Mpumelelo Mkhabela

Zuma's 'Goliath moment is fast approaching'

2016-10-28 07:39

Mpumelelo Mkhabela

In hindsight, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and his colleagues at the Constitutional Court got their analogies slightly wrong in the Nkandla judgment.

Writing for the unanimous court, Mogoeng said then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela embodied the biblical David who defeated Goliath.

Constitutionalism and the rule of law, Mogoeng further said, were the mighty sword that stood ready to chop the ugly head of impunity from its stiffened neck.

The powerful imagery is self-explanatory. Like David with his shepherd sling, poorly resourced Madonsela takes on the powerful Goliath (President Jacob Zuma) who has all the resources the Philistines (Zuma’s worshippers such as Kebby Maphatsoe) could master. Need I add that the likes of Maphatsoe are not short of verbal stun grenades to defend Zuma.

Zuma’s resourcefulness is breathtaking. He is armed with executive authority of the Republic, he appoints heads of state organs and ministers subject to only Gupta approval, accounts to an acquiescent Parliament, gets support from the governing party that dances to his tune instead of composing one for him and he enjoys the company of his unelected co-governors, the Guptas.

If Mogoeng was right that Zuma was a Goliath, the Nkandla judgment would have been the fatal blow to Zuma's political career. Parliament would have followed up with the mighty sword and impeached him.

Like Goliath, Zuma would have been politically decapitated. But it is apparent to any political observer that Zuma is ensconced in power. And he is remaking, as he goes along, the ANC, the government and the Republic in his own image.

Mogoeng missed some crucial detail of Goliath’s fall. In his book Strategy: A History, Lawrence Freedman makes an interesting observation about the David vs Goliath story which might explain the missing part in the Constitutional Court’s analogies.

Freedman writes: “Indeed, reference to David is almost de rigueur whenever an underdog strategy is discussed. Seldom noted, however, is that success did not solely depend on the initial blow but also on the second blow, by which David ensured that Goliath had no chance to recover, as well as the Philistines’ readiness to accept the results.”

Mogoeng either strongly believed that the Nkandla judgment was the second and therefore last blow from Thuli or he thought it was sufficient for Parliament to translate it into the last blow. In this regard, the judgment proved less prescient.

Could the state capture report be the fatal blow? Zuma has so far proven to be scandal-proof. He has shown no constitutional violations or breaches of the Executive Ethics Act would take him out of power.

On the face of it his invincibility is devoid of logic. But the reality is that is anchored on the effects of patronage, the dangerous practice that diminishes critical reason in human beings and destroys the consciences of the benefactors and beneficiaries. Patronage gouges souls.

There is a reason to believe the patronage empire is about to crumble. The nation has lost confidence in Zuma. Some citizens have gone beyond losing confidence in him. Social media commentary suggests an increasing number that hates the president. They call him all kinds of unpalatable names.

ANC branches and regions, whose views are suppressed on Zuma, want him gone as soon as yesterday. Senior ANC leaders who care about their consciences are speaking out. ANC MPs, led by Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu, no longer trust him as he has on several occasions misled them. And Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and others like him who speak of a social contract and the importance of the Constitution are articulating an alternative national vision that is strange to Zuma.

Bit by bit, Zuma is losing his grip on power. He is so detached from reality he can’t even feel the pulse of the nation. It’s not clear if he ever did. In the eyes of the nation he comes across as a dodgy politician who doesn’t mean what he says. Even a good statement Zuma made encouraging matric candidates not to cheat in their exams was followed by sarcastic comments by social media commentators who believe he is not qualified to lecture on honesty.

He has lost control of his Cabinet after he put it under a cloud. The revelations by deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas that the Guptas, Zuma's family friends, offered him millions of rands to help them hijack the National Treasury have tarnished the image of the entire Cabinet. Hardworking and honest public officials have been painted with the same brush. Citizens are entitled to wonder how many ministers serve at the pleasure of the unelected co-governors, the Guptas.

Embedded in Zuma’s non-response when the allegations of state capture first hit news headlines and when they were officially put to him by Madonsela was a deep sense of guilt.

A confident leader who is not captured would have addressed the nation on live television as soon after the allegations emerged that he had formed a private-public partnership with the Guptas to co-govern South Africa. Instead, when asked about this in parliament he snapped: "Go ask Jonas!".

Zuma’s legal strategy to block the release of the state capture report will not prevent the inevitable. His Goliath moment is fast approaching.

- Follow Mpumelelo Mkhabela on Twitter.

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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