Zuma has himself to blame for harsh treatment of his children

Duduzane Zuma leaves the courtroom after his brief appearance. (Kyle Cowan/News24)
Duduzane Zuma leaves the courtroom after his brief appearance. (Kyle Cowan/News24)

The appearance of Duduzane Zuma in the commercial crimes court in Johannesburg to face corruption charges was celebrated by some as a victory for the rule of law. 

Although he has not been found guilty, many citizens feel the very public and daring nature of his involvement in state capture should have long jolted law enforcement agencies into action. 

His appearance was therefore met with cautious optimism. This is understandable: Citizens have become frustrated but powerless to do anything to stop their tax money going down the seemingly bottomless hole manned by the corrupt in our society. 

Except for the debate about the minor matter of being unnecessarily iron-legged, there was a sense that the long arm of the law had reached the once-powerful son of a once-powerful former president who once donned the cloth of invincibility. 

Duduzane had a corrupt relationship with his father, Jacob, on the one hand, and with the Guptas on the other. Duduzane, the Guptas and Zuma formed a spider-web triad of the corrupt that was constantly working on expanding its reach, encircling many influential decision makers within the State, particularly those who preferred to think through their stomachs. 

Mcebisi Jonas, former deputy finance minister, was the target of encirclement. No doubt, Jonas's brain proved to be more powerful than the sounds of hunger pangs in his stomach. Accordingly, he ducked the trap and issued a public statement. Law enforcement agencies, who also struggled (and are probably still struggling) to disentangle themselves from the dangerous capture of the triad, eventually charged Duduzane. The details of this scandal are all over media archives and need not be retold in detail here. 

Zuma has been a subject of endless national debates, focusing mainly on his public leadership failures and his normalisation of corruption. But there is one important aspect that needs to be discussed – his responsibilities as a parent. 

This discussion is important because Zuma was quoted in a Sunday Times article recently blaming the media for its "harsh" reporting on him that could have worsened the illness that eventually claimed the life of his son Vusi – Duduzane's younger brother. When will Zuma the parent learn to take full responsibility for his actions? He is gone pass mid-70. 

The "harsh media" reports he is referring to did not emanate from the moon. He has been the source of it. Many will remember how he got Duduzane's twin sister, Duduzile, to testify in his defence in the rape trial. Granted, he was acquitted. But the idea that your daughter could appear in a public court to talk about matters that relate to your sexual proclivities is too extreme. 

Surely no media report can be "harsher" than the experience Duduzile endured. It would be a traumatic experience to any person by any measure. Despite the legal acquittal, Judge Van der Merwe rebuked Zuma and poetically counselled him to "keep it in your pants". Has Zuma "kept it in his pants"? 

If media reports were so "harsh" that they could exacerbate the illness of his son, has Jacob Zuma ever asked himself the source of this harshness? The truth would of course be inconvenient for a man who refuses to take responsibility for anything. He prefers to see himself only through the lens of a victim even when he, for a good eight and a half years, had the authority of the office of the president of the Republic of South Africa. 

It was when he was in that office that he subjected Duduzane to the kind of corruption for which he is facing charges. The rape trial will always be fresh in the minds of many observers. It was therefore sad, though deserved, to see yet another child of Zuma appearing in court as a result of the sins of his father. If the matter is pursued to the fullest, Jacob could eventually join Duduzane in the same case. 

Given this grim scenario which many citizens believe is befitting of Zuma, who still believes he is a great leader? Can they safely say that he provided leadership to Duduzile and Duduzane? History can be blamed. After all, the children were born in exile and there was probably no decent family arrangement that could come with the harshness of exile. 

But after the unbanning of liberation movements, Zuma and many other exiles returned. Some went on to die extremely poor. Zuma was one of the privileged few: He has held senior government positions uninterrupted from 1994 to 2017. If he was responsible, he would have ensured that his children were shielded from the harshness of social ills, including corruption. 

He can't be blaming the outside world for the harsh treatment of his children. He must shoulder the blame for subjecting them to his own harshness. Why did he expose his daughter to a sexual scandal? Why did he expose his son to Gupta sharks?

As Vusi was being buried, Jacob should have summoned to courage to say sorry to his son who might have been hurt, not by the media, but by the harshly embarrassing conduct of his father. For those who will be heading to the high court to support Jacob next time he appears for his own corruption charges, spare a thought for his immediate victims – his own children.

- Mkhabela is a political analyst with the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa.

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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