The rogue state of Nkandlastan

Andrew Donaldson writes on the last stand of Accused Number One and his idiot brood


FINGERS crossed but, by the time you read this, Jacob Zuma may just possibly be in prison. 

I am aware that sounds lame, and in an ideal world, one in which the events of the last two decades were little more than a bad dream, a news editor would hurl this copy back at yours truly with bellowed instructions that the top of the story be firmed up with something more definitive and most pronto if I didn’t want to put my readers to sleep and wasn’t begging for a good arse-kicking to boot.

But this is not an ideal world, this is Nkandlastan, the newly independent rogue state now sprung from years of misrule, ineptitude and corruption. Anything can happen here to confound rational expectations. And, as is so often the case, it usually does. It is a place, to paraphrase Tony Leon’s TimesLive column on Tuesday, that says a lot about the country it sprang from, the modern South African state. 

The past week’s events at this “latter-day Lourdes for delinquents and miscreants”, Leon writes, “will speak volumes on where we stand on the rule of law and equal treatment of all citizens, and how even-handed the state and its agencies will be in applying the adage that no-one is above the law or beyond its reach”.

Ah, the smell of cynicism in the morning. But, as Colonel Bill Kilgore, the gung-ho air cavalry commander played by Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, put it: “Someday, this war’s gonna end.” 

Accused Number One will run out of road.

And that time is now, the Pietermaritzburg High Court was told on Tuesday during arguments in Zuma’s last-ditch and, frankly, bizarre attempt to stay out of jail.

Consider: the Constitutional Court last week sentenced him to 15 months imprisonment. He was going to jail. No ifs and buts. The former president had until Sunday to turn himself in, failing which, the court said, the police had to arrest him by midnight, Wednesday, July 7th, 2021. 

On Friday, Zuma’s advocate, Dali Mpofu, attempted to convince the high court that the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, had been unconstitutional in sentencing his client for contempt of court. 

This, according to public interest lawyer Richard Spoor, was “a novel and interesting” approach. “Prolixity,” he tweeted, “suggests that you think the judge is stupid and will be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of your bullshit.”

Put that way, the more boy cow stuff elements of Mpofu’s submission were the claims that his client was a penniless old man with health issues who, with hindsight, had listened to bad legal advice. But it’s difficult to feel sympathy for anyone who, with hindsight, has listened to bad legal advice for almost 18 years and whose deliberate, self-serving contribution to our basket-casing is considerable and certainly not a trifling matter.

As it turned out, Mpofu’s argument was given short shrift by advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, who appeared for the “vengeful” Zondo commission. He told the court during virtual proceedings on Tuesday:

“Mr Zuma has not handed himself over to police, as he was ordered to do by the Constitutional Court. It is now two days since he was supposed to do that. He is again taking the law into his own hands. He has not asked for the variation of that period before the Constitutional Court. We are dealing with a recalcitrant, deliberately defiant litigant. He is presently in defiance of the present contempt of court.”

Judgment in the matter was reserved until Friday. Bottom line is that, when the court adjourned on Tuesday evening, Zuma’s arrest order remained in place.

This places the police minister manqué, Cheek Bile, in a very interesting position. Uncomfortable questions of testicular fortitude are in the ascendency.

Bile has been feebly fending off criticism that cops were missing in action at the weekend and stood idly by as Zuma’s supporters gathered at the Nkandlastan border in defiance of all manner of public safety, lockdown and firearm regulations. Not many were surprised at this, least of all the minister, who would now have us believe that such behaviour is, in fact, rather commendable. He told reporters in Soweto:

“I want to congratulate the police, the way they behaved. The problem is that information that people don’t have, we will have. There were about more than 100 people there that were armed and were mingling within the people that you saw at Nkandla. Now police knew that. Police had that information. [Protestors] even tried to provoke the police into having their firearms used there. There were many women and children there and the police had to take a step back. We had to take, and absorb the insults and complaints, but (as) South African police we’ve all learned from Marikana.”

It’s difficult to respond to such utter stupidity. But talk of resolutely taking a “step back” in dangerous situations does call to mind schoolboy jokes about famous French military manoeuvres. Imagine the relief in Paris, then, that in Afrique du Sud there’s an imbecile with un nez massif who is now the butt of that particular joke. [1] ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

The idiot brood

It is of course the children who suffer the most. But, dutiful as ever, the Thief-in-Chief’s offspring have rallied to his cause. Daughter Dudu Zuma-Sambudla wants blood and has gone berserk on Twitter with posts of assault rifles and impis on the warpath. She makes unique use of the upper case, as if writing newspaper headlines, for example: “Siyabonga! Let Us Now Organize Ourselves And Unite To Take Back Our Land And Take Back Our Country From The WMC And Their Proxy’s In Leadership Positions…Mayibuye iAfrika! Amandla !!!” (sic)

Duduzane, meanwhile, has used Pop’s predicament to further his own presidential ambitions. A typical post: “Retweet to annoy enemies of Africa! They sucesfully succeeded to eliminate #Gaddafi, now they want to eliminate @PresJGZuma. They want to arrest and kill #Zuma, they want SA to be a war zone like Libya. Some sellouts amongst us are working with our enemies #Nkandla #duduzane” #HashtagOwnName? Very, very sad. 

Edward Zuma, however, is proving especially special and most in need of professional attention. He’s not that active on social media and chooses instead to vent his spleen the old-fashioned way, by shouting nonsense at reporters and then threatening to burn their vehicles.

“We do not care about the police,” he said at the weekend. “But should they dare come close to Zuma’s house, there will be bloodshed. If they provoke us, we will give them the bloodshed that they want. Nkandla is on a total shutdown. Zuma is not going anywhere even if he elects to do so we will stop him.

“As for these so-called leaders [in the ANC NEC] who want to talk, we are not going to entertain them. Why have they been quiet for so long? They are a bunch of spineless people. All they care about is their own stomachs. We are not listening to anyone. And Zuma is not going anywhere. If push comes to shove and we have to take out our guns and fight, we will do so.”

His utterances appear quaint in print, endearing even. As we’ve pointed out in the past, Unsteady Eddy does try so very hard to gain his father’s affection. In real life, though, this sort of chunter can be quite alarming, what with all the phlegm and spittle. There must be a helpline somewhere for people like him.

One step backwards, two steps backwards…

More rancour and bitterness, this time from the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association’s chief fibber, Carl Niehaus, who says the vets are not at all happy that the ruling party’s leadership has repeated its demand that their raddled embarrassment of an organisation disband. 

He has touchingly described the ANC’s decision as “emotional and angry” and linked it to the vets’ continued support of Jacob Zuma. 

I do so feel for him. A little. Frankly, no one gives a fig about the association but its struggle to survive is nevertheless difficult to witness, a bit like seeing a crippled pigeon being stalked by an alley cat. You know it’s going to end in tears. But still he resolutely slips into his camouflage trousers each and every morning and bangs away hopelessly like Sisyphus. It’s more ag, shame, really, than ag, Che.

I wonder, though, if Carl had a hand in producing any of the placards carried by uBaba’s supporters at the weekend, one of which bizarrely read: “We demand our land that was stolen 573 years ago back!!!” 

Ignore the clumsy syntax. English is not Carl’s first language. What got our attention, here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), is this business of 573 years. 

Who stole their land in 1448? Not a European, surely? As far as the rest of the world is concerned, the first white folk to arrive at the southern tip of Africa, a bunch of grumpy sailors led by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeo Dias, did so in 1488. But that was at Mossel Bay, about 1 100 kilometres from Nkandla as the crow flies. Even then, Dias and his men didn’t pinch any land — although they did sail off with a cow after shooting dead a Khoikhoi herdsman with a crossbow. [2]

I wonder, though, if these RET rowdies weren’t referring to the Chinese, who were intrepid explorers in their own right, having invented the maritime compass in the 11th century. By the early 1400s they were visiting what is now Somalia on a regular basis. Soon after that, however, China’s Confucian rulers outlawed such expansionism and the country’s merchants were then restricted to trading with nearby tributary states. This, of course, hasn’t stopped them from playing “catch-up” with Africa and elsewhere in more recent years. 

Muddied oafs, etc

There is presently much sportsball excitement. England meet Denmark in their Euro 2020 semi-final encounter at Wembley this evening. More importantly, the Cell C Sharks are up against the British & Irish Lions at Ellis Park beforehand. [3] 

Mrs Donaldson, through televisual osmosis, is aware of these events and wants to know why the home nations tourists are called the Lions when no such creatures are native to the muddy islands. She suspects it may be due to imperialism. For all that, she concedes “British & Irish Hedgehogs” does lack a certain something.


[1] Shortly before deadline, it was reported that Bile was on his way to Nkandlastan in a last ditch effort to convince Zuma to hand himself over to police. It appears that Bile could himself be charged with contempt of court if Accused Number One was not arrested by midnight on Wednesday. According to News24, sources within the ANC NEC had requested the police minister first engage with Zuma before police moved to arrest him. 

[2] The Spesbona government will, following the Western Cape’s secession, demand compensation for this act of aggression: half-price espetadas at Dias Tavern, Caledon St, Cape Town. Nothing less.

[3] Away with this Emirates Airline Park nonsense. The stadium will always be known to the faithful as Ellis Park.