In Africa, I do not know of a greater curse than being barred from a funeral.
That’s what happened to president Jacob Gedleyehlekisa Zuma on Wednesday. The entire leadership of the revolutionary alliance and the mass democratic movement was in Johannesburg to bid farewell to Ahmed Kathrada, one of the greatest revolutionaries South Africa has ever produced. Kathrada spent a quarter of a century on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela and the world renowned Rivonia trialists.
“On a day like this we should not mince words, we should say it like it is,” was the first utterance by former president Kgalema Motlanthe in his eulogy at the funeral of the ANC stalwart. The soft-spoken former Secretary General of the ruling party did not mince his words. The usually measured Motlanthe took everyone by surprise when he read the letter Kathrada penned to Zuma when he asked him to step down as president of the Republic of South Africa. “More than 354 days since Ahmed Kathrada wrote this letter to the president, no reply has been received,” Motlanthe rubbed it in. It was like burying the moral and political integrity of the ANC president instead of the departed veteran who was being buried.
Besides Kathrada, the person who drew the attention at the funeral was soon-to-be-fired Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Ahmed Kathrada Foundation CEO, Neeshan Balton, asked Gordhan to stand up and said that “even if you are not a minister in the next few days, you remain true to the values and principles that Kathrada would be proud of.” The audience responded by giving Gordhan a standing ovation. It was an uppercut against Zuma’s intention to fire the popular and hard working finance minister.
Never in his entire political life has Jacob Zuma been so isolated and criticised by the entire democratic movement. In a strange way it was like Zuma was feeling cold inside of the ANC while the popular saying is that it is actually outside of the party that is chilly. The president was literally and figuratively outside the tent of the Movement. Alliance partners, represented by SACP Blade Nzimande, Cosatu Bheki Ntshalintshali and ANC Gwede Mantashe all took swipes at the president for poor leadership and destroying both the party and the country.
I do not know if Zuma was watching the funeral service or not. If he wasn’t watching, it is his eternal loss. If he was watching, he definitely did not to sleep that night, unless of course he is not a real human being like all of us. The leadership of the ANC and the Alliance that was there, all of whom have asked Zuma to step down, comes from the top drawer of the struggle and current politics: Andrew Mlangeni, Denis Goldberg, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Sophie du Bruyn, Laloo Chiba, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe, Cyril Ramaphosa, Zwelinzima Vavi, Bheki Ntshalintshali, Julius Malema. The list is endless. How do you stand alone against this struggle history and political pedigree? The man you are about to fire receives a standing ovation for his fearless defense of the coffers of the nation against your insatiable greed.
The axing of Gordhan that Zuma has postponed for a few days is likely to unleash a tsunami that carries the real danger of sweeping him off his pedestal. Should it happen that some ministers, including deputy president Ramaphosa, resign in protest against action of the president, the situation will be perilous for him indeed. The other possibility is caucus revolt against Zuma should Ramaphosa and company resign in cabinet and take the back benches of parliament, as some insiders have predicted. Jackson Mthembu, the ANC chief whip, is waiting in the wings to welcome his comrades opposed to Zuma, to strengthen his hand and leadership in parliament. This is becoming a dangerous game.
Zuma’s situation has become so vulnerable that he can’t even depend on his crumbling Premier League to navigate these treacherous waters. His stubborn determination to mantain his toxic relationship with the Guptas has angered a lot of people in the ANC, including the branches. An internal organizational revolt against Zuma is not altogether unthinkable. His insistence on supporting his former wife as next president of the party has alienated part of his support base. He has never been so vulnerable. The moment he chooses to fire Gordhan and others might just be the beginning of the end to his otherwise decent struggle career.
There is no doubt that Zuma is no longer acting out his own will anymore. How does he explain the fact that he urgently recalled Gordhan from an important investment conference in London and now that the finance minister is in the country he is not even talking to him. Is the president a puppet in the hands of some interest groups and forces? His actions are irrational and the country is at this stage virtually leaderless.
29 March 2017 is a day that Jacob Zuma will never forget in his life. It was on this day that the nation buried one of its most illustrious sons, a selfless soldier for freedom and democracy; a tireless proponent of a prosperous non-racial South Africa who spoke his mind until his last breath. On his deathbed he was painfully worried about the direction the country had taken under president Zuma. In an endeavour to advise the leadership of his party, he had written to him about his concerns but Zuma never even acknowledged having received his letter. Kathrada was also part of the 101 veterans that tried unsuccessfully to engage the ANC leadership to change course. It is under these circumstances that the veteran, his family and his foundation took the difficult decision that the president would not be allowed to speak at his funeral. It is at this funeral that the isolation and rejection of Jacob Zuma was dramatically demonstrated.
While some of his ministers attended the funeral, Zuma postponed to the afternoon a morning cabinet meeting to allow his ministers to attend the funeral. Most of the cabinet, in solidarity with him, did not attend the funeral of Mandela’s comrade and fellow fighter, Ahmed Kathrada. When Zuma is gone, these ministers will regret their factional decision not to pay their last respects to a stalwart of their struggle for the sake of keeping their jobs by pleasing a discredited and morally compromised ANC leader and president of the Republic of South Africa.
29 March 2017 will go down in history as a day of judgement for Jacob Zuma.
Source: Sello Lediga