The Zuma reshuffle papers revealed?

Andrew Donaldson on the significance of some crumpled pages found in the rubbish outside the Saxonwold Shebeen


WE cannot vouch for its authenticity, but some crumpled pages from a notebook found in a garbage bin outside the famous Saxonwold shebeen appear to be part of a very early draft for a legal document detailing the reasons for that controversial cabinet reshuffle.

The handwriting is especially bad, a child-like scrawl that lurches about with little or no regard for the margin or lines on the page. There are atrocious spelling errors and in some places words and phrases have been crossed out with such force the pen has ripped through the paper.

Here at the Mahogany Ridge, where we are all amateur graphologists, we were wondering whether the author could in fact have been Jacob Zuma. The President’s penmanship, after all, is legendarily crap.

In October last year, when he was in Nairobi, a photograph of Zuma’s almost illegible comments in the State House visitor’s book was pulled from an official government website by President Uhuru Kenyatta after a flood of embarrassing and derisory comments by Kenyans.

In Johannesburg, the photograph was shown to a handwriting expert by the Saturday Star. Unaware as to who wrote the note, Yossi Vissoker described the author as impatient, suffering from an inferiority complex and lacking leadership skills.

“The handwriting,” Vissoker added, “shows that the person is childish, moody, can’t concentrate or stay focused and is not able to distinguish between wrong and right.”

That was then, but this is now, and in the interim much has transpired to deepen the petulance and further sour the President’s mood. This week was especially bad.

It started with that May Day rally fiasco in Bloemfontein, where the booing and chanting from angry Cosatu members forced the cancellation of his speech, and Zuma had to be ignominiously whisked away in his motorcade for his own safety.  

Meanwhile, at another May Day rally, in Mpumalanga, the man who wanted to next lead the ANC and the country, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, was being enthusiastically cheered and applauded.

What the hell was that all about? Did these ingrates not know he had already picked his successor? 

Which is why his ovine proxy, the ex-wife now scornfully referred to as Nkosazana Jacob Zuma, was being escorted by Presidential Protection Unit heavies.

The acting national police commissioner, Kgomotso Phahlane, has insisted on several occasions the guards were necessary because of “security threats” against Dlamini-Zuma.

But it was more likely that a convoy of goons in black cars really goes that extra mile when it comes to impressing upon the natives that one is a super-big stuff in the powerful and important department, especially in the rural areas. It’s a basic Zuma 101 tactic. 

Since stepping down earlier this year as chair of the African Union, where for four-and-a-bit years she distinguished herself as the first woman to head up that organisation by doing mostly nothing of consequence, Dlamini-Zuma has been hard at work parroting her ex-husband’s populist nonsense.

She’s attacked the universities for turning out students who believe South Africa is not a democracy and urban schools for teaching children that the ANC was corrupt. She’s rubbished those who took part in the recent massive anti-Zuma demonstrations, describing them as racists who should instead “march for our land they stole”.

More importantly, she wanted the state to “strengthen” its legal institutions because the DA “was using the judiciary to govern”.

And lo, speaking of which, on Thursday the DA won a North Gauteng High Court order compelling Zuma to hand over all records explaining his cabinet reshuffle within the next few days.

He has already given us one answer. On Wednesday, he told a World Economic Forum on Africa audience that part of the reason was to give young people a chance at leadership and to prepare them for the future.

Which brings us back to our crumpled note paper and what appears to be other reasons for the reshuffle. 

As noted, the handwriting is terrible and mostly illegible, but we can make out a few phrases here and there: “Jesus came to me in a dream.” “My ancestors said so. And the Gupta family’s ancestors.” “Chicken hok upgrade.”  

There is a baffling reference to “Russian knuckles”, suggesting perhaps some sort of influence from Moscow, but then it was pointed out that wasn’t how “knuckles” was spelt. Or even Nkandla.

There are some names with comments next to them. The new Communications Deputy Minister Thandi Mahambelala is described as “nice-nice!” There’s an apparent attempt at poetry with regards to the Deputy Minister of Small Business Development. “Remember, remember! Nomathemba November!” And there’s a big smiley face next to Police Minister Fikile Mbalula’s name.

There is no mention of Pravin Gordhan.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.