Justice Malala: Zuma far from down and out

The temptation to “call it” is huge. When Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, or the public protector – or one of the many other brave South Africans who are standing up against corruption and theft – manages to engineer a victory for the forces of good, we all start using those key words – turning point, inflection, the final straw that broke the ANC’s back.

Careful, now. The demise of President Jacob Zuma has been “called” many times by many experts. They have all been wrong. Ten years ago, he was accused of rape. Last week, his rape accuser died.

When a man sleeps with his late friend’s young daughter, you would think he would be ostracised by his society. Zuma became president.

When a man has more than 783 counts of fraud, corruption and racketeering hanging over him, you would imagine that he is the furthest one could be away from the most powerful office in the land. Zuma got voted in not once, but twice. With a 62% majority.

This, despite impregnating another of his friend’s daughters.

Justice Malala
Justice Malala

This, despite the rumours swirling around that he takes his orders from a bunch of crass businessmen in Johannesburg’s Saxonwold suburb.

The past week gave us yet another glimpse of just how rotten Zuma’s relationship with the Gupta family is.

The man faced tough questions from Thuli Madonsela, the former public protector. Zuma knew that the rotten apple was about to be cut open and the worms were about to crawl out.

And so he did what he knows best. He went to the courts to stall, to dissemble, to use every legal nook and cranny he could find to wriggle out of the tight spot he finds himself in.

It is amazing just how slimy an individual we have in the Union Buildings today.

Just read Gordhan’s court documents released at the weekend and you shudder at the depth of the rot in our body politic.

Zuma and his friends are not happy to just be bent themselves, but they have groomed their sons to be the carriers of their ill-gotten gains.

This week’s revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. The numerous transactions detailed in documents by the Treasury to the court are but a small sliver of information about what it was exactly that went down.

One day we will read with horror the names of those who were paid, those who colluded and acted corruptly.

One day we will understand what Zuma and Cooperative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen were so desperate to hide this past week.

We already have an inkling. The BBC suggested on Friday that phone records put Van Rooyen at the Gupta home the evening before Nhlanhla Nene was unceremoniously kicked out by Zuma in December.

The evidence of collusion and corruption just keeps mounting up. The latest revelations have therefore led to many saying: “Surely this is it? Surely it is over for Zuma now? Surely the ANC must cut him loose?”

Yet be careful in proclaiming that this is the last straw.

Zuma is not an enemy one can afford to under-estimate.

Ask those who campaigned for Thabo Mbeki in the ANC’s presidential race in the run-up to Polokwane in 2007.

They relied on public shock at his antics and utterances to stop him. His comments about taking a shower after sex with an HIV-positive person were supposedly going to torpedo him.

Yet no scandal, no matter how disgusting and revolting, touched Zuma. He simply does not care. Neither do his supporters. It is all water off a duck’s back. He just keeps going, swatting criticisms and enemies aside.

He is the ultimate survivor. He will survive this weekend’s revelations too.

Sure, three ministers and Cyril Ramaphosa supported Gordhan at the weekend. That is four members of a 34-member cabinet.

Add perhaps another six who have the same instincts. That means two-thirds of the cabinet still backs Zuma.

In the crucial 110-member national executive committee of the ANC, Zuma has about 60% support from the likes of the intellectually challenged Kebby Maphatsoe, Bathabile Dlamini and Collen Maine (who on Saturday called for a war in defence of Zuma). This is the only body that can fire Zuma. There is no doubt the battle is intensifying. The stakes are getting higher. The crooked nuclear deal and others have to be signed – and quick. Neither side will give in or give up.

What we have seen is yet another round in the ongoing battle.

The good guys have won a round. The bad guys are suffering a bloody nose after trying to stick fraudulent charges against Gordhan.

But it is not the end of the fight. Zuma is still fulminating, still angry, and like the villain in a horror movie he has many lives.

Just when you think he is down and out he returns to wreak havoc.

Expect a very long and turbulent political year ahead.

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