Zuma's last laugh

Andrew Donaldson says our President seems to have much to be amused about


FUNNY how, in one of his infrequent appearances in the National Assembly, Jacob Zuma, or “President Gupta” as he is now known, should suggest that opposition MPs who boycotted his closing speech on the budget debate were neglecting their parliamentary duties.

Funnier still was his dismissal of the “allegations and rumors” of state capture by the Guptas, which came even as leaked emails and documents continue to disgorge an embarrassment of riches to the contrary.

As the President pointed out to the empty opposition benches, he does indeed enjoy laughing. 

What else can you do but laugh? Especially when your popularity has plummeted so dramatically in recent months.

Several commentators have suggested Zuma’s popular support is down to about 20%. Which is a bit embarrassing when you consider that about 60% of the population still support the party he leads. Can there be such a thing as an unpopular populist politician?

That aside, Zuma certainly did seem a bit more cheerful and jauntier as he railed on about politicians who believe in their own propaganda and what have you than he was at the weekend’s ANC national executive committee meeting in Pretoria.

There, in his closing remarks, Zuma had laid into his critics in the NEC who had supported senior party strategist Joel Netshitenzhe’s motion calling on him to resign, even threatening them. “I have been quiet because I don’t want to harm the ANC, so continue attacking me in the media and you will see.”

Such talk is not to be taken lightly. Just ask Solly Mapaila, the second deputy general secretary of the SA Communist Party and an outspoken critic of Zupta Inc. 

A bunch heavies calling themselves the MK Foundation began protesting outside Mapaila’s home on Tuesday, with a TV crew from the Gupta-owned ANN7 channel in tow, in what the SACP claims was an orchestrated act of intimidation directed at their leader and his family.

Interestingly, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema had warned Mapaila in a tweet the day before that he was being threatened because “the old man is not happy with him and anything is possible”.

Although we won’t admit it now, but there certainly were some of us who believed that with the tabling of Netshitenzhe’s motion there was a good chance that Zuma would be ousted. 

Contrary to reports that more than half of the NEC’s members were opposed to Zuma, only 23 voted for the motion. Still, at least 18 members did speak out against him. And rather than leave the room, he chose to remain and listen to his detractors. 

What they said must have enraged Zuma. He tore into the Gauteng ANC leadership in particular, saying that they couldn’t blame him for their embarrassing losses in the municipal elections and suggested it was their own fault, bizarrely, as they had refused to hand out T-shirts bearing his name when they campaigned in the province.

Such utterances speaks volumes of the contempt for voters. And don’t think the voters don’t notice.

The party did presumably hand out the appropriate T-shirts, along with the food parcels and goodie bags, in the run up to last week’s by-election in Nquthu, KwaZulu-Natal. But, for all the good that did, the once moribund Inkatha Freedom Party pulled off an extraordinary victory here, in Zuma’s own back yard.

Such setbacks were conveniently forgotten by those elated Zuma supporters at the NEC meeting, one of whom was the Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula.

In a particularly idiotic interview, he told The Star that it was the party veterans and stalwarts who wanted Zuma to step down who were the real problem here.

“We can’t be blackmailed by the stalwarts who are filthy and stinking rich, because they benefited from [black economic empowerment]. If they have made up their minds to sell out, they must leave the ANC out of it,” he said.

“We won’t be lectured by them. They masquerade as people who are genuinely concerned about the ANC, but we know they are not.”

The Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association chairman, Kebby Maphatsoe, said much the same thing. “Those who want President Zuma to step down are the ones who are rich. Some of them are long-serving cabinet ministers, they have good pensions.”

Ordinarily, a comment to the effect that none so blind as those that won’t see would do here, but such is the stubborn and willful ignorance on display, it would seem we’re dealing with folk who go to sleep wearing helmets fashioned from tin foil to prevent their brains from being infected, gamma ray-like, from anything remotely resembling reason, common sense or rational thought.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.