Koos Kombuis

The real reason Zuma should go

2015-12-15 11:25

Koos Kombuis

Bloody hell! We have been through a roller-coaster of a week.


The political events of the last few days have been so momentous, so absurd, so heart-wrenchingly embarrassing, to say the least, and so many opinion pieces have been written about all this stuff that yet another Zuma column would seem completely over the top.

Being no economist, I have, however, tended to focus on another aspects of last week’s drama. Far more interesting than the musical chairs game of successive finance ministers, the zig-zag performance of the rand, and the enticing possibility of a worsening power struggle within the ruling party, is this single statement by Jacob Zuma in a crowded room on Wednesday, night, in the full glare of TV cameras, when he said, in effect that “Africa is the biggest continent in the world” and that “all the other continents would fit into Africa”. (Read the story and watch the video here)

Those few sentences, uttered by the elected President of our country, opened a window into the mind (to borrow a phrase from Rian Malan) of this man who, up till now, had been probably the most powerful and feared ruler our country have seen since PW Botha. I am surprised that no-one else has written a column specifically about the implications of Zuma’s view of world geography.

The thing that gets to me, the one thing I really don’t understand, is this: here we have a man who wants to travel the world in a new jet. In fact, he has already travelled the world in his old jet. He has been on state visits to Russia and many other countries. He regularly attends conferences abroad, where he speaks his mind on all sorts of topics and offers his opinions.

Yet he has never paged through a primary school atlas.

He has never looked at a map of the world. Not even once.

When he travels the world, in other words, he does not know where he is going. He is not interested. Presumably, he is only interested in the service and the comfort and the luxury of air travel, and to hell with all the rest.

The implications of such wilful ignorance, coupled with such power, truly boggles the mind.

Let me make this clear. If he had done that even just once – opened a school atlas, or looked at a map of the world - he would indeed have seen, at a glance, that Africa is not the biggest continent. And there would have been no way he could possibly have imagined that all the other continents would fit into Africa.

(Psst, between you and me: I am leaving out the stuff he said about rivers in Africa, because, frankly, I don’t really understand what he said about rivers. Did he mean there are no large rivers in Africa? What about the Nile? What does the direction they flow have to do with anything? Do rivers flow uphill on other continents? Oh, never mind. Let’s leave out the river stuff, for now.)

The bottom line is this: what Jacob Zuma had to say about the continent of Africa was so preposterous, so downright silly, so grossly ignorant, that not even the ANC could rescue him after the fact. No ministerial spokesman came forward to claim that the President had been “quoted out of context”. I assume the entire ANC was as dumbfounded by the President’s skewed view of world geography as we were.

For heaven’s sake, why did they allow him to speak off the cuff? Ever? They should have seen trouble coming when he pushed aside his notes and looked straight at his audience with those rheumy eyes like someone about to apart great chunks of never-before-revealed wisdom. Had they not realised, by now, that every single time when he deviated from his written notes (who wrote that stuff, anyway?) in the past, he tended to say the most ridiculous things imaginable? There was the time he claimed that the ANC would be in power until Jesus returned. Then he appeared to contradict himself by asking Jesus to return earlier to rescue us from the evil in the world (I’m not sure whether he saw the ANC as part of this evil or not). There were his statements about gays, about women, about pet dogs, and about Jan van Riebeeck. These statements angered some people. Most of us were merely confused by them.

Then again, should we be so surprised? There were signs before, oh so many signs, that this man is perhaps not the sharpest pencils in the box. The whole Nkandla thing, for instance.

To me, the most surprising thing about the Nkandla saga is not the fact that Jacob Zuma had built a palatial private home for himself with taxpayers’ money. It’s the fact that he did NOT build a palatial private home for himself with taxpayers’ money.

Once he allowed journalists on to his property, in what was one of the most disastrous P.R. moves of his illustrious career, everyone could see, at a glance, that he, as a home owner, had been screwed. He had been screwed by his architect, by his construction team, by his own advisers. Nkandla, it turned out, was not a palatial private home, but an overpriced, badly built, mediocre white elephant of a place.

Jacob Zuma, who lived there himself, never seemed to notice this. He never questioned the figures. He did not notice anything off.

How naïve is this man really?

For so long, we feared him. He appeared to be almighty, to hold all the power. There were times when he made tactical moves that seemed incredibly street-smart and clever. He managed to manipulate an entire cabinet to do his bidding, to cover up his mistakes, to shield his actions from outside scrutiny.

And then, in one week, within the space of a few days, the mask fell off, his stupidity was plain for all to see. Our emperor stood naked in the eyes of the world.

This, in short, is why Jacob Zuma should resign with immediate effect. He should take that new jet of his and fly off into the sunset and never come back. He has disqualified himself from the job and the responsibility of leading this country.

Not merely because of his economic policy (or lack thereof). Not only because he had been caught stealing and lying and manipulating people. And not even because he honestly believed that the AIDS virus could be washed off with hot water and soap.

But because of his appalling ignorance of basic general knowledge, his ignorance of facts known to most primary school pupils.  

This man simply does not have enough going on upstairs to be our President. Finish en klaar.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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