Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS
Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS

It is finished. Jacob Zuma has delivered his final address as the president of the ANC.

“I tried my best,” he said.

He ended with a flourish: “I bear no grudge ... It is politics, it is also the views you have. I prefer those who express their views to those who don’t.”

Yet, looking back on his political report delivered in close to three hours, let alone his last term, Zuma bristled against those critical of him, from the alliance to veterans, his own party’s MPs in Parliament, nongovernmental organisations and all those who had flooded the streets of major cities to call on him to step down.

It was perhaps a fitting end to a presidency akin to a chess game, in which he sang and danced his way to building a political machinery in the party and the government who simply told him what he wanted to hear.

In fact, Zuma has been the most ruthless post-democratic president in dealing with his opponents and those who got in his way, especially those in the alliance and the party.

Julius Malema and his youth league, Zwelinzima Vavi, Irvin Jim, Blade Nzimande, Pravin Gordhan, Mcebisi Jonas, Nhlanhla Nene are but a few examples of those who faced his wrath.

Instead of a reflective view, Zuma railed against all those who had criticised him over the past five years.

He blamed the problems in the ANC and in government on “negative tendencies” in the organisation, blind to the centrality of his contribution to those problems.

He is a man who is oblivious of his faults and weaknesses.

He complained about corruption in the private sector being treated with “kid gloves”, yet missed that state corruption had gone unpunished – on Friday, Eskom cleared its embattled acting CE Matshelo Koko of all charges after it was found that billion-rand contracts were given to his stepdaughter’s company.

Zuma raged against “corporate capture” and how business supported a particular candidate, a veiled reference to Cyril Ramaphosa, yet was silent on the mounds of evidence that had emerged about the Gupta family's looting spree in state-owned entities, enabled by Zuma to his family's benefit.

Details linking him directly to state capture emerged most starkly in the parliamentary inquiry on Eskom.

His cognitive dissonance was astounding as he raged against factionalism in his address but praised only those loyal to his faction.

He lashed out at vote buying and gate-keeping, as three provinces with leaders loyal to him have court judgments against them pointing to them committing such acts, including in his home base of KwaZulu-Natal.

But the man who is blind to his weaknesses was exposed as such.

The response from ordinary ANC delegates was muted. Applause was scattered and unenthusiastic.  

To say the man was economic with the truth was an understatement.

He simply did not tell the truth.   

Jacob Zuma has sung his last song as ANC president. TimesLIVE takes a look back at his tenure leading the party. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here:

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