Guest Column

Gedleyihlekisa is laughing at you

2015-02-15 07:28
President Jacob Zuma delivering the 2015 State of the Nation address.

President Jacob Zuma delivering the 2015 State of the Nation address.

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Adriaan Basson, Netwerk24

The violence was vulgar, but it was his gleeful chuckle I will never forget.

President Jacob Zuma no longer rules South Africa with authority. He is laughing at us.

Moments after the most brutal violence ever witnessed in a South African Parliament played out before his eyes, Zuma stood up – the opposition benches in front of him empty – and chuckled.

One of those trademark Gedleyihlekisa chuckles. “The one who laughs at you while physically hurting you” is the meaning of Zuma’s second name.

At some point in his life, Zuma decided to literally embody that.

On Thursday evening, he laughed at our democracy.

He laughed at the EFF members of Parliament who had just been beaten-up by armed policemen “camouflaged” in white shirts and black pants.

And he laughed at the DA’s entire caucus that staged an unprecedented walk-out in protest of the presence of hard-hitting policemen in the holy grail of democracy.

What type of person gives such a pleasurable, natural laugh after Parliament had just been broken – literally, because of you?

Somebody who knows he is above the law? Someone who believes in his bones that he is untouchable?

It takes a special kind of arrogance and numbness to do what Zuma did on Thursday night.

Here’s the bad news: Zuma is now more powerful than the ANC and Gedleyihlekisa rubs off.

On Thursday night I was seated in front of the former Numsa president and Zuma man, Cedric Gina.

When the beating started, I took out my phone to shoot some video from my seat in the public gallery. Gina was livid and almost smacked me.

“Put away your phone! This is Parliament! We don’t take pictures here!” he shouted at me while security heavies moved in to clamp down on anyone with a recording cellphone.

For the remainder of the evening, I had a guard almost permanently by my side, instructing me to switch off my phone (which was in anyway useless while the signal was jammed). I refused.

I started taking down notes in my diary. Gina peaked over my shoulder. “Why are you writing that? (referring to a note that I was instructed by a guard to switch off my phone)” he asked me, threateningly. I told him that I would write what I like and that it’s got nothing to do with him.

On my other side sat two, young ANC women in fancy clothing. Mmusi Maimane objects to the presence of police officers in Parliament and asks: “what next? The defence force in Parliament?”

The two ladies respond loudly: “Yes! Bring in the soldiers!”

Parliamentary veterans tell me it’s the first time in (post-1994) history that the security was this strict at the opening of parliament.

Never in my career have I felt as threatened to do my job as Thursday night.

The cellphone signal was scrambled; I was prohibited from shooting photos or video with my phone; I was threatened about notes in my diary and the Zuma supporters around me approved of, even supported, the violence against the EFF.

Zuma has seized the ANC and abuses the government to do his dirty work. That’s why it’s not ridiculous to ask whether we are becoming a police state.

But Zuma doesn’t care. It’s all one big joke to him.

This column was originally published in Afrikaans on Netwerk24. To read the Afrikaans version, click here.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  state of the nation 2015
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