Mail and Guardian
How much more patient will the ANC be with its leader, Jacob Zuma, if another scandal comes to light, asks Khaya Dlanga.
Tolerance is one of the greatest virtues but it has its limits. When it comes to its president, the ANC has exercised this virtue a great deal, many times over.
I feel like I am Peter and Jesus is the ANC. Peter, who was famous for his short temper, went to Jesus and said: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Seven times was already a daunting number for Peter, but Jesus gave him a worse answer. “I tell you, not seven times, 77 times.” This is how I feel the ANC has been behaving towards the president. This is difficult to say, but the ANC’s biggest liability is its president.
And, to quote from the ANC’s document on the values of a leader once again: “A leader should lead by example. He should be above reproach in his political and social conduct – as defined by our revolutionary morality.”
Soon after his election as ANC president in Polokwane in 2007, the party sat Zuma down and said that if there were one more scandal, he would be dealt with. But then in 2010, Zuma fathered a child out of wedlock and the party did nothing. The ANC has been Jesus in this case. Perhaps it’s got to do with his biblical name, Jacob.
Just in the last year, the ANC has had to defend its leader over again. Only 12 months ago, ANC leaders had to go out and defend the president over something that needed no defending at all – something that could have been ignored. The party was rallied to be offended on behalf of the president on a personal issue. For weeks, unnecessary attention was paid to a distasteful painting. Less than a few thousand people would have even known about it, had some within the ANC chosen to remain quiet about it. Of course, the ANC is not a church (although it is called one) but allow me to quote a verse from the Bible’s Proverbs 19:11: “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offence.”
This was followed by the absolutely outrageous cost of the building of Nkandla, the president’s homestead in rural KwaZulu-Natal. More than R200-million was spent. We never received straight answers about the issue and were told the compound was a national key point, insinuating we did not have the right to scrutinise anything about it. The president claimed ignorance on a number of issues pertaining to the building, such as saying he did not know anything about the costs, yet a report showed that he received communication from the minister showing he was kept abreast of the progress of the building’s renovations – another scandal that is yet to end.
Then, after a bit of peace and quiet, there was the Central African Republic debacle, in which many people speculated about what actually happened when South African soldiers died there. Many are still unsatisfied with the answers.
The latest straw, which isn’t the last one it seems, involves the Gupta family, which the president and his family are famously connected to. I doubt the president knew that the Guptas were going to land a plane at Waterkloof Air Force Base and basically piss on the whole nation. The Guptas must have been so used to getting their way by invoking the name of the president, that for them to do as they pleased was just ordinary.
The president must shape up as election year is looming; he must not be the ANC’s biggest liability. How much more patient will the ANC be with Zuma if another indiscretion comes to light?
I don’t think the ANC as pandered to Zuma because it is a patient organisation. This is the leader the party chose for the next five years, and it cannot be seen as unstable by getting rid of him so soon after declaring confidence in him – and it also should not be seen to be in the habit of recalling leaders. Instability in the ruling party will reflect badly on the country.
The party went through a lot of pain after the great battle between Thabo Mbeki and the victorious Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. The president seems very comfortable, which explains why there have been so many scandals in such quick succession. It should not be that way. He should forever be vigilant. I sense a very comfortable president.
You will have to excuse me, but I will be quoting from A Song of Fire and Ice for a few months as I have been reading the books, which inspired the series Game of Thrones. In one of the books, the king of the Seven Kingdoms spoke to one of his trusted knights about what the Iron Throne was like. It is a throne on which the king who rules the seven kingdoms sits. Baratheon’s now dead brother, Robert, once sat on the throne. He begins to describe it for his knight who has never seen it: “Have you ever seen the Iron Throne? The barbs along the back, the ribbons of twisted steel, the jagged ends of swords and knives all tangled up and melted? It is not a comfortable seat … it is not a seat where a man can rest at ease.”
The ANC needs to read the riot act internally now and protect itself. Although the president was most likely not properly informed about the circumstances around the Gupta plane landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base, his affiliation with them cannot be discounted. This should have been the last straw – but the ANC is Jesus. M&G