Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS
Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

You couldn’t make 2018 up. We started the year with Jacob Zuma looking and sounding like he was going mad. And we are ending it with the man who moonlights as the president of the US — when he takes a break from playing golf and tweeting — seemingly going cuckoo thanks to his legal troubles.

In January Zuma’s "radical economic transformation" (RET) candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, had just been handed a humiliating defeat at the ANC’s Nasrec conference in December.

Everything changed for Zuma, the erstwhile strongman of the party.

The Cyril Ramaphosa brigade was baying for his blood. The most vocal of the RET advocates were hiding under their beds.

Even Bathabile Dlamini, who masquerades as a "leader" of the ANC Women’s League and RET, was quiet as a mouse. Zuma — alone and defeated — seemed to be on the verge of a breakdown.

Remember that phantasmagoric interview with the SABC on Valentine’s Day? He claimed the ANC leadership had not provided him with reasons why he should resign as the president of the country.

"I need to be furnished [with reasons] on what I have done. Unfortunately, no-one has been able to provide what it is that I have done," he fulminated in response to the last of several visits he had received from his comrades in the ANC asking him to pack up and leave the creature comforts of the Union Buildings.

Jacob Zuma. Picture: AFP
Jacob Zuma. Picture: AFP

South Africans were aghast. He didn’t know what he had done?

Let us count the ways, many said, donning their Elizabeth Barrett Browning caps.

There is the bit about sleeping with and impregnating your friends’ daughters. There is the bit about enriching your family and friends through government contracts. There is the bit about the country being run by the Gupta family. There is the bit about unemployment, low growth, growing government debt and of course the institutions (the SA Revenue Service, and so on) that have been brought to their knees. There was the bit about the nuclear deal that would bankrupt the country.

"Where should we start when counting your misdemeanours?" cried the Twitterati.

On the evening of February 14 this year Zuma finally, finally vacated the presidency. A sigh of relief went up across the country.

Those who had never felt any hankering for organised religion suddenly found themselves wanting to mouth a prayer – or two.

SA has many, many problems. Economic growth is still rubbish. Inequality is widening. Poverty is endemic. All that said, SA is a much better, far more hopeful place than it was under Zuma, any day. The only regret is that we, and the ANC, took so long to get rid of a man that some of us were warning the country about way back in the early 2000s. Better late than never, I guess.

We end the year with Donald Trump — a man who has spent the past two years bullying, ranting, flip-flopping, alienating, dividing, mansplaining and offending virtually everyone sensible in the world — reflecting on the very real possibility that he could be facing formal, well, jail time.

We end the year with Trump reflecting on the possibility that he could be facing jail time

Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is going to jail — in part for making a hush-money payment of $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels, with whom the US president allegedly had an affair. Trump is now alleged to have been in the room when the payments to Daniels and another woman were made.

Trump won’t go to jail while he is president, of course. The US justice department has a long-standing policy that a sitting president cannot be charged.

However, the minute that Trump leaves the White House the very same justice department can, and most likely will, charge him.

Trump’s current term ends in 2021. The only way he can put off that date with destiny is to win the presidential election in 2020.

Otherwise he is toast.

What a year, hey? Even with all the hard stuff, though, SA is a better place. The world — from Theresa May’s Brexit Britain to Trump’s America — may yet follow and write a positive chapter. We must hope.

Merry Christmas.