When Jacob Zuma stepped down as president a few months ago, many people were teasing us members of the fourth estate that we would have nothing to write about as the man had always been such a reliable font of news.
We were at pains to correct them and tell them that, to the contrary, we were relieved that we could move on to other things. And, as citizens, we were happy to be rid of this hyena who ate up everything that could be chewed. Like the rest of the nation, we heaved a sigh of relief.
Alas, we were so premature. The man had no intention of disappearing from our lives. Since being ousted, he has been showing up everywhere, either spouting nonsense or dishing out grave threats to those he considers his tormentors. From being the hyena that gobbled up anything before him, he has become a plain dangerous gangster who possibly threatens the stability of the republic.
You just had to watch him in action this week to realise that we are dealing with an unchained beast hellbent on wreaking havoc in a country beginning to emerge from the mess he created.
Zuma, an adult male of 76 years old who has held various leadership positions in the republic, used a speech at a gathering of schoolchildren to issue threats to his foes. He reminded those he considers his enemies that, as he is no longer constrained by office, he can deal with them accordingly. Were he in another part of the country, he may as well have gone on to say: “Ek gaan hulle afmaai.”
Now, I know that members of the Congress of SA Students are not your typical, well-behaved pupils, but that is even more reason an adult, and a leader at that, should provide proper guidance and be exemplary. To stand in front of them and behave like Donkie Booysen is highly unbecoming.
The impressionable kids were blown away by this gangster talk and cheered wildly, something that was very disconcerting.
Zuma continued this line on Friday, when he appeared in court. He warned that he knew of the corruption among those who accused him of malfeasance.
He said he was “tired of behaving”, that his detractors kept provoking him and that “I might talk about what I know about them”.
He spoke about how he has no fear, how he did stick fighting as a young man, how he knows both politics and the “stick”.
There are two issues here.
One is that this is not the first time Zuma has threatened to spill the beans on his colleagues in the ANC. He did so after then president Thabo Mbeki fired him from his Cabinet and in the run-up to the ANC’s Polokwane conference in December 2007. After the charges against him were dropped in 2009 and he rose to the presidency, he conveniently forgot about his bombshells.
Then, in the past 24 months, as the nation rose against him and senior people in his own organisation turned on him, he remembered his weapons. He started threatening to expose the corruption, telling supporters that he knows the real perpetrators of corruption.
His message reached a crescendo in November, when he told a rally in Pietermaritzburg: “People who are stealing today, they say I am stealing, but they are the biggest culprits. The same people that are accusing me are the ones that are stealing and I know exactly what they are stealing. I know exactly who they are.”
He has repeated this line as it became clear he would have to stand before a judge and account for his sins.
This begs the question as to why someone who swore to uphold the Constitution and who served as president for nine years would conceal crimes against the state. Surely it was incumbent on him, as a citizen and a public official, to bring to the attention of the relevant authorities his knowledge of criminal activity?
The second issue is the implicit threat of violence coming from his mouth. The fact that he is no longer president does not, as he seems to believe, give him the right to issue threats and stoke emotions. His exit from office merely makes him an ordinary citizen, with the same obligation to behave in a lawful manner as the rest of us. Actually, the fact that he remains an ex-officio member of the ANC’s national executive committee, along with his status as a former head of state, makes it even more imperative that he act responsibly.
But as the underworld figures captured in Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers said, “he is a gangster like us”. And when a gangster is cornered, he knows only one thing: to shoot his way out.
This is a dangerous Zuma, fighting his battles without the infrastructure of ANC support and aware that the law enforcement agencies he manipulated to be his line of defence have been freed to do their jobs.
His supporters are the ethno-nationalists in KwaZulu-Natal within the ANC and others in the bandit movements in that province.