If Zuma Becomes Life President, There Won’t Be a Shower Afterwards

Notwithstanding arguments that the Western Cape government could have pre-empted the water crisis (allowing Premier Helen Zille the dignity of her daily shower), we must wonder whether Showerhead-appointed office-bearers would miss daily splashes if their constituents had water crises.  The answer to that is a no that strongly reeks of a third Zuma term.

The ANC’s elective conference could be postponed to let the party regroup regarding the KZN PEC, delaying the end of Zuma’s ANC presidency.  The party could also solve its factionalism the way the IFP keeps a lid on its succession issues — by not changing its leader.  Would Parliament remain above the fray, or would it also vote to change the Constitution and sanction a third Zuma term?

ANC MPs couldn’t stop sinking that low if they were thrown a secret ballot to pull themselves up with.  The DA got 99 problems, but that thief ain’t one.  And the EFF is fighting two enemies who have more a vested interest ganging up on it than in joining it.

At the end of its policy conference, the ANC dished up race-neutral descriptions of an economy cartelised by “monopoly capital”, showing that though Julius Malema EFF-ectively shaped the discourse on inequality, the ANC could still push a centrist, de-racialized, ANC+DA-coalition narrative ahead of 2019.  The local government elections, too, proved relevance more important than ideology.  For it is written: political parties shall not live by conviction alone, but by every voter, parliamentary seat, government position, and tender-for-friends that proceeds from the mouth of the ANC.

This tells me the EFF must trade one of its non-negotiable horses for one the ANC’s.  I more easily foresee it tolerate Zuma than turn down credit for re-centring Section 25 of the Constitution (Property).  The ANC won’t co-vote with the EFF on that motion until it has something worth gaining — or keeping — from voting for land expropriation without expropriation, and that’s Zuma.

A radical leftist could argue that by allowing a Zuma third term (read: life presidency), the EFF would block capitalists like Cyril Ramaphosa from challenging uncompensated land restitution from the Union Buildings.  Come 2019, the EFF can’t get credit for pushing back against capitalist Ramaphosa or the current land/economic situation unless it tolerates Zuma, who seems sympathetic to the EFF’s cause.  And the party won’t grow beyond 6% without the ANC agreeing to share its funders under the table — or its abundance of politically-motivated smear-campaigns and murders to silence uncooperative EFF members.

The ruling party’s continued existence depends not on “organizational renewal” but its playing dirtier than ever before.  Ramaphosa can’t become party president without causing fatal splits; Dr. Mkhize can’t without being a fatality; Dr. Dlamini-Zuma can’t without collapsing under the party’s sin because patriarchy empowers men to abuse while punishing women for behaving like men.  Mondli Zondo recently wrote articles on debates about whether South Africa is “ready for a female president” and the double-standards that disadvantage woman presidential candidates.

Besides misogyny, there are personality issues: Rebecca Davis has observed that Dlamini-Zuma less resembles “a revolutionary leader and more a rather strict headmistress addressing an unruly school”, so she doesn’t have “that thing” (*makes Hlaudi Motsoeneng gestures*).  Her school principal demeanour makes her more likely to be made Higher Education Minister to announce free education, in accordance with the rumoured prophecies.

If Zuma knows we know he’ll get amnesty or flee, he knows his enemies are already ahead of those strategies.  What we should have learned with the cabinet reshuffles is he tends towards the reckless and unexpected — where nobody is waiting to meet him.  The raw power of unending endurance is consistent with the patronage system, where a change in leadership is more consistent with actual “organizational renewal” — which the ANC is incapable of.

It’s easier to follow patrons than to negotiate systems.  Having fed the demon of tribalism the fodder of patronage, the ANC’s stability has become permanently dependent on its Prime Minister (to the Guptas, or whoever else is buying the country from him).  As August 8 2017 showed, the ANC no longer exists apart from JZ, for he has fashioned that century-old liberation movement into his personal concubinal slave.  “No, the ANC MPs were just letting him finish his term, not allowing a third one — let alone life presidency!” many say.  But how will they draw the line at a third term if they couldn’t say, “Thus far and no further!” on prior scandals?  The unmoved Duduzile Cynthia Myeni is an omen; just as pigs (not French airbuses) will fly before she steps down, Zuma’s likely to stay put.

Two prophetesses warned us: Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo (“Khwezi”) by alleging Showerhead was a rapist, and Unshowered Zille by alleging he facilitates state capture through patronage.  By saying no to them, we (like Zuma’s appointees) said a stinky yes to these last two terms being just the courtship.  Remember Cersei Lannister’s words: “Today?  You’re not going to die today.  You’re not going to die for quite a while.”

It was just the courtship!  We mustn’t be surprised to find ourselves at a KPMG-sponsored wedding kissing our freedoms goodbye.  The oft-married Zuma won’t be.

His name is ambusher, not ambushed Jacob, not Esau; Gedleyihlekisa, not Gedleyinhlekiso; Zuma, not Zunyiwe.  And it will be a long time before anyone gets to shower.

Thank you

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints.


Last Week I Agreed with the DA On One and a Half Issues.  But Will I Vote for Them?

Most opposition parties’ arguments against the DA’s motion to dissolve parliament were political.  But the motion was a philosophical extension of what those parties had been doing alongside the DA anyway.  By claiming a political reason not to join in this time, they were imitating the ANC’s defence of its leader in the previous motions they’d supported.

The DA’s argument was: government is broken; therefore, let parliament no longer prop it up at taxpayers’ expense by continuing with the charade that it works when that pretence adds a veneer of legitimacy to the sham it exacerbates.  Shockingly, the other parties were so fixated on protecting their political brands, they handed the title deed for the moral high ground over to the DA on a silver platter, scorning and then defeating the motion.

This could have been the DA’s plan, knowing that politically we can’t have fresh elections but morally, we can’t not have them.  That kind of opportunism is political stock-in-trade.  Francois de La Rochefoucauld described hypocrisy as the tribute vice pays to virtue.  Describing the DA’s motion as grandstanding without refuting it on its philosophical terms (playing the ball) instead of political terms (playing the man) is refusing pay the tribute because you’re tired of the face collecting it.

It would have been enough for the other opposition parties to abstain, or emphasise the debate’s moral necessity more than its source’s political opportunism, and then vote against it for obviously political reasons.  I think I would have understood.  That they voted for their political interests while underplaying the philosophical obligation the DA had introduced speaks to the rising cynicism of South African politics.  There was a time when ANC politicians had the decency to lie about respecting Public Protector remedial action and Constitutional Court findings thereon.  Today, they openly contradict the Constitutional Court.  It appears some of the opposition parties are taking the ANC’s lead.

A distinction will appear, however faint it is now, between parties that lower politics to what’s pragmatic, what’s possible — Machiavellianism — and those that make it about what’s principled.  In the face of our political fatalism, the DA has a track record of saying crazy and truthful things like, “Jacob Zuma must be stopped!”; MP Zakhele Mbhele’s speech reminded me how the DA often plays the prophetic role of Noah warning people about the coming Flood (the EFF does this, too, sometimes).

The mystery of iniquity at work here is that (black) South Africans refuse the truth, intending to assert their autonomy, only to later recognise they’re trapped in that autonomy and need the “oppressor” to liberate them.  Or as a friend said, “White people have been going to courts and fighting our battles, and now we’re in an embarrassing situation where if we agree with them on anything, everything is undone.”

This has a self-fulfilling power to it.  If “the whites” really do want to bring back white rule, they simply have propose obvious solutions to situations faced by “the blacks”, which they’ll refuse because ego, until one day we are truly trapped and have no choice but to be rescued by “the whites”.  My English teacher used to tell the girls in our class, “Run from a man until you catch him”.  Perhaps South Africans are running from the DA because…well…

You may say it was never the DA that defined “right versus wrong” as “white versus black” but if we shift our gaze to the Bell Pottinger saga, we see the effects of apartheid glossed over and minimised.  The simplest explanation (which is then read back on everything else the DA does, including its parliamentary motions) is that while the DA cares to have black voters, it doesn’t care about black people.  This description fits the ANC too, of course.  I’ll be forgiven if I’m wrong, but for every hundred things on why BP’s PR was “unethical”, from various sources echoing or describing the DA’s role, there’s been barely a whisper in the direction of, “BP’s PR strategy was dangerous not only because it broke the rules, but because it had a grain of truth to it”.

Imagine if we destroyed the inequality Bell Pottinger’s campaign exploited as fast as we destroyed Bell Pottinger; if we reached across to townships as easily as we did across oceans to the UK.  And just as describing the DA’s motion to dissolve parliament as grandstanding doesn’t take a stitch out of their argument, taking Bell Pottinger’s tactics and business down as unethical doesn’t render nonexistent the conditions they exploited.  So, the reasoning that helps the DA on one front, overthrows them on the other.

Their fixation on BP’s technique needs to be halved to make room for the concession that transformation is overdue, followed by a reminder of how the DA would resolve inequality if it were in power.  They missed a golden opportunity to woo the black voter, and it would have cost them nothing they have not lost or paid.

If you think women who have to give their fiancés lobola money have it tough, try writing columns telling the party you want to vote for what it has to do to earn it.  But I am winking in the dark, knowing only a few of this blog’s readers and next to none from any political parties.

Thank you

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints. 

Here Is What We Can Do About #CyrilRamaphosaLeaks

Let’s assume that Ramaphosa’s emails were uncovered by an ANC faction to smear his name before the December elective conference.  Should we be passive spectators?  I’d say please let’s not.

But here’s the deal: it doesn’t matter whether popular opinion exonerates Cyril.  By December, he’d have had a “scandal” to his name.  “The public” would have been “upset” by it.  That will ostensibly be reason enough for the conference delegates to prefer Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma over him.

This smear campaign’s purpose isn’t necessarily that the public turns on Ramaphosa.  If people support him through this, the Dlamini-Zuma faction can still say (as the ANC) that his public life has created unfair bias and sympathy towards him, pitting ANC against ANC.  And since theirs is a listening party that learns from past mistakes and is acting to purge out factionalism, they’re taking people’s complaints about scandal-ridden ANC leaders into consideration going forward.  They’ll then argue that scandal that incurs public sympathy foreshadows scandal that incurs public outrage, tacitly admitting they gave Jacob Zuma a chance when people rallied around him during his scandals only to find he was good for nothing but scandal.  The point is they can reduce any conversation about those emails to “scandal”, Ramaphosa to a “moral liability” and our reactions to “upset” regardless of our conversations’ tones, contents, natures, directions or general conclusions about the Ramaphosa emails.

I suggest we instead channel our conversations about those emails against the whole ANC’s chances of winning 2019 general elections.  This way, even if the Dlamini-Zuma faction wins in the December elective conference, its choice to use Ramaphosa as a sacrificial lamb would have cost it more than it was willing to sacrifice.

Turning the tables like this would serve even people who want Ramaphosa to become the national president in 2019 by warning the Zuma faction to put aside dirty tactics now, ahead of the December conference.  This would force the ANC to contest elections with a candidate who won the 2017 elective conference fairly, cleanly, or not bother contesting the 2019 elections at all.  This matters because what a political faction is prepared to do to win within their party today tells us what they’ll do to the country tomorrow, and there’s a good chance we’ll get an ANC president replete with the karma of however (s)he got there.  And when karma collects in the form of favours owed, it’s the country that pays.

Ensuring the ANC doesn’t get a leader who’s prepared to play dirty may sound too much like helping it clean its act up for your liking.  In that event, look at it this way: if the ANC is beyond salvation, then leveraging its factions’ dirty tactics to work against the whole party is the fastest way to deepen the ANC’s losses because if it’s beyond salvation, it won’t stop playing dirty.  What does this leveraging look like?  Like taking every accusation against any of its members and make it about the whole party — like the motion of no confidence taught us to do.

If we apply that principle to Ramaphosa, it means exchanging the discussion on whether he used his status and wealth to prey on economically vulnerable young women, for a discussion that encompasses the role played by the ANC-led government in letting inequality, and the connected economic displacement of women, grow to the extent that a culture of preying on them could be fostered among male members of its party.  That would incorporate and centre the example set by its current leader, Jacob, and the rest of the party’s choice to protect him from the motion of no confidence.

Indeed, if that motion taught us anything, it was to always impute any of the ANC member’s failings to the whole group.  The question, “Did Ramaphosa do what he has been accused of?” makes us pawns in their game of scapegoating their own; on the other hand, the narrative, “They’ve all been doing it anyway” makes them one another’s albatrosses.  We must threaten them with the latter so they clean up their act or destroy themselves; we cannot afford to get swept away by the former.

It’s tempting to discuss whether the women Ramaphosa was associated with were financially independent mistresses with true agency or mere acquaintances whose studies he was paying for.  As I’ve said already, whatever those conversations conclude on Ramaphosa, they can be weaponised against him to Dlamini-Zuma’s favour in December.  And if that faction can do that now, why would it not steal the ballot in 2019?

The pro-active conversation is on whether this confusion of who these women really were in Ramaphosa’s life would be necessary if the ANC-led government had done a better job upholding women’s rights and the economy, even if these particular women were exceptions to the norm created by the ANC’s failure.  Questions on if he took advantage of the circumstances must be secondary to what is definitely known about their structural origins in the ANC’s nature.  We have videos of Mduduzi Manana; we don’t have videos of Ramaphosa.

Between now and 2019, we all have a moral duty to also ensure the proper contestation of ideas and elevation of discourse go as far and wide as they can.  If you agree with any of this, tweet me.  Let’s talk about translating it.  Offer that translation to a newspaper in that town you know has stagnated discourse, all controlled by one sector of the political establishment.  Let’s talk about hosting seminars where we thrash thoughts about for clarity.  We were passive spectators to the campaigns in 2009 and ’14; as a result, the state was captured under our noses from 1994 and even before that.

Ask yourself whether can we afford to do less than everything in our power to influence the political discussion.

Thank you

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints.