Zexit at last?

Andrew Donaldson wonders who'll be delivering the SONA next week


ON Thursday evening, the president will deliver the State of the Nation Address at a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. Or so the latter’s chair, Thandi Modise, has insisted.

Obviously, you’d think. For this will indeed be a grand occasion. Presidential, even. The 2018 parliamentary season is upon us, the red carpet will be rolled out, and arriving dignitaries will all be mugging it up for the cameras in their finery.

Among others, Malusi Gigaba, the popinjay finance minister, will once again be dressed for Ascot. Mandla Mandela, chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council, will in all likelihood resemble an extra from The Pirates of Penzance, as is his colourful wont. And there may even be unkind remarks about the police minister, Fikile Mbalula, needing to stand on a box to be tall enough for his paparazzo shots.

After which they’ll all file into the parliamentary buildings to await the arrival of the president. The question though is who exactly will that be? Accused Number One? Or his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa? Someone else even — an interim, perhaps?

“Whoever is president will address us,” Modise told reporters on Wednesday. This in response to suggestions that Jacob Zuma may not be head of state next week following reports that the ruling party’s top six officials were discussing “options” to remove the president to prevent him from being impeached.

And why not? It’s the sacking season, it seems. There goes Allister Coetzee, the Springbok coach, punted into touch. Not long now, and the mayor, Patricia de Lille, will be shown the door. And with the Life Esidimeni hearings now wrapped up, the Gauteng provincial health department’s about to be eviscerated from the guggle to the zatch. 

True, and as is now customary, these dismissals do take forever. Round here, you don’t get fired when you screw up, you have to screw up for years and years before any form of remedial action is even contemplated.

In that regard, and according to Speaker Baleka Mbete, parliament is gearing itself up for a Zuma Sona, unless directed otherwise by the ANC. She has thus nixed requests from opposition parties that the address be postponed until a new president is in place.

As for Zuma, he continues to insist that he’s the victim of a miscarriage of justice. Last week, he told students at a KwaZulu-Natal school that he was “being arrested” for building his Nkandla home.

He also told these kids, who are perhaps smarter than the man realises, “When I reached a stage where I could not get an education, I decided to educate myself. I took many decisions on how I was going to educate myself.” 

Which raised a few snorts of derision, here at the Mahogany Ridge. But we digress. Zuma is not “being arrested”, as he put it, over the controversial upgrades to his rural pile, but rather for the $300 000-plus in bribes he allegedly received from arms dealers.

On Wednesday, Zuma submitted his reasons as to why he shouldn’t be prosecuted over this affair as directed by Shaun Abrahams, the National Director of Public Prosecutions. 

The matter has dragged on for almost a decade and has cost the taxpayer an estimated R30-million in legal fees. Zuma’s representations were initially supposed to be submitted in November last year, but steel woolly-eyebrowed Abrahams, with legendary ovine resolve, extended the deadline to January 31.

The National Prosecuting Authority now has a fortnight in which to decide whether Zuma will face fraud and corruption charges. But already there are indications Abrahams will need a bit longer than that to make up his mind. 

According to NPA spokesman, Luvuyo Mfaku, Zuma’s representations consisted of so many files of paperwork and was of such a “magnitude” that the projected date of finalising the matter “was actually highly ambitious”.

That day in court will apparently not be coming anytime soon.

But what of his evening on Thursday? If he doesn’t deliver the Sona, there will be widespread civil unrest. This, at least, is according to a dozen organisations, including the National Taxi Alliance, the ML Inkululeko Foundation and Black First Land First, who yesterday jointly launched a “Hands off Zuma” campaign.

And if he does arrive to deliver the address? Well, the Economic Freedom Front have promised the usual disruptions, and have vowed to humiliate Zuma should he take the podium.

All we can say is that, when the White Shirts spring into action, as they will when ordered to bundle the EFF out the chamber, it will be best to roll with the punches and cover the soft bits.

A version of this article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.