Return of the Living NDZ

Andrew Donaldson says it's appropriate that former Health Minister is standing as Zupta candidate


THE ANC’s fetishisation of its greatly mythologised past will no doubt intensify this Heritage Day weekend. Here at the Mahogany Ridge our thoughts will be with the party as they struggle with this Sisyphean task of reconstruction.

We will once again be at the braai. There, as we turn the charring chops, we will probably discuss, among other things, recent developments concerning Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

There is much chatter, we have noted, to the effect that the President’s ex is a shoo-in to lead the party and that they needn’t be bothered with its December elective conference in Gauteng.

NDZ was made a member of Parliament on Thursday after a vacancy arose following the resignation last month of ANC backbencher Pule Mabe whose brief residency there was, as is often the case, only slightly marred by a misunderstanding over tender regulations.

Mabe’s decision to pack it in did raise eyebrows. It is rare these days that a young man would offer up his seat for a lady, even during Women’s Month. 

Perhaps Mabe was just following orders. He is, after all, a devoted Zumaphant. His defence, for example, of Accused Number One in the last motion of no confidence debate was a case in point. 

“Everything the DA does is guided by opportunism and desperation for fame,” Mabe was quoted as saying. “It’s a frivolous motion of no confidence, [and tantamount] to a coup d’etat.”

A frivolous coup? That’s a bit like glib treason. Or, in the case of Mabe, thrown under the bus in a lighthearted, friendly manner.

But we digress. Dlamini-Zuma’s return to Parliament prompted speculation that her former husband was about to once again reshuffle his behemoth of a cabinet and squeeze her in somewhere. 

And why not? She’s already had the health, foreign affairs and home affairs portfolios. Perhaps she’s ready for the finance job.

She was shtoom about all this, though, when reporters button-holed her after the Potemkin Village swearing-in ceremony in Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli’s office. 

Instead, she offered the usual schtick that she was an obedient servant of the party, and hers not to question why, but to dutifully bank the cheque all the same.

Perhaps this pliable docility is why the ANC Women’s League has thrown its considerable weight behind her proxidential campaign.

As the league’s president, Bathabile Dlamini, told Eyewitness News last month: “[Our choice] … is that comrade Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is the president of the ANC come [the] December [elective] conference. And in the women’s league we agreed about Comrade Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and therefore, the blouse supports Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.”

And presumably the blouse is fully aware of who wears the trousers. But, apart from that, NDZ is practically all her own woman. Hear her roar. Sort of. And don’t forget her singular brand of gravid feminine mystique. Already men are losing their hearts. 

Or else being shot dead in KwaZulu-Natal, where thousands of fraudulent ANC membership cards are said to litter the landscape.

Speaking of which, Dlamini-Zuma addressed an assembled gang of morticians and other servants of Anubis at a gala dinner in Durban on Tuesday, and called for a radical economic transformation in the funeral industry sector.

“We want to see you as part of the entire value chain,” she bleated. “We want to see a totally transformed industry. It is in our hands. We cannot expect anyone else to do it for us.” 

And, perhaps as a warning shot across the bows of her chief rival in the ANC presidential race, Cyril the Buffalo Billionaire, her audience were offered this glimpse of entrepreneurial nous:

“We need to be in the value chain of this industry including horticulture. We always use flowers but how many here are part of growing flowers?”

Good point. If you’re in the pushing up daisies business, then work those daisies too.

On that note, it is worth recalling that Dlamini-Zuma was at the centre of democratic South Africa’s first ever major corruption scandal, when the Department of Health awarded playwright Mbongeni Ngema a R14.27-million contract in August 1995 to produce an Aids-themed sequel to his musical, Sarafina.

It seems like chump change now, but it was a fortune at the time. President Nelson Mandela foolishly chose not to censure her. So the rot began and a virulent culture of promoting the inept, the crooked and the unworthy up the food chain metastasised.

It will be fitting, then, if NDZ is elected to lead the ANC. The party will be quite dead by then. The embalmers will be hard at work. And the ladies with the arum lilies.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.