How do we get rid of President Jacob Zuma?

2014-08-19 13:44

This column originally appeared in Beeld newspaper

President Jacob Zuma can’t stay on much longer as the president of South Africa. We simply can’t afford him.

We need a leader with clean hands who can lead with integrity. Someone who can intervene, talk and strategise when a Marikana happens, an African Bank collapses or when gang bullets smash through small children.

Zuma is not such a leader.

This past week, he proved it again. Look at his answers last Thursday to Parliament in reaction to the Nkandla scandal.

Not once did he admit he should have known better when a palace arose out of nothing around him.

Not once did he offer to pay for at least part of the renovations that had zero to do with state security.

His 20-page answer undermines every South African who battles daily to keep head above water in a struggling economy.

In practice, Zuma shows the middle finger to everyone who has investigated him and says: “I will decide what will happen to me, thank you very much.”

Now the poor police minister, Nkosinathi Nhleko, must determine how much the Zuma family must pay back to the state. Don’t hold your breath.

The point is Zuma does not want to go to jail. This is what he wants.

This is why we’re sitting with a mess at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), where time and again Zuma has appointed people with tainted backgrounds. In this way, he has a hold over them not to prosecute him. Not for the money he received from Schabir Shaik or the arms dealer Thales. Also not for Nkandla.

So how can we get rid of Zuma before 2019?

In my opinion, there are three options:

» The ANC can recall Zuma as was done with former president Thabo Mbeki because he brought the party into disrepute.

Mbeki’s removal was driven by the ANC Youth League and trade unions. Currently, there’s no grouping in the governing alliance that opposes Zuma strongly enough.

Yes, there are many in the ANC who feel Zuma should go, but it’s unlikely they’ll burn a T-shirt with his image on it or sing anti-Zuma songs in public as was the case with Mbeki.

» The second option is a so-called “honourable retirement”, which could be negotiated with Zuma behind the scenes.

There are already noises coming out of the Nkandla area from family members who feel he must come home. Zuma doesn’t look well and was sick for an extended period earlier this year.

The ANC could also have him “retire” in a year or so and appoint a new state president. Someone like Cyril Ramaphosa.

» A third option is an amnesty that will indemnify Zuma from prosecution if he resigns and disappears from the political scene. Zuma is paranoid over the possibility of appearing in court again and will probably consider such an offer.

But the key question is at what price. Will we lose our democratic principles with such a deal or can it save South Africa in the long term?

– Basson is the editor of Beeld. Follow him on Twitter @AdriaanBasson

The ANC responds to Basson

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