Don't cry for Blade

2017-10-22 06:07
Mondli Makhanya

Mondli Makhanya

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The words still ring loudly in this lowly newspaperman’s ear, more than a decade later: You guys in the media had better get used to saying the words “President Jacob Zuma”.

That was former Higher Education minister Blade Nzimande in the months leading up to the ANC’s Polokwane conference.

At the time Nzimande was of the view that the media was part of some evil conspiracy initiated by then President Thabo Mbeki to prevent Zuma from ascending to higher office.

Along with many others in the leadership of the ANC-led Tripartite Alliance the General Secretary of the South African Communist Party truly believed that Zuma was a victim. Those who were accusing him of rape and other nefarious deeds were misguided defenders of “elitist” and “ neo-liberal” policies of the Mbeki admistration.

They were witting or unwitting agents of the “1996 Class Project”, as the communists and unionists called the market friendly Growth, Employment and Redistribution fiscal consolidation strategy.

Nzimande’s loyalty to Zuma was more intense than that of many in the so-called Coalition of the Wounded, the people who had fallen foul of an authoritarian Mbeki. For Zuma he would killa da bull.

Even as other Zuma supporters were knifed and beheaded by their hero, a blinkered Nzimande refused to see that to Zuma the concept of loyalty was as weird as a Slovenian parable.

So in love was Nzimande with his leader that he even proposed that South Africa should introduce insult to protect the head of state from offensive commentary and reportage, a common feature of repressive dictatorships.

When Nzimande was appointed to Cabinet in 2009 he ministerial portfolio - to which he took with aplomb and performed pretty well.

He championed access to tertiary education for poor students and saw to the ballooning of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s budget.

He passionately drove the improvement access to tertiary education for poor students he saw to the ballooning in the NSFAS budget.

He fulfilled a long-held desire by the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga to have their own university which, while it didn’t make sense to many, broadened access for qualifying matriculants.

The disaster that is vocational colleges and the quagmire of SETAs were historical and even he could be forgiven for failing to fix these.

But so much did he love his idol that Nzimande did not take credit for his achievements as a minister, disingenuously preferring to tick them off as the work of the result of the tough and focussed task-master that Zuma was.

In the leadership of the SACP and the broader Alliance Nzimande was a hulking bodyguard to Zuma.

So much so that his fingerprints were said to be behind the break-up and dramatic decline in the power of Cosatu.

In the greatest of ironies, the leader of the working class’ vanguard party oversaw the decline of the workers’ most powerful weapon. All for Zuma.

Little sympathy

The SACP, which had grown into a dynamic party that could claim credit for major strides in financial sector reform, was also turned into a Zuma cheer-leading troupe by Nzimande.

Instead of mounting effective mass campaigns on social issues, the SACP obsessed about defending a corrupt Zuma from imaginary enemies.

Commemorations of communist icons such as Chris Hani and Joe Slovo became platforms for blasting Zuma's critics.

Abominations such the Nkandla looting were justified at the gravesides of these great men.

At some point the love affair soured. Zuma’s attitude to Nzimande became that of an abusive pet-owner who hates the sight of his own possession and resents having to feed it.

Who can forget how he publicly humiliated Nzimande during the first round of the #FeesMustFall protests in late 2015?

The loss of a minister of Nzimande’s calibre just makes South Africa’s featherweight Cabinet even lighter.

His replacement in the ministry may be one the few bright crayons in the box but the collective overwhelms them with dullness.

Despite Nzimande having been one of the brighter crayons, there was little sympathy for him this week.

Instead there was lot of laughter, mockery and memes. Partly this was because of his arrogance and intolerance when he was on the right side of power.

A lot had to do with the disappointment in him during his years of loyal service to Zuma’s house of filth.

Nzimande is a self-proclaimed Marxist, an ideology that should infuse one with integrity and caring.

In supporting Zuma he became a soldier in the war against integrity.

By unconditionally supporting Zuma’s dirt, this communist made fertile the environment in which looting became a norm and where the working class he purported to love was robbed.

As an academic Nzimande lent intellectual weight to Zuma’s corruption project.

While the one-armed pornographic star, the weighty youth leader and ever-chewing women’s champion were easily dismissible because they were dimwits, Nzimande could argue Zuma’s case with depth and conviction.

Whether he believed in the cause himself is a story for another day.

Nzimande has been a very dangerous bacteria in our body politic.

There are those in his party and in the ANC who believe he can play a constructive role as an ordinary MP or as a full-time general secretary of the SACP.

This is misplaced faith. 

A discarded and bitter Nzimande will be more self-serving than he has been – unless he comes clean about why he saw fit to aid and abet the abuse of our republic.

Read more on:    sacp  |  anc  |  jacob zuma  |  blade nzimande  |  cabinet reshuffle

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