Though one cannot condone the humiliation the South African President Jacob Zuma had endured at the memorial service of Nelson Mandela held at the FNB Stadium on Tuesday, on 10 December 2013, somewhat it served him right.
Judging by a number of tweets and Facebook posts, this sentiment is tacitly shared by many South Africans who have had enough of Zuma and his government, though they feel that the memorial service – attended by more than 91 heads of states and a stellar of other distinguished dignitaries – was not the right platform to do so.
Others claim that the service had been turned into a political rally. To start with, by its very own nature – the service was in itself a political event by virtue of Mandela himself having been a politician. As such, it was bound to happen that politics would be at play – more so, given that the decision to exclude the former President Thabo Mbeki, who served as Mandela's deputy president, from speaking at the service, in itself, can be interpreted as a political decision. Between Zuma and Mbeki, one can argue that the latter had worked more closely with Mandela and therefore, it was befitting to include him in the programme and Zuma would deliver a keynote address.
It was reported in the media that on the eve of the African National Congress' (ANC's) centenary rally in Bloemfontein, Mbeki was booked to speak at the gala dinner. At Zuma's behest, the event organisers removed him in an eleventh-hour. It would not come as a surprise, not by a long shot, if the poor Mbeki is not given a chance to pay tribute to Mandela at the state funeral. He would only do so at other platforms.
It is indeed ironic that the booing of the president had become the issue now. But it was never the issue when the Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille was jeered at and booed by the ANC supporters at the launch of the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone (IDZ), not even a month ago. As the poor Zille was being booed and jeered at, Zuma and a handful of his cabinet ministers, did nothing to stop them. He (Zuma) did so later - succumbing to a mounting public pressure, which is typical of him; that is to say, there must be a public outcry before he could act, other than that, he would remain in a silent mode.
In lieu of condemning the booing of Zille, the deputy international relations minister and the ANC provincial chairperson in the Western Cape – Marius Fransman tacitly endorsed it. He said, "We cannot help if the president is such a popular person on the West Coast. And that masses of people came to hear the president speak in Saldanha. We cannot help that it was an ANC government delivery that has taken place". Even at the Saldanha, there were diplomats and other distinguished guest – though their status of importance is not parallel to those who had attended the memorial service of Mandela.
One would have thought in the midst of the news that Zille had been jeered at and booed, the earthly God – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, would condemn it as he did at those who had booed at Zuma. Does this insinuates that the booing only matters when it is directed at a certain person or at a certain service?
In line with Fransman's statement that Zuma is "popular on the West Coast," then the ANC must accept that he is not popular in Gauteng province, whose people "think like Africans in Africa", not to pretend to the world that they are happy when they are not. The Mandela memorial service presented a section of the unhappy crowd with a befitting platform to show Zuma that he is an opposite of what Mandela stood for and strive for. He understood it that being a president is not a golden opportunity to enrich yourself, your family, relatives and cronies at the expense of the taxpayers' money.
He understood it that being a president meant that he had to serve the interests of South Africans . Neither he nor Mbeki had put the lives of South Africans at risk in the hands of their friends – as it is the case with Zuma, who had sold the country to the highest bidder - the Gupta family, which is not only a law unto itself but also at liberty to flout the country's protocols with an absolute degree of impunity. South Africans cannot pretend to be happy when their country "being turned into an organised kleptocracy", as Stephen Robinson had warned in 2010. The people have spoken and Mandela heard.
More than any other party, the ANC must be happy that it had got an early warning before the upcoming elections that people are not happy with Zuma.
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