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Vengeful Zuma imperils SA democracy
26/09/2012 00:00:00
by Psychology Maziwisa
Re-election fight ... Jacob Zuma
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FOUR years ago, at the height of Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial in Pietermaritzburg and while I was serving as a candidate attorney in the same city, a senior ANC official took me aside and desperately confided that Zuma would do to his political opponents what Thabo Mbeki had done to him.

He explained how the trial had made Zuma a bitter man and even more determined to become the next president of South Africa. He told me that Zuma had become such a schemer and so dangerously paranoid that South Africa’s constitutional democracy was likely to be under threat with him at the top.

“He is very cross with comrade Thabo and will not brook any challenge to his presidency. He feels he has gone through enough hell. Under him (Zuma), our democracy is not safe.”

In hindsight, the words of my ANC friend were shockingly prophetic, for his prediction has now come to pass.

Jacob Zuma is now applying exactly the same tactics for this year’s ANC elective conference as applied by Thabo Mbeki not so long ago. With his camp panicking about the recent revolts in mines across South Africa and Julius Malema’s tactful use of the Marikana tragedy, Zuma realises that getting rid of all possible impediments to his re-election is vitally important.

He seems well aware that he has very little to show after four years in power and especially after making all sorts of promises in his election manifesto. Unemployment is fast approaching the 50% mark and South Africa is counted amongst the most unequal societies in the world.

Pertinent issues like land reform and economic freedom remain unaddressed almost two decades after the apartheid regime was dismantled. All of this has been made much worse by Malema’s labelling of Zuma as a dictator and a self-serving politician who is out of touch with the needs of the people and who must go.

Faced with this desperate situation, Zuma is fighting the nastiest political battle since the infamous Polokwane drama of 2007. That battle was preceded by an embarrassing rape trial in 2006 and, latterly, corruption charges against Zuma.

Like Mbeki before him, Zuma has decided to make his fight against Malema not one about policy issues. Instead, and in what is now quintessential ANC fashion, Zuma seems to have ordered a series of cheap and shoddy attacks on Malema.


For example, the impression has been created that Malema is corrupt to the core and that he abused his office as ANCYL chair to improperly make a fortune for himself. Malema vehemently denies these charges and insists this is all part of Zuma’s desperate bid to silence him. And it appears he is right.

About a week ago, Jacob Zuma vowed that, ‘we shall be acting soon’. This was after Malema had addressed disgruntled miners and soldiers at separate meetings. Days later, he was denied permission to address another group of striking miners, in clear violation of his constitutional right to freedom of expression.

Following that constitutional debacle, I am told that Malema’s plotters gathered again separately in Johannesburg and Pretoria and, although these gatherings were disguised as genuine meetings, many reasonable people are convinced that the meetings were used to plot how best to move in for the kill.

Two days later, in a shameless and unexpected move, Zuma’s attack dogs struck. The South African Revenue Service, SARS, whose management is believed to be full of Zuma apologists, revealed Sunday that a default judgment had been issued in its favour against Malema for tax avoidance.

Thuli Madonsela, a lady I hold in very high regard, and who works as South Africa’s Public Protector, also concluded in her yet-to-be-published findings that a tender worth R52 million awarded by the Limpopo government to On-Point Engineering in 2009 was given in not-so-clear circumstances.

Although she could not find any information or evidence pointing towards Malema’s personal involvement, the Public Protector nevertheless found that his family trust, Ratanang Trust, which has shares in On-Point Engineering, had ‘improperly’ benefited from the awarding of the tender.

It has to be said that the charges against Malema are quite serious. If the allegations are even partially true, this is grotesque. But is Malema really corrupt? Or is Jacob Zuma pursuing a personal vendetta against his harshest critics for his own opportunistic political purposes? More worryingly, is Malema about to become the victim of a nasty miscarriage of justice?

It is very hard at this stage to say whether Madonsela was acting on her own as is required of her by Chapter 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996, or whether she is part of a bigger conspiracy to silence Malema.

Huge questions surround the timing of her decision, given that it came barely days after Zuma had promised to act against Malema and about a week and a half before the opening of nominations in the ANC for the December elective conference.

For the sake of South Africa’s constitutional democracy, I pray that she is acting independently but fear she has been compromised. The timing of her findings is, as already mentioned, very strange. Whatever the truth, South Africa is entering a huge political and constitutional crisis.

In my view, the news that Malema will appear in court this week on charges of corruption is not just a catastrophe for the firebrand politician, his family and the men and women who have stood by him throughout the years. It is also a national disaster, with terrible ramifications for South Africa’s constitution and democratic dispensation.

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