Dashiki Dialogues: Is Zuma a man who loves his people?

2012-12-02 10:00

I’ve often found myself wondering whether history will remember President Jacob Zuma as a leader who loved his people.

I think it’s a valid question. It’s not just because he is going into a leadership contest that might see him vacate the presidential seat of the ANC and later the country.

I’m curious about his emotional inclination or spiritual attitude towards the nation.

This is in the context of public gestures of rejection of the man by many among our citizenry.

Think here of the revulsion he saw demonstrated against him at the time of his rape trial.

There’s also the declarations of abhorrence that flare up every time a marital scandal emerges around him.

The yet-to-be answered questions surrounding his corruption charges that were dropped by the National Prosecuting Authority amid dubious circumstances also solicit unsavoury feelings among many South Africans.

There were the recent attempts to impeach him with a vote of no confidence, plus the outrage over the dodgy dealings of Nkandlagate.

We’ve seen him painted as a ­naked, sexually pathological creature by both Brett Murray and ­Zapiro, among others.

This makes up a cocktail of a man who appears not much liked by the people he is supposed to lead.

You have to wonder how all this affects the way he feels about the ­citizens, particularly those who didn’t vote for him – many of whom are within his own party.

Zuma, we can’t forget, dedicated his life to the freedom movement with revolutionary resolve.

We know true revolutionary acts can be acts of love. That said, Zuma, like many ex-freedom fighters, is falling foul of his own credentials. So I must wonder if Zuma loves his people.

I’m reminded of the moving ­eulogy Ossie Davis, the African-American actor, delivered in honour of Malcolm X at the assassinated leader’s funeral in February 1965.

Davis wrapped up the meaning and legacy of Malcolm X by describing a man who loved his people: ­“After the winter of our discontent ... we will know him then for what he was and is: a prince, our own shining black prince who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.”

Many of our leaders have found their sinew in a love for the people. We also remember a young, charismatic Steve Biko who told his people to stand up and wear their black skins with pride.

That was a ­message of self-love.

How about Solomon Mahlangu’s last words before he was hanged by the apartheid beast: “My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the fight.”

He clothed himself in a dashiki of love dialogues.

» Follow me on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu

- City Press

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