Adriaan Basson

What happened to Zuma, man of peace?

2017-02-08 11:41

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Before he became president of the republic, criticism of Jacob Zuma’s abilities to lead South Africa was often met with the argument, “but he brought peace to KwaZulu-Natal”.

Zuma was sold as a man of peace; the polar opposite of strongman leaders with dictatorship tendencies who may or may not resemble an opposition leader from KwaZulu-Natal. We were told stories of Zuma’s role in South Africa’s peaceful transition and how he was a spymaster, not a soldier.

Ten years later Zuma is desperately clinging onto his fast evaporating power over the ANC and the state.

As Zuma’s stronghold over his party is slipping, he is frantically trying to hold on to the security cluster and defence force. When Thabo Mbeki lost the support of crucial players in the security cluster like Siphiwe Nyanda, Billy Masetlha and Vusi Pikoli, he knew it was game over.

At the same time Mbeki’s last strongman in the security forces, Jackie Selebi, was being charged with corruption and he lost all moral authority over the SAPS. Mbeki’s goose was cooked.

Does Zuma still have the support of the securocrats?

It is well-known that State Security Minister David Mahlobo (literally) has Zuma’s ear. But the leadership of the intelligence agencies have been in turmoil since Jeff Maqetuka, Mo Shaik and Bob Njenje resigned en masse in 2011 in defiance of Zuma’s order to leave the Guptas alone.

Their successors have also since left and Arthur Fraser, who was seen as an Mbeki-ally, has made a stunning comeback as head of the State Security Agency last year. His previous links to Mbeki may rattle Zuma’s inner circle.

The police leadership is in a mess and it is now widely speculated that Zuma will not permanently appoint Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane to replace Riah Phiyega as police chief. The president is alleged to be considering bringing in an unknown loyalist to head up the SAPS.

Shaun Abrahams is no longer a safe bet at the NPA after Zuma asked for reasons why he should not be suspended in the wake of the failed prosecution of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Abrahams may still be the fall guy for that disastrous chapter.

And if ANC gossip is to be believed, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s head may be on the chopping block when Zuma announces his cabinet reshuffle.

Zuma’s paranoid deployment of 441 soldiers to Parliament for the State of the Nation Address suggests he is worried. This is a grotesque display of power as his grip on the security cluster is slipping.

Deploying the SANDF for political reasons could be disastrous if something goes wrong.

Zuma is playing with fire.

In the absence of convincing evidence about an impending revolution, there is simply no justification for this over-reaction by the commander-in-chief. Whichever protests the EFF, DA, Save SA or grassroots movements have planned for Thursday, the police’s public order unit should have been sufficient to ensure “law and order”.

What happened to the man who brought peace to KwaZulu-Natal? Who is this enemy he needs protection from by 441 soldiers with assault rifles?

- Adriaan Basson is the editor of News24. Follow him on Twitter: @adriaanbasson.

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.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  sona 2017

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