Zuma and the Retreads

Andrew Donaldson on the ex-President's imminent return from the gravely-ill


A TWEETED invitation arrives from Dudu Ivankandla Zuma-Sambudla: my presence is required at the People’s Park in Durban, there to publicly express gratitude that her father, Accused Number One, has been Frasered from prison to once more freely roam among his flock — albeit in a gravely ill manner. 

Thursday morning’s event occasion has been described by the Jacob G Zuma Foundation, rather oddly, as a “National Welcome Prayer”, prompting of course a fleeting thought that a “National Outstayed His Welcome Prayer” would be the more fitting tag. Dudu however has her own ideas and has said, in that peculiar upper case way she has with the smartphone’s keypad: “This Is Going To Be A Movie…You Don’t Want To Miss It”

Alas, I won’t be attending. But, speaking of movies, that wouldn’t be a film along the lines of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, would it? Or maybe something a bit more otherworldly? Like Cecil B DeMille’s epic The Ten Commandments? As Zuma’s spokesman, Mzwanele Manyi, has promised: “God’s atmosphere will ensure that coronavirus is blown away and not passed on between the attendees.” 

And should divine wind fail, there is always the fallback of a shower. But, and lest faith waver, Manyi did make the point out that Zuma had survived an attempt on his life through poisoning — an indication, surely, that God’s farts had on previous occasions been sufficiently sustaining and life-affirming in their fulsome loaminess. 

Unhappiness nevertheless persists. As Manyi told the Sowetan: “People of SA are still grieving that their hero, a true freedom fighter, a man that sacrificed spending quality time with his family, was dealt a severe and unjust blow by the democracy that he fought so tirelessly for.”

Further disappointment may be on the cards. It’s unclear whether the great Blesser will emerge from the wilderness to make an appearance in Durban and there himself be blessed by the faithful. “Let’s just pray that he is there,” Manyi said, “but the situation is still fluid because president Zuma is still on medical parole, his condition is a fluid condition, so we hope on the day, the situation will be such that the doctors can allow him to be there.” 

Spoken like a man who has only recently discovered the word “fluid” and, making up for lost time, now frequently drops it into conversation with amusing desperation.

There is, as Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee suggests, a method to all this supplicating madness. Voter registration is down across the country, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal where support for Zuma is traditionally strong. Like many commentators, she states this Trumpish exercise in Durban is a “show of force” by the supporters of Radical Economic Transformation. 

The RET acronym, incidentally, does offer a useful label, particularly to describe those ideologically bound by the dogma of 1970s guerrilla training manuals. The Retreads, as they shall be known, are seemingly done with loitering on the lunatic fringe. They now see themselves as the kingmakers in next month’s local elections.

They realise that the ruling party is likely to be the most affected by a stayaway vote. “Of the 38.57 million people who can vote,” Haffajee writes, “only 26.2 million have registered to do so. Roughly half of registered voters vote on local election days, although interest in the local poll was higher in 2016. In KZN, 5.4 million of the 7.18 million eligible voters have registered to vote on November 1.”

Considerable power lies in the hands of Zuma’s supporters and the Retreads are counting on the “National Welcome Prayer” to put the Thief-in-Chief back on the national agenda. A rather frail-looking Zuma has played his part here, appearing in a video clip in which he encourages voters to turn out for the ANC regardless of “dissatisfactions”, an unintended but appropriate enough euphemism given the internecine hostilities within the party.

It’s an endorsement that the Cyril Ramaphosa dissatisfaction (if I now may) has welcomed. Speaking to reporters on the campaign trail in KZN, Squirrel himself has said that he expected no less from his predecessor. Eyewitness News quoted him as saying, “I haven’t seen the video that you’re talking about … [but] I would expect him as a loyal member of the ANC and former leader of the ANC to encourage our voters to vote.” 

Squirrel also wished Zuma a speedy recovery, suggesting he rest up and focus on his health. Which is a not terribly subtle hint that uBaba has no place in this campaign. 

The Retread dissatisfaction will in all likelihood be having none of this. As long as their leader remains aggrieved — and, believe me, he certainly does put on a show of such-like, grumping away like a warthog with toothache — then they have cause enough to throw their weight about. 

They should be careful, though. Zuma is getting on, and God’s guts are notoriously unpredictable, even at the best of times. Wheeling out an enfeebled leader with failing faculties to gee up the masses is an embarrassing show of farce. We know so, regrettably, from experience. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Criminal matters

We’re rather stunned, here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), that Mandla Msibi has been fired as Mpumalanga’s agriculture MEC following his court appearance on charges of murder and attempted murder.

It would seem that, contrary to popular opinion, an ANC government is capable of taking firm action against party members who disgrace themselves in public life. As premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane told a media briefing, the ANC has set itself a “particular moral standard”, which its public representatives were duty-bound to honour.

It is, however, a particularly particular moral standard. 

According to News 24, Msibi has been a familiar figure in various criminal matters in Mpumalanga courts in recent years. Charges against him have ranged from common assault, assault to cause grievous bodily harm and malicious damage to property to attempted murder. 

These were matters, however, in which witnesses inexplicably failed to turn up on court dates, and where complainants withdrew charges or drastically contradicted themselves on the witness stand. 

In June this year, for instance, Msibi was cleared of attempting to murder one Rocky Mxolisi Sithole, who was brutally assaulted by four men armed with pick handles at his chicken braai business in August 2017. As Sithole later wrote to the National Prosecuting Authority: 

“I’m a victim of the attempted murder case 153/08/2017. I have decided not to proceed with this case because I have sat down with my family and looked into this matter. And we have agreed that I must drop all the charges because I have not seen anyone assaulting me during the incident and I don’t recall anything about that day. I made this decision without any fear or favour. So, I request the court to drop or withdraw the charges.”

These matters were of some discomfort to the Mpumalanga government, which did consider taking action to get Msibi to step aside. But then there were all those acquittals. 

Unfortunately, a fatal shootout at a party branch meeting followed in August, and this then changed everything. Business Day, incidentally, reported the incident as follows: “…Mbisi has been charged with murder and is in custody in the fallout of a scuffle at an ANC branch meeting in Mbombela earlier this year that led to the deaths of two people…” Which, as the columnist Gareth van Onselen has noted, was an “interesting” interpretation of “scuffle”.

The lesson here, presumably, is that dead folk can’t change their statements, and it would seem that, faced with no alternative, the ANC was forced to suspend Msibi. He naturally, remains a member of the provincial legislature. His colleagues continue to respect him. 

And, given what has happened to Msibi’s alleged enemies, who can blame them? One of whom, Mpumalanga’s cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Busisiwe Shiba, has said of him: “Mandla Msibi is a comrade of mine, whom I have known and worked with for many years. I hold him in a very high regard and I shall continue to do so, until proven otherwise.” 

Further afield, the police minister, Cheek Bile, has again indicated his unique understanding of violent crime. Speaking in Mitchell’s Plain last week, he offered the following: “One crime that has gone up in this province is car hijacking and this car hijacking happens because of potholes.”

Not long now, and Bile will be telling us the cars also contribute to the problem.

He’s a lumberjack and he’s okay…

To Canada where, despite the approaching winter chill, matters are getting rather frenetic regarding gender and sexual identity. 

Prime minister Justin Trudeau, tweeting in support of a vigil for indigenous women and those of “specific sexual identities” who have gone missing or have been murdered, offered up the following acronym: “2SLGBTQQIA+”, meaning “Two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual, and all other sexual orientations and genders.”

The tweet has not passed without comment, invariably unkind and not at all “inclusive”. Some Twitter users wondered whether the Trudeaus’ pet cat had not wandered over the PM’s keyboard. One puzzled observer came up with his own alphabet soup, “WTFI2SLGBTQQIA+STM?”, meaning roughly, What the f*** is [all that] supposed to mean? The tweeter then added: “Eventually, instead of an ever-expanding acronym, you'll have to just use some logic and refer to and honour ‘everyone’.”

Could it get worse? It probably can. A lengthy critique in the London Review of Books of historian Joanna Bourke’s study, Loving Animals: On Bestiality, Zoophilia and Post-Human Love (Reaction) begins thus:

“Have you ever experienced the love of an animal? Jack, my family’s golden retriever, put on an admirable show of adoring all of us, but we knew his deepest attachment was to my mother, on whose lap he liked to lie, having his silky ears stroked as he slept. Jasper, the ill-advised beagle that followed, loved no one but himself. The heart of my hamster, Kramer, was an enigma. When one morning I found his cold, motionless body next to the wheel in which he had whirred away the days, a small furry Sisyphus, I cried for a creature I had never really known. But the arrival last summer of Goose, a black Labrador, means that I too now know what it is to be the object of an animal’s love, and to love her in turn, as I tell her several times a day. She lies next to me as I write, her paws tucked neatly under her otter-smooth head, her body pressed against my side. Later we will take each other for a walk in the meadow and delight in each other’s delight: at rabbits forever out of reach, at the clean line she cuts through water, at the shivering trees. What could be better than this? 

“For some people there is an answer, and it is sex with animals…”

But do they call later, as promised? Or send flowers? I think we should know.