Cyril Ramaphosa and Jacob Zuma. Picture: KOPANO TLAPE/ GCIS
Cyril Ramaphosa and Jacob Zuma. Picture: KOPANO TLAPE/ GCIS

It is ironic that former president Jacob Zuma is chastising his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, for referring to his near two terms in office as “nine lost years”.

It was the Zuma camp which drew Ramaphosa back into the political fold in 2012 as his deputy to shore up what was already emerging as a tainted and scandal-ridden administration. 

In a Twitter post seeking to highlight the achievements of his presidency, Zuma took aim at Ramaphosa, saying there was “no such thing as nine wasted years behind us”.

“I never once blamed any predecessor or pointed to any perceived failing of any predecessor when I came to the leadership. I focused on what we would do and achieve in the ANC, and we focused on achieving those things. There is no such thing as nine wasted years behind us,” he wrote.

To take on his then deputy Kgalema Motlanthe, who was challenging him for the presidency of the ANC, Zuma effectively used Ramaphosa to shore up his own slate at the ANC’s Mangaung elective conference in December 2012. At the time, Ramaphosa received more votes for the post of deputy president, than Zuma did for the presidency.  

Zuma’s administration was already steeped in crisis: allegations over the excessive spending on his private home in Nkandla had made headlines, the Marikana massacre, in which 44 people were killed was a blight on his presidency, the mining sector was in crisis and ANC infighting had reached feverish proportions.

Marikana marked an unparalleled loss of innocence in post-apartheid SA, with police brutality coming sharply into focus. It is hardly a surprise that Zuma conveniently left out the Marikana massacre in his  tweet.

While he cites the National Development Plan as an accomplishment — indeed it was the president who pushed for the adoption of the plan by the ANC at the Mangaung conference — nothing came of it. It became a line in his many speeches with no active steps to breathe life into it.

Like any good former spy, there was an ounce of truth in Zuma’s 1,084-word statement of self-acclamation. It is true that SA today has the biggest HIV/Aids treatment programme in the world with more than 3.9-million people on treatment by August 2017. But overall, Zuma’s perception of his term in office is twisted and warped by manipulating the truth to prop himself up.

The former president was keenly aware of his own administration’s failings as far back as 2012 — and this was at a time when state capture and corruption were still  whispers, becoming a roar from 2015 onward with the axing of Nhlanhla Nene to install an alleged Gupta lackey at the helm of the Treasury.

Under Zuma, state institutions, the criminal justice system and state-owned entities were abused for political and financial gain.

In his tweet, Zuma wrote: “We should be campaigning positively: we should be telling our people the truth of what we have done and will still be doing. That is how we won our elections over the past two terms, and in the elections before those.”

What he seems to forget is that in the 2014 general elections, the start of his second term of office, the ANC’s support dropped from 65.9% to 62.15%.

Zuma’s confidence over his nine-year performance in office now is farcical.

The former's president’s favourite line, which he  repeats after every appearance in court on graft charges, is “what have I done?” South Africans do not need a reminder. We are constantly reminded of it as the numerous inquiries sit and hear evidence. It seems the only person who needs reminding is Zuma himself. 

He is intentionally prodding Ramaphosa, no doubt to expose what he perceives as weakness, because of the sensitivity with which  Ramaphosa has handled Zuma since getting him to resign in 2018.

Zuma’s prodding, however, should be a clear signal to Ramaphosa that it is time the gloves came off. The president continues to hide behind the unity mantra as the country heads to the polls. After Zuma’s latest jibe, he cannot afford to do this.