Andrew Donaldson wonders how the ex-President plans to get out of this one
A FAMOUS GROUSE
STRANGE as it may seem, but there are those among us who are troubled by the gales of schadenfreude billowing around our ears and they have warned that it may be a bit early for the popping of champagne corks.
One such person hosing on our batteries is anaesthetist, podcaster and political commentator Dr Jonathan Witt, who has tweeted: “I have to laugh at all of the people who think Jacob Zuma is going to serve a jail sentence.”
Fair enough, go ahead and laugh. We do live in strange times. And when the highest court in the land sentences Accused Number One to 15 months in prison for his contemptuous disregard of the Zondo commission … well, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be going to jail, or does it?
He has until Sunday to hand himself over to the police and, uh, until then, there could be any number of interesting developments. He may even not report for his punishment and go on the lam. Do the Dubai bye, as it were.
However. Here’s a thing or two. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
Should there be a sudden onset of hitherto undetected high blood pressure and stress-related ailments, a not unheard of occurrence in circles frequented by the former president, Zuma must still technically go to jail if he is to be paroled on medical grounds.
But, speaking as an unhinged observer, I believe it will be well nigh impossible to argue the case for poor health. The vigour with which uBaba has in recent years tackled what may be referred to as “legal challenges” is well known. That stuff saps the stamina of men half his age. Then, on a more prurient note, there’s all that frenzied trouser activity and the fathering of yet more children.
Simply put, he is not an undead zombie like Schabir Shaik.
Besides which, not three months ago, the Thief-in-Chief had the vim and bottle to dash off a 21-page letter to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in which he declared that the Constitutional Court had no jurisdiction to rule on matters relating to the inquiry into state capture.
Zuma also accused the court of abandoning its mandate to instead pursue a political narrative of spurious allegations of so-called state capture, fraud and corruption by the Zupta project. What’s more, Msholozi said, he was not going to legitimise or co-operate with this “sham”, and he duly dared the court to jail him.
Which it did. As they say, give a dog a bone…
The biggest indication, however, that Zuma is in serious trouble is the reaction of his family and his supporters to the Constitutional Court’s sentence. “Apoplectic” seems too calm a description of the foam-flecked response from the faithful, and here indeed is much wailing and gnashing of teeth and hair-pulling and what have you.
Poor bastard son Edward “Cigarettes R Us” Zuma. Desperate as ever for Pop’s affection, he’s told reporters that he would not see his father go to jail. “They’ll have to kill me first. I will lay down my life for President Zuma.”
But daughter Dudu Zuma-Sambudla claims her father is quite prepared to go to prison. Besides raging on in posts about how racist the courts are, she has tweeted: “Amandla! Just Spoke To My Father, @PresJGZuma Is In High Spirits And Has No Fear. We Have A Choice Between Serving Our Time In Jhb Or Nkandla…Of Course We Have Chosen To Be Close To Home. Lockdown Or No Lockdown We Will Escourt You To Serve Your Time” (sic)
Children, do make up your minds! What’s it to be? Death? Or a day’s outing with Dad?
And, look, here’s our old friend, Carl Niehaus, inchoate as usual and chundering on about this “fundamental and absolute outrage”. He suggests we should all take to the streets and resist this injustice. And there’s that poor Mzwanele “Jimmy” Manyi, who had only just taken on the job of being Zuma’s spokesman and, like the ill-fated ANN7, the Gupta TV station he once ran, that too has is now rapidly tanking. Ag, shem!
Manyi was quick to point out that there’s no appealing the ConCourt’s decisions and has cleverly suggested this may have unfairly disadvantaged his boss. “Zuma is the only person in SA whose right to appeal has been taken away just like that,” he told the SABC. “It is the first time where you go straight from a motion court and skip trial and incarcerate a person. So we have someone who has been incarcerated without a fair trial. It is very tragic day in SA today.”
Elsewhere, Manyi was quoted by The Times of London as saying, “What kind of humanity is this where an 80-year-old man that did not kill anyone is treated as though he is a cold criminal.”
What kind, indeed. Zuma is, in fact, 79, and this does raise an interesting point about humane treatment. In his reaction to the sentence, the public interest lawyer Richard Spoor has suggested that Msholozi should be pardoned because of his age. “He is 78 years old (sic),” Spoor tweeted, “and has been poorly advised, mainly by people who sought only to exploit him for their own ends. 15 months in prison is like a death sentence for him. It is very harsh. Cyril must act.”
I’m not altogether convinced by this old crooks with crap lawyers argument. But, like most of us, I’ll be watching this space with some interest.
What does seem certain, however, is that when his arms deal fraud and corruption trial resumes on July 19, Accused Number One will appear before the Pietermaritzburg High Court as a convict. He may or may not be turned out in orange overalls but either way, it’s going to be a bright moment.
Research at the University of Tübingen, in Germany, reveals that Africans got shorter under colonialism through disease, conflict and forced labour. According to The Times, the study compared measurements taken before and after the colonial era and found that while people got taller elsewhere, they shrank on the continent, with the biggest average loss of 3.5cm recorded in what is now Tanzania. The study is considered a setback for those who argue that colonialism was beneficial to Africans.
Shameful as the findings may be, they do not fully explain the diminutive stature of transport minister Fikile Mbalula, a man who so often belittles himself in pursuit of attention. Not only does he clamber on boxes and stand on chairs in order to be seen but once there insists on acting the clown in order to make his presence felt.
This overcompensating behaviour has been evident for a while. His wardrobe, for example, is challenging at the best of times, and his choice of spectacles can best be described, in the modern parlance, as gender fluid. The worst transgressions, however, occur on Twitter, and his idiot-whistling blather here has no more substance than spume.
Last month, and in a moment evidently untroubled by thought and a sense of irony, Mbalula shared a popular meme purporting to be a quote from former US president Harry Truman: “You can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.” The reaction was predictable; many on Twitter said this message should rather have been posted in the government’s official WhatsApp group. Mr Fix, as he calls himself (“Focused-Energetic-Efficient”), then lamely exercised a spot of damage control. “I disagree with this quote,” he responded.
Another small weaselly moment, then. These things do add up. It may seem only a molehill to some, but Mbalula has a mountain to climb if he wishes to attain a shred of credibility. In an ideal world, he would man up, get off Twitter and fix the trains. But he will do no such thing, of course, and so further diminishes himself.
That Truman meme, incidentally, is incorrect. The former president said no such thing. What he did say, according to an April 1945 diary entry contained in Off the Record: The Private Papers of Harry S Truman, edited by Robert H Ferrell (University of Missouri Press), was this:
“No young man should go into politics if he wants to get rich or if he expects an adequate reward for his services. An honest public servant can’t become rich in politics. He can only attain greatness and satisfaction by service.”
Wise words. And not only for small folk.
Further afield, there is deep concern at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s dramatic weight loss. In Pyongyang, they weep. The Wall Street Journalquoted one man’s reaction to recent photographs of Kim: “We were most heartbroken when we saw our dear General Secretary had become emaciated. Tears came out naturally.”
A few months ago, the 37-year-old Kim was reported to weigh more than 140kg, which is morbidly obese for someone 1.7m tall. South Korean media report that he has since lost about 20kg. The fact that he is a chain smoker has fuelled speculation about his health. There is a history of cardiac disease in the family. Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled from 1994 until 2011, and his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, who founded the hermit state in 1948, both died after suffering massive heart attacks. Kim Jong-un has yet to name an official successor, and this is worrying to Western countries, given the country’s berserk nuclear weapons programme.
There is a suggestion that the weight loss could be due to bariatric surgery. But I suspect something far more prosaic. North Koreans are reportedly infested with parasites as food crops are fertilised with human faeces. This discovery was made in 2018 by South Korean surgeons during an operation to save the life of a North Korean defector who had been shot and badly wounded by a border patrol as he fled the country. Roundworm as long as 25cm were found in the man’s intestines.
This would be a fitting fate for a tyrant who has shut out the outside world in order to combat the enemy within. But I fear for the poor doctor who must inform Dear Leader that he is sick because he is being eaten by his vegetables.
Glorious revolutionary festivities
In Beijing, they’re celebrating the centennial of the Communist Party of China. Much in the way of parades and flag-waving, dreary speeches and Mao mythologising as key episodes in a long, eventful history are revisited. No mention just yet, though, of the tens of millions who died as result of the man-made famine triggered by the Great Leap Forward, or of the millions more who perished in the Cultural Revolution.
The Long March of 1934, however, is an origin story that is hard to top. As Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists gained the upper hand in the struggle for power, the communist forces embarked on a series of lengthy, often dangerous retreats into the hinterland of north-central China, where Mao took over the party leadership in 1935. Little will probably be said of the purges that immediately followed and would continue until his death in 1976. The CCP probably also won’t make much of the fact that the burden of fighting the invading imperial Japanese forces was then borne by Chiang and his armies, who suffered the bulk of the casualties.
The great irony about the CCP is that it has prospered as a result of capitalism. However, freeing up markets is one thing, political change quite another. Reforms introduced in the late 1970s by Deng Xiaoping to prevent future dictatorships like Mao’s were done away with by Xi Jinping in 2018 when he effectively declared himself leader in perpetuity — a draconian move that signalled a return of the old ways was very much on the agenda. See Taiwan and Hong Kong.
On a personal note, I was fortunate enough to visit China about 15 years ago during this brief, purplish pre-Xi Who Must Be Obeyed period. Apart from tourist attractions like the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army, I was greatly fascinated by the CCP tat and junk at flea markets. It was as if the country was exorcising its past in a great, iconoclastic jumble sale.
Copies of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, or the Little Red Book, were everywhere, often “aged” with tea stains by vendors who claimed they were vintage copies that once belonged to Red Guard loyalists. It’s unlikely that the bullies and thugs who once attacked intellectuals for their “reactionary practices” would have owned the English and other foreign language editions of the book. But no matter; I bought half a dozen for friends anyway.
I kept a French one for myself: “Peuples du monde, unissez-vous, pour abetter les agresseurs americaines et leurs laquais!” That’s from the Chairman’s November 1964 message of solidarity to the (shortened) Congolese. But it could also be the sort of thing uttered by the regulars when last rounds are called at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”): “Better pour us another one, poephol, lest we get aggressive like liquored-up Americans…”