Zuma's revenge tour continues

Andrew Donaldson writes on the ex-President's yet to be derailed political comeback


THE Electoral Court has overturned a ban on Jacob Zuma’s candidacy in the elections. This is obviously good news for the uMkhonto we Sizwe Party; the old goat is not only the face of their electoral campaign, he also tops their list of prospective MPs. Convict Number One is now Candidate Number One and, as such, has lived up to his Blesser sobriquet; thanks to him, popular support for the MKP, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, the 19th century province, has soared. 

This has greatly troubled the ruling party. Before the emergence of the MKP, the ANC was faced with the prospect of its vote falling below 50 per cent next month and the likelihood it will be forced into a coalition in order to remain in power. That support was then reduced with the new party’s arrival. According to a survey by the Social Research Foundation, the MKP was likely to win more than 20 per cent of the vote in KZN. Other recent polls put nationwide support for the party at about 10 per cent, which would reduce the ANC to about 40 per cent. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

The bad news for Cyril Ramaphosa’s government is that it really does appear that Zuma’s ballot box “eligibility” is now going to be a factor in further eroding the ruling party’s appeal. As matters stand, uBaba will almost certainly be returning to the National Assembly, albeit as an opposition MP. He still faces fraud, racketeering and money laundering charges relating to the corrupt arms deal, but these legal hassles now appear to boost rather than hinder his return to public life. 

There is a cynical part of me that is rather looking forward to Zuma’s imminent comeback. Granted, the significant support in KZN and parts of Gauteng for his brand of renegade populism is troubling evidence of a growing Zulu nationalism and a retardant tribal mentality, one that is inherently intolerant and xenophobic. But think, as I have, of the cheap laughs the man will provide. Make no mistake, I’ve missed the chop. 

A couple of weeks back, the Spectator ran a double-page feature on the man. It was a valiant attempt to explain his appeal to the masses and, besides, the magazine’s conservative readership does so like a ripping yarn about Zulus, the powerful “warrior nation”. Isandlwana and all that, you understand.

“Some portray Zuma as an uneducated yob,” its author, Geoff Hill, says, “but he is far more complex than that.” Well, not really. Put it this way: what complexity there may be is far, far outweighed by the lack of learning. Consider what Hill offers as evidence in this regard. 

There are the plans for the future of Robben Island. In Butternut’s vision, it will house a university where teenage mothers can complete their studies. Hill notes that an estimated 80 000 underage girls fell pregnant last year, and many dropped out of school as a result. It is not yet clear how the island could accommodate so many students, along with teachers and other staff. Here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”), there was a sour suggestion that it’s the teachers who got the girls pregnant in the first place, although some regulars believe that politicians like Zuma may also have lent a hand here. Figuratively speaking.

Be that as it may, Zuma also wants to bring back caning in schools. It’s a popular proposal, according to Hill, who cites a 2022 Afrobarometer survey which revealed that most South Africans believe it’s okay to thrash naughty children. 

On top of that, and once we’re done with schooling, Zuma has also wants to bring back conscription. “There will be no gap year,” the Spectator quoted him as saying, “Going to a military camp will teach [young men] to be responsible citizens. It will also give them discipline and important life lessons.” Commenting on this, Hill suggests that “in a country with the world’s third-highest murder rate”, it might not be “the best idea” to teach these young men how to use machine guns.

Perhaps the most startling of all of Zuma’s proposed overhaul of the legal system and the introduction of what he has called “African law”. As far as I’m aware, this is a legal system that will ensure errant and corrupt politicians are not hauled into court to be tried for their crimes. That is the way the imperialists and colonials do law, and their ways have no place in Africa. Hill, however, appears concerned that this “African law” will have no truck with the LGBTQ+ lot. He writes:

“Across much of the continent, homosexual acts are banned and Uganda has proposed the death penalty for them. South Africa legalised same-sex marriage in 2006, seven years ahead of Britain. At the time Zuma described the idea as ‘a disgrace to the nation and to God’, and in February a rally of MK supporters cheered when he asked: ‘Who made the law that a man can date another man?’ The question was rhetorical but the answer is that Nelson Mandela made the law and it was approved by the ANC.”

According to Hill, this preoccupation with being “socially liberal” does not resonate with poor South Africans, and there’s a “disconnect” with the elite and those who live in shacks and go to bed hungry. “The media focus on stories about climate change and what pronouns we should use. They frequently cite Donald Trump as a threat to democracy and worry about the plight of Gazan refugees, without a thought for the thousands of people driven from their homes by Islamic militants in northern Mozambique, just a two-hour flight from Johannesburg.” I wonder, though, if that’s strictly true of South African media, although it certainly is the case where the UK press is concerned. 

For now, though, the Independent Electoral Commission wants a detailed explanation from the Electoral Court on its decision to allow Zuma to take part in the elections. The IEC had initially argued that the Constitution barred anyone convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment from standing.

Convict Number One, as we all know, was handed a 15-month jail term for contempt of court in June 2021. His legal team has however argued that this did not apply to Zuma as his sentence followed civil rather than criminal proceedings and it had been shortened by a remission.

That remission, it’s worth reminding ourselves, was of course granted by the cowardly Squirrel. How amusing, then, that it has now backfired so spectacularly for the ruling party.

Some political analysts, like Nelson Mandela University’s Professor Ntsikelelo Breakfast, have claimed that, whatever one makes of the IEC’s decision to bar Zuma from next month’s contest (“playing politics”), the Electoral Court’s decision is indicative of a healthy and vibrant democracy

That is an opinion that the ANC will find hard to swallow.

Swift logic

The Times columnist Giles Coren has returned from Botswana with a modest proposal. He writes that just as he and his family were watching elephants “going tonto at a waterhole”, the country’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, was threatening to send 20 000 of the animals to Germany. This in response to the German environment ministry raising the possibility of stricter limits on the import of hunting trophies over poaching concerns — a move that, according to Masisi, would impoverish many in his country.

There are, Coren states, far too many elephants in Botswana. They impact badly on farming and other human activity and, accordingly, do need culling. Given that the animals are regarded by the Batswana as a “disposable natural resource”, they believe they’re entitled to sell them out to trophy hunters. “And I can in theory get behind that,” he says, “except that I don’t want to live in a world where the sort of sick, heartless, teeny-bollocked dentist from Iowa who would take pleasure from ending any animal’s life with his gun, let alone one as gorgeous and soulful as an elephant, is tolerated in any way, let alone encouraged.”

Coren suggests that licences be sold to hunt these people instead of wild animals. “Yes, that’s right,” he says. “I’d willingly pay £10 000 to blow the arms and legs off a bloated, sunburnt trophy hunter… Mr Masisi would get even more money, and I think the bespectacled head of an impotent Iowa dentist would look kind of marvellous mounted above my desk in north London, don’t you?”

It would, of course, have to be an American dentist. There are plenty of these about, and large amalgams (the preferred collective noun) roam the golf courses and country clubs in the US. British dentists, on the other hand, are extremely rare and on the brink of extinction. It is no surprise that patients in the UK have been reduced to DIY dentistry, in some cases pulling their own teeth with pliers.