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Former President Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS/Rogan Ward
Former President Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS/Rogan Ward

There’s is something distinctly hallucinatory about the call for rebellion from Jacob Zuma, the constitutionally delinquent former president.

Speaking at a funeral for Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s brother in Bulwer on Friday, Zuma called on ANC members to “rise and save the ANC”.

According to a recording obtained by the Sunday Times, Zuma said: “In our structures, let us stand up — let us ask … questions from the leadership, they must come explain what went wrong.” 

Zuma also moaned about how the ANC had implemented the “step-aside rule”, which has marginalised the faction of the party close to him, including Ace Magashule and Carl Niehaus — both of whom have been suspended by the party.

The former president’s declaration of war thrilled the periodically orphaned Carl Niehaus. “You are absolutely correct,” Niehaus said, “and we will follow your clarion call that we as ANC members should rise and save the ANC.”

This hypocrisy will surprise no-one who has witnessed Zuma stomp all over the country’s constitution for more than a decade, dismantling institutions of accountability, installing inept cronies at the levers of state power and handing over the keys to the country to the Guptas.

Zuma, after all, is the man who presided over the ANC’s fall from 66.3% of the vote (in the 2006 municipal elections before he took over) down to 55.7% in the last municipal elections, in 2016, before he was booted out. 

That’s an eye-popping 10.6% slide. 

Zuma also has the distinction of being the only ANC president to lose control over three metros in one election during that that 2016 rout — Joburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. 

Do you think Zuma was at all keen to “come explain what went wrong” that time? Do you think that Zuma, a textbook narcissist skilled in portraying himself as the victim not the perpetrator, would have supported the ANC members who “rose up” against him after that?

Not for a second. As usual, he embraced delusions.

In campaigning during the 2016 elections, Zuma repeated his mantra that the ANC would rule forever. “I hear people complaining when we say the ANC will rule fully until Jesus comes back, but we have been blessed. Pastors have prayed for us,” he said.

Clearly, he needed a new pastor. Voters, however, were blessed, when Zuma was rumbled out of office a few months later.

And, say what you like about President Cyril Ramaphosa, he did something Zuma couldn’t: Ramaphosa’s first election saw ANC support actually rise, from 55.7% in the 2016 local government elections to 57.5% in the 2019 national elections.

Which isn’t to say Ramaphosa’s tenure has been a success. The glacial pace of pretty much anything — particularly economic reform — means SA is still in darkness without a hint of any “new dawn” on the horizon.

But this is partly because he indulged the kleptocrats and cronies left over from the Zuma era, choosing to keep them inside the tent rather than booting them out.

Like, say, Arthur Fraser.

Zuma, of course, shouldn’t have been at any funeral, calling for a revolt. He should have been behind bars, serving the rest of his 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court.

Only, the man that Ramaphosa appointed to be correctional services commissioner, Fraser, overruled the body set up precisely to consider medical parole in instances like this, and released Zuma early because he “feared unrest”.

This should never have happened. The medical parole advisory board met in September, and refused Zuma’s application because “his treatment had been optimised and all conditions have been brought under control”.

Fraser overruled that decision. 

And doing so was illegal, argue the DA and Helen Suzman Foundation, since the Correctional Services Act says you can only grant medical parole if a convict is “suffering from a terminal illness or condition or if such an offender is rendered physically incapacitated as a result of injury, disease or illness”.

As Zuma’s presence at the funeral last week showed, this is hardly the case. That he’s using his unwarranted freedom to call for rebellion is yet more evidence of how little regard he has for the constitution he swore an oath to protect.

Ramaphosa said he only got to hear about Zuma’s release “once the decision was taken — [Fraser] took the decision as he is entitled to … as he is the commissioner”.

Only, as the DA argues, Fraser is not entitled to do that. 

And now Ramaphosa is likely to rue Zuma’s ahistorical call for “accountability” — something Zuma himself was entirely allergic to during his ruinous eight years in power.

But you should have expected nothing less. The ANC, poisoned and splintered more by Zuma than anyone else, is now eating itself. 

Rose is editor of the FM

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