Mondli Makhanya: What now for Zuma’s Stalingrad?

Former president Jacob Zuma is seen during the judgment on his application for a permanent stay of prosecution on his corruption case together with Thales at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on October 11, 2019 in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images
Former president Jacob Zuma is seen during the judgment on his application for a permanent stay of prosecution on his corruption case together with Thales at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on October 11, 2019 in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images

The former president will head to court as the soapie that is his life drags on, writes Mondli Makhanya

This lowly newspaperman wishes to proclaim that he has never watched Days of our Lives and The Bold and the Beautiful.

He may have been in a room where it was on TV and he may have seen some promos.

What he does know from listening in on conversations and reading about these shows in the course of his editorial duties is that they have been going on forever and the story lines just never change: This one slept with that one; this one cheated on this one with that one; this one stabbed that one in the back; and that one divorced this one to marry that one, only to divorce that one and go back to that other one.

Even though familiarity with these shows is scant on this side, it can be said with absolute certainty that the Jacob Zuma case, which is scheduled to resume on Tuesday, is beginning to feel like these soapies.

The story is interminably long. Some cast members and characters may have changed – mainly in the form of legal teams – but the core remains.

For the longest time now, Zuma has been fighting tooth and nail to stop his corruption, racketeering and money laundering trial from going ahead.

In that time, he has piled more spouses into his homestead and added to the number of little humans to be counted in the census.

He has served two terms as leader of his party and was booted out just before he completed his second as president of the republic.

Then he pitifully whimpers that he is the victim of multiple forces who want to punish him for being the selfless champion of the poor and the bulwark against the impending imperialist invasion.

As if his spell with the likes of Schabir Shaik and others was not enough, he has helped crooked men and women pilfer tens of billions of rands from the South African public.

Fresh criminal charges will most likely arise related to his activities when he was in office, overseeing this widescale looting.

In the time since this soap opera began, he has overseen the decimation of South African institutions and the values that underpin a constitutional state.

He has hollowed out the state and turned corruption into an acceptable practice in many quarters.

In this time, the economy has been made to look like an emaciated cow during a famine. State-owned enterprises have been brought to their knees in the course of the looting.

Despite all this, he projects the contradictory figure of defiance and victimhood.

He defiantly tells us he is the son of warriors and that he is an intelligence-trained soldier who will fight and vanquish his foes.

Then he pitifully whimpers that he is the victim of multiple forces who want to punish him for being the selfless champion of the poor and the bulwark against the impending imperialist invasion.

Unlike Days and The Bold, Zuma’s soap opera is losing traction even among his most loyal fans.

You can see by the dwindling crowds who used to sacrifice their nights to camp out for him.

Even those who came for the free pap and vleis are finding other rent-a-crowd causes to latch on to. It is clear that there is no longer much creativity in the plot.

It’s the same script pitched slightly differently, and the dialogue has become predictable.

Only the fibbing Carl Niehaus (there may be a few others) still finds Zuma’s tales interesting, perhaps only because they are as bizarre as his own lies and imaginations.

The judges of the various divisions and levels of South African courts are becoming irritated by what is now looking like an abuse of the constitutional set-up that Zuma despises and worked to undermine.

Read: Court dismisses Zuma’s application for a permanent stay, with costs

Each time Zuma has tried to spin his sorry tales in the courts, the judges have seen right through the elegantly crafted arguments of his lawyers and told him that he has to stand trial.

No matter how hard his legal teams tried to repackage the story and even appeal to emotion, the hard facts of the law won.

This weekend, the man whose counsel made the word ‘Stalingrad’ part of South Africa’s popular lexicon has to work out whether the strategies that were employed in that famous battle can still work following the unanimous shooting down of his application for a permanent stay of prosecution by the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

The judges, led by Jerome Mnguni, declared that he had not suffered “prejudice of any kind” as a result of not being charged alongside Shaik, as his counsel had argued, and that this would not mean he wouldn’t get a fair trial.

He was told that the decisions around the timing of the serving of indictments on him around the time of the 2007 ANC Polokwane conference “does not impact on the strength of the state’s case ... and the prosecution of the case”.

He was told that his contention that his prosecution was wrongful because it was allegedly politically motivated was irrelevant and diversionary, as had already been ruled by the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2016.

Zuma had to bear the pain of hearing that Shaun Abrahams, the National Prosecuting Authority head he trusted to protect him, and who had fulfilled his brief for some time, had been correct to reinstate the charges.

Zuma should now do the nation a favour and go prove his innocence in court.

Who knows, he may win.


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