump Mcebisi Jonas. Gordhan, as a good ANC cadre, would have to accept this; and Gordhan looks pretty much as though he’s ready to hit the road anyway, as soon as he gracefully can. As for Jonas, he’s been, in the eyes of the ANC faithful, a bit of an impimpi; so they won’t care much. And, with Molefe as deputy-minster (and then minister), the treasury is finally hobbled.

But still, what about the dark shadow of the prison house? So here’s what Zuma will do:

First, he will appoint Ramaphosa as minister of finance. (Gordhan can retire gracefully and join a multi-national bank.) No one can complain about that, right? Ramaphosa, because he’s unspeakably wealthy, is considered to know about finance – and the so-called business community allegedly love him. And loyal ANC cadres must, as we know, accept the positions to which they are deployed. Ramaphosa might cut up rough and not accept – but that’s okay too, because he’s then out of the presidency stakes anyway. And anyway Molefe will be hovering in the wings. (I’m really not into tribal factionalism; but, trust me, the Zulu nation do not want Ramaphosa in the no. 1 seat; no way.) Then Zuma will appoint the “little woman,” Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma, as deputy-president. (She’d have to be sworn in as an MP first – but that’s easy enough.) This will take care of the presidential race later this year and will keep the skeletons locked in the cupboard, etc. Molefe? Ach, he can stay in the ministry of finance; pretty soon, either way, he’ll be the minister.

This may not happen tomorrow and maybe not next week – Zuma has a bit of time – but certainly in the next few months. If Zuma does this, remember you read it here first. If he doesn’t, well, he’s not thinking as per usual form. And if he hasn’t even thought of this, well here it is for you gratis, Mr President. Have a nice day.