Zuma, the wounded, returns

2018-04-08 05:55
Jacob Zuma. (Gallo Images)

Jacob Zuma. (Gallo Images)

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“Ngimanxeba nxeba zinsizwa zangakithi engakhula nazo (I’m wounded by those close to me).”

While many of former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters hoped he would create another rendition of Umshini Wami, Zuma has opted for a refrain about betrayal.

April 6 is a day that carries a lot of cultural significance. In 1652 Jan van Riebeeck reached our shores, and we all know how that ended. In 1979 an Umkhonto weSizwe soldier by the name of Solomon Mahlangu was hanged by the apartheid government. In 1959 the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) was founded.

The former president’s supporters will have you believe that Zuma is the man to reclaim what Van Riebeeck took, make sure Mahlangu’s killers get their due and honour the PAC by getting the land back.

In KwaZulu-Natal, 30°C feels more like 50. A sea of mostly yellow T-shirts braves Friday’s scorching weather to support Zuma, who is about to make an appearance in the Durban High Court.

As religious leaders line up to bless the occasion, one supporter says he prayed before he left his house. After having a few words with God, all he wants to hear is Zuma’s voice.

Another supporter shields his eyes from the sun as he looks at the police chopper hovering above him.

“There is Bheki Cele,” shouts the man. His placard reads, “Rest in peace, Mam’ Winnie. Please come back and fetch Bheki Cele. He is disrespecting us.”

The police minister has been accused of making disparaging remarks about ANC members who have stuck by Zuma’s side.

Then there are the likes of Nkosentsha Shezi, secretary-general of The National Funeral Practitioners’ Association of SA (Nafupa). With a booming voice that bellows through the sound system, he thanks Zuma and hails him as “the father of radical economic transformation”.

“We wonder if this trial will be fair,” says Shezi to a chorus of ear-splitting cheers.

Shezi and Nafupa have been at pains to steer the new command of soldiers who support the former president. They are combat-ready and have partnered with a group called Delangokubona Business Forum. On paper, Delangokubona is a business organisation but many say it operates like the Mafia. The forum has also been accused of embarking on a campaign of terror in Durban.

This scenario would be incomplete without Black First Land First, a political party led by Andile Mngxitama. Mgxitama believes Zuma is being targeted for “wanting good things for black people”.

In short, the former president is somewhat of a Messiah on this stretch of road which has been barricaded so he can have his say. But just moments ago, he sat in a court that referred to him as “accused number one”.

Dressed in an oversized black suit, a white shirt and red tie, Zuma cuts a sombre figure. When he walks into the court, he offers an almost half-hearted wave to his supporters before he takes his seat next to Christine Guerrier, a representative of French arms manufacturer, Thales.

The two briefly acknowledge each other as the cheering squad – a good number of them members of the suspended KwaZulu-Natal ANC’s provincial executive committee – chant Zuma’s name.

Guerrier’s eyes widen as the chant echoes throughout the small court room. It’s probably not fair to assume that she thought some native ritual was about to break out. The short woman is dressed in earthy colours and has a face framed by a halo of curly, white hair.

Guerrier is probably Thales’ scapegoat. The arms manufacturer is accused number two, but an entire company cannot be summoned to court. Now Guerrier is seemingly paying for the sins of her employer and must sit alongside Zuma for the duration of the trial.

In the dock the two sit a respectable distance apart but the gulf doesn’t seem to be wide enough. The court is told she is from France and will be flying back and forth for the trial.

But back outside, where Zuma is the hero, a script similar to the one we read 13 years ago is playing itself out. Think Generations: The Legacy with Zuma as the protagonist.

“There are things that happen to you even when you try to avoid them,” Zuma tells the crowd that has gathered outside the court.

“In 2005 I appeared in court to face the same charges I am facing today. I have never heard it being said that a person can face charges, have them dismissed and return to court for the same accusations.”

Upon hearing this, someone in the crowd shouts, “Leave him [Zuma] alone!”

On the day off his resignation, the former president asked a question that is now plastered on a number of his supporters’ T-shirts. “What has Zuma done?” is the question emblazoned on a countless number of chests. Zuma says he is yet to get an answer.

The storyline is the same but the actors are different. No offence, but Shezi and Mngxitama don’t quite measure up to Julius Malema, Kgalema Motlanthe, Blade Nzimande and Zwelinzima Vavi. This time there are no officials from the South African Communist Party or the Cosatu.

“Baya mangaza abantu asebefuna ukungi thatha angathi ngiyisboshwa, abantu engibathembile imphela. (I am surprised by people who want me to treated as if I am a criminal, people that I really trusted),” laments Zuma.

If he feels betrayed, he doesn’t say so. Instead, he breaks out into song. Zuma tells the crowd he won’t say much about the case, which is now sub judice. He says it is strange that he is being lynched for allegedly purchasing arms at a time when he was an MEC in KwaZulu-Natal. According to Zuma, the purchase was made at national level.

He claims his enemies won’t say what he has done wrong but he knows why he is being taken to court.

“We are being taken to court because they are trying to silence us. They say, ‘Keep quiet because you will make people look clever. Don’t worry about those with money because they won’t enter heaven.’ It’s okay. I’ll go to court but they must fix things. Poverty must end, the land must be returned and the country’s wealth must be equally distributed.”

The next episode of what is equal parts political drama and Lynchian absurdity will air on June 8. Stay tuned.

Do you think former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters are turning a blind eye to his scandals?

What do you make of their continued support of Zuma despite the growing controversy that surrounds him?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword SUPPORT and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

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