It is a shame that inequality has become sharper during our constitutional democracy than during apartheid.
Both are veterans of their trade and both must go.
Both are in deep denial about their positions and have overstayed their welcome.
Both can retain a degree of respectability if they leave now.
The one is Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa and the ANC. The other Louis van Gaal, decorated manager of the struggling soccer powerhouse Manchester United.
Some would argue that Van Gaal deserves more respect and shouldn’t be compared to a president who has no qualms about breaching his oath of office. Others would say Zuma has achieved much more in his life than one court case and that he should rather be remembered for his intelligence work in the struggle and for restoring peace in KwaZulu-Natal.
Maybe so, but stay with me. Both head up age-old institutions whose legacies can dramatically change depending on which decisions these two men make.
You must be really nervous today if you are an ANC and Manchester United supporter.
Losing the plot
Sunday was a bad day for both Zuma and Van Gaal. Manchester United’s defeat against Tottenham Hotspurs showed to what extent Van Gaal had lost the plot. It’s now an open question how long it will take the Glazer family (who owns the club) to restore the professionalism and pride of the Alex Ferguson-era.
In South Africa, readers of City Press and Rapport woke up to one of those classic Sunday scoops that confirmed a rumour that has been going around since the beginning of the year: the Guptas are moving to Dubai.
In fact, they are gone. ZS-OAK, their private Bombardier jet, left Lanseria airport on Thursday evening, packed with luggage for 20 people. This time the Guptas didn’t use Waterkloof Air Force Base; possibly a sign of the times that their political beneficiary was no longer untouchable.
They even switched off the technology that would have made it possible for plane spotters to track their flight.
Ajay Gupta, head of the family’s business empire, reportedly told Oakbay staff they could no longer do business in South Africa after all their bank accounts had been closed. This followed the resignation of their auditors KPMG and sponsor Sasfin.
What does this mean for Zuma?
Although their physical departure from South Africa by no means signals the end of the Guptas’ empire and influence in the country, it does represent a significant moment of truth for the family who has built-up their business on political connections over the years.
The brash way in which they went about their business seems to be over. Remember the family helicopter landing at Zoo Lake? Or the infamous Waterkloof Air Force Base landing for a family wedding? Mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane accompanying them to Switzerland to clinch a mining deal with Glencore? Or all those ministerial jobs offered to people like Vytjie Mentor and Mcebisi Jonas at Saxonwold?
For a while now it has been rumoured that the Guptas are shifting their assets abroad, more specifically to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Rajesh (Tony) Gupta have regularly been visiting Dubai and so has Duduzane Zuma, the president’s son and business partner of the Guptas.
Julius Malema, EFF-leader, recently claimed extravagantly that Zuma himself had taken R6bn to Dubai on his latest visit. This was vehemently denied by the presidency.
Zuma’s powers have diminished
Their dramatic move to Dubai indicates at least that the Guptas no longer feel safe in South Africa. The protection they once enjoyed from being the president’s besties is gone. It’s not a coincidence that their bankers, auditors and sponsor cut ties with the family’s business at once.
Don’t be surprised if these institutions know something we don’t. Yet.
Zuma’s powers have diminished, particularly after 9/12 when he fired Nhlanhla Nene and substantially after the Constitutional Court’s ruled that he had violated the Constitution by not paying back the money for Nkandla.
Each day another ANC luminary or branch calls on Zuma to step down the president’s powers are eroded. The Guptas knew this when they decided to pack for Dubai.
This week it is the Nelson Mandela Foundation who meets the ANC, possible echoing the call by ANC veterans and church leaders for Zuma to resign.
The president (and Van Gaal, for that matter) can decide to dig in their heels and fight it out till the bitter end. There will be blood on the floor and they risk decimating their legacies.
Or they can both do the honourable thing and walk away with some degree of decorum intact.
- Basson is News24 editor and author of Zuma Exposed (Jonathan Ball). Follow him @adriaanbasson.
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