AN apology from Jacob Zuma, unaccompanied by his retirement plan, more especially his immediate resignation, is like an apology from an abusive boyfriend. No matter how much the abusive party tries to believe the abuser, she knows the next beating is around the corner.
The president’s apology, well crafted and as Richard Poplak described it in the Daily Maverick, “quantum spinning”, sounded like the April Fools’ joke it was. The more Zuma spoke, the more you gasped in disbelief at the level of unthinking fools he takes South Africans for.
“I wish to emphasise that I never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the constitution, which is the supreme law of the republic,” said Zuma. “I wish to reiterate that any action that has been found not to be in keeping with the constitution happened because of a different approach and different legal advice.”
Abusers think the abused have short memories. Zuma and the ANC think we have forgotten the insults they hurled at public protector Thuli Madonsela.
Like an abuser calls the abused all sorts of names, Zuma’s ardent supporters called her a spy, dismissed her remedial action as “mere recommendations” and accused her of playing God, among other insults.
The apology or non-apology could be forgiven for being relegated to an April Fools’ joke.
“I respect the judgment and will abide by it,” Zuma said. “I have consistently stated that I would pay an amount towards the Nkandla non-security upgrades once this had been determined by the correct authority.”
He continued, “The matter has caused a lot of frustration and confusion, for which I apologise, on my behalf and on behalf of government.”
Is that it? No apology for turning parliament into a monumental joke, no apology for disgracing our beloved country, no apology for using democratic systems to evade accountability, no apology for downright lying to us, no apology to the public protector and her office when she advised you to take her reports to be reviewed by a court of law?
This was not an apology. It was to save face against the turning tide inside the party and South Africans.
Zuma’s version of normal and citizen’s normal remain evidently different. The man has no grasp of the complex thinking needed to govern a modern and complex democracy such as ours.
This to me was evident from his rape trial. Sentiments like the woman wore a skirt and therefore was asking for sex were a deal breaker to begin with.
Interestingly, the division in sentiments from people in the ANC are quite different from the injury that is being inflicted by the likes of secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete.
One ardent ANC member described Zuma as an induna (headman) who is fit enough to talk about a neighbour stealing another neighbour’s chickens, and not to run South Africa. Another one described him as an impuku (a mouse) that simply destroys everything in the house.
These views, permeating the ground among branch members of the ruling party, differ from the views displayed over the weekend by the top echelons of the ANC. One can be forgiven for laughing when Zuma, the ANC and Mbete suddenly now have clarity on the matter and as Mbete describes it, it “provided lessons on dealing with Chapter 9 institutions”.
It is equivalent to treating the damning constitutional judgment like an advisory committee rather than with the reverence and seriousness it deserves.
It boggles the thinking mind why the ANC, clearly rooted in patronage, cannot keep Zuma as ANC president and recall him as the president of the country. It had no legal grounds to recall former president Thabo Mbeki as the president without going through parliamentary process.
In Mbeki’s case, the party should have recalled him as the ANC president and not the country’s president.
This is the sentiment Zuma and the ANC are failing to read. Zuma and the ANC are displaying a lack of complex thinking needed to govern a modern democracy while maintaining much needed organisational renewal.
As the electorate, we now have to imagine what going to bed with this man through putting an X next to his face in the upcoming local elections means for us.