Guest Column

Zuma: give that man a Bell’s

2016-08-30 16:26

Susan Erasmus

It takes guts, stupidity or sheer pigheadedness to cling to power so stubbornly and for so long against the wishes of the people. How does Jacob Zuma do it?

Let’s face it: most of us would have caved in years ago under similar pressure, taken our things, and left. But that’s because most of us have a smattering of conscience and are capable of feeling shame: not two qualities Zuma is known for.

Most people are super-sensitive to criticism, but not our President. And the signals stopped being subtle months ago – people are shouting revolt from the rooftops. All I can think of is that we might be dealing with a hearing problem, a reading problem, or a major blind spot in the personality. If sheer tenacity in the face of total opposition were an asset to the position, I would say make him President for life.

The unwanted class captain

Even in a position of minor authority, such as class captain, you would know if your performance were sufficiently dismal that the other kids no longer wanted you. There would be sly pinches on the stairs, muttered comments in the school bus, messages in the toilets, bullying on the playground – and many other far less subtle signals.

It would take a rare breed of child to nevertheless stick it out until the end of term. And having been a teacher for many years, I would question that child’s sanity. Not that I say one should always give in to peer pressure, or that the majority is always right, but I have often found that those kids who are totally oblivious to the overt or subtle taunts of their peers can become rather frightening people later in life.

It’s one thing choosing to ignore the taunts – and quite another not picking them up at all.

An astonishing level of oblivion

And it is this kind of bubble in which our president seems to exist. Most people don’t achieve that level of oblivion without the help of mind-altering drugs. I, for one, would have made a hasty exit on numerous occasions just during the last year. (Think Nenegate, the taunting in Parliament by the EFF, the ConCourt’s ruling, the poor election results – the list goes on). The embarrassment would have been life-altering. But no, not our Zuma.

How does he do it? How can one man be so utterly immune to public humiliation? The things that usually unseat leaders are sex scandals, corruption, unconstitutional behaviour, poor election results. We have had them all, and yet, like a thorn in the flesh, our president will not let anyone remove him. What would it take then, for heaven’s sake? Some things are probably better to not think about.

One thing about ensconcing yourself firmly by hiding behind your puppets is that you are only safe as long as you are in power. It’s about your position – not about your sparkling personality, alas. The minute power starts to slip from your hands, those closest to you will turn on you (and often each other) with a viciousness that is scarcely imagineable. Everyone will be scrambling to try and salvage something, anything from the ruins. Loyalty and politics seldom mix. Just ask Julius Caesar.

What does the NEC know that we do not?

A scary thought – the NEC of the ANC, who have chosen to keep Zuma right where he is, could be the people in this country who know him best, and who know exactly what he is capable of. And that knowledge appears to frighten them more deeply than the backlash of an unhappy nation of millions of people, both rich and poor.

By giving tacit consent to the behaviour of Robert Mugabe for so many years, the ANC has sent out the message that all kinds of undemocratic and unconstitutional shenanegans are somehow acceptable and will be tolerated. The likes of Zuma got that message loud and clear.

One good thing that the last few weeks have brought is that so many South Africans realise they all want the same things: safety, good governance, efficient municipalities and services, and a new President.

But I have to hand it so Zuma: he clings tenaciously to his position, and for all intents and purposes appears to be unaware that there are groundswell rumblings of huge dissatisfaction. It’s one thing to overplay your hand, and quite another to steal the whole casino. But he has done it, again and again.

And we can’t even say it’s business as usual: what business? Junk status, the falling rand, unemployment, or an exodus of investors?

Our country is being held hostage – despite the fact that we have already paid the ransom several times over.

And speaking of Bell’s: Let’s give the last word to poet John Donne: “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”


Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma
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