President Jacob Zuma made a startling statement on the anniversary of the student revolt against the apartheid regime on June 16 this year.
In a grotesque admission, the head of state told high school students that “there is no teacher in South Africa who can claim to have seen this forehead in their classroom.”
He was proudly declaring his illiteracy and boasting to the young ones that despite his lack of formal education, he had risen to the very pinnacle of South African society as president of the country and commander-in-chief of the armed forces – the most powerful man in Africa.
His position as head of state was the result of having risen to the top of the ruling party, the African National Congress. In the process, he has reduced the national executive committee (NEC) of the 105-year-old organisation to a pathetic structure. With all the powers of the highest structure in the organisation between conferences, it has been completely conquered by this fatally flawed and illiterate man.
If you had any doubts about how this lofty structure has succumbed to the will of Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, just reflect on the current KwaZulu-Natal crisis that is still reigning in the kingdom, his home base.
After a high court had ruled that the provincial executive committee (PEC) elected in KZN in December 2015 was illegitimate, the NEC took a decision that it be disbanded and a provincial task team be established to replace it.
This was a decision of the NEC meeting until the last moment when Zuma made his closing remarks at the gathering. He insisted that legal opinion be sought to “cleverly” circumvent the decision of the same NEC and save his allies in the embattled KZN PEC.
The decision of the hapless NEC was overruled by presidential proclamation. He even dragged the reluctant office bearers to KZN to try and mediate between the two warring factions, a futile exercise as a stalemate has arisen in the province. The president is evidently far more powerful than the NEC.
For those with short memories, let me remind you of an even greater example of presidential unaccountability.
Last year the Constitutional Court ruled that the president had violated his oath of office by failing to “uphold and protect the Constitution”. If there was any real opportunity for the NEC to discipline its delinquent president, this was the one.
In a political masterstroke, fearing the backlash of an angry NEC he did not trust, Zuma first called a press conference, apologised to the nation and thereafter convened an extended meeting of the national working committee (NWC) to reiterate the apology he had rendered to the nation.
The NEC, the highest decision making body, was tactically circumvented and the matter ended there. Even the so-called integrity committee was paralysed. An imperious ANC president demonstrated in no uncertain terms that he was far above the spineless and pathetic NEC.
There are more cases of Zuma treating his colleagues in the Top 6 and the NEC with contempt.
When the ANC performed poorly in the 2016 local government elections, the main reason was the avalanche of scandals emanating from Zuma as president of the Republic of South Africa.
Prior to the elections, in its door-to-door campaign, thousands of ANC campaigners were told by the electorate that if they removed Zuma the voters would vote for the ruling party.
The completely captured NEC ignored the people and the glorious movement lost South Africa’s major metros to the opposition – Johannesburg, Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Bay are now governed by opposition coalitions.
In a feeble and meaningless pronouncement after an “introspection,” the NEC issued a statement taking “collective responsibility”. Zuma stayed put, there were no consequences whatsoever and the NEC continued with its business.
Jacob Zuma’s capture of the ANC should not be seen in isolation. It is a common trend in post-colonial Africa and examples are galore. In 1979 the leader of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in Angola, Eduardo dos Santos, rose to power as president of the quasi Marxist state.
Within a decade he had completely subjugated MPLA and using his position as state president, consolidated his power through a network of patronage in which all government ministers from his party were appointed by him.
Instead of holding him accountable as leader of the Marxist party, all top leaders were grateful for the positions the president had appointed them to. They were no longer equal comrades in the revolution but spineless position seekers at the mercy of an increasingly corrupt and greedy leader.
Dos Santos created a kleptocratic state in his image. Before he retired as state president this year, his daughter had achieved the status of the richest woman in Africa and one of the richest in the world despite the poverty of this oil-rich African country.
Today he still leads the party and the puppet president he has installed reports to him. Is this not what Zuma is attempting in South Africa today by anointing his ex-wife to succeed him?
Just over the Limpopo River in the north of South Africa, a tyrant presides over an economic wasteland of a once prosperous country. Ninety-three years old today, next year this nonagenarian will be the only candidate for the ruling party, ZANU PF, in the general elections.
The once militant and revolutionary guerrilla movement that led the Chimuranga against Ian Smith is a pale shadow of itself. All the senior leaders of the party bow before President Robert Mugabe for positions in the cabinet and in the civil service.
He has completely conquered the party. Mugabe, the former popular guerrilla leader turned president in 1980, is the most educated president on earth with six degrees. He has completely ruined his country and a third of the population are economic refugees begging and taking menial jobs in South Africa and all over southern Africa.
For him to succeed in ruining his country he had to subjugate his party first. Today his wife is campaigning to be president of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Does this ring a bell, South Africans?
There is a popular myth in South Africa that this country is different from other African countries. It is unclear what the origin of this myth is except that South Africa boasts the best infrastructure on the continent.
This infrastructure and the general advanced economy was built on the backs of black labour, white entrepreneurship and colonial pillage. The twin evils of colonialism and apartheid bestowed upon this country an excellent economy and infrastructure.
Fifteen years of democratic rule led by the ANC were generally good. This was the legacy of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. Since 2009, Zuma has been reversing these gains.
Learning from the likes of Dos Santos and Mugabe, Zuma has almost completed the conquest of the ANC. He has turned the once proud and glorious movement of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo into a vehicle for personal and family enrichment. His son is in business with a foreign family that has, with the facilitation of the president, looted the great South African parastatals, created by the apartheid regime, into submission.
These state owned enterprises, once the pride of the country, are all bankrupt, including the public broadcaster. In a few years president Zuma, his family and friends, have become fabulously wealthy. This was achieved through what in new South African parlance is called state capture. The ANC, the only organisation that can bring an end to Zuma’s avarice and pillage, has turned into a useless organisation, captured by its leader, and waiting to die a slow and painful death.
Africa’s oldest liberation movement, the ANC, is in the Intensive Care Unit. Some organs of this dying body are trying to fight back to restore its health; unfortunately, there are organs whose rot has reached terminal levels.
The physician, President Jacob Zuma, who is supposed to save the patient, is actually accelerating the demise of the still functioning organs to reach the stage of terminal ones. Doctor Zuma, proud of his job, is ready to put the patient to eternal sleep.
– Lediga is a former ANC spokesperson in Limpopo and author of the book Tenders and The Fall of Limpopo.