The R400k bill may Shaik you a little, but at least Zuma is free as a birdie

The former president got one in (and out) the hole – not too Schabir there, Jacob

Former president Jacob Zuma has been granted medical parole. File photo.
A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME Former president Jacob Zuma has been granted medical parole. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Volksblad/Mlungisi Louw

The news that taxpayers have forked over almost R400,000 so Jacob Zuma could be busted out, sorry, I mean “treated in a private hospital” might look somewhat scandalous at first glance.

It is, after all, absurdly offensive that a man who has cost the country billions is costing us yet more, just so that he can wriggle out of his punishment for demonstrating contempt for the commission he himself instituted.

Then there’s the obvious parallel with Schabir Shaik, measuring out the last few decades of his tragically truncated life in rounds of golf and puffs on cigars.

It all just seems so insultingly obvious, so depressingly unoriginal. I mean, I’m not expecting some Stefano DiMera supervillain ingenuity, like Zuma faking his own death, or cloning a twin who serves the 15 months for him, but would it have been so hard to put a new spin on the old Shaik Manoeuvre?

Certainly, I would have felt much more warmly towards the former president and his enablers if they’d cooked up a small escalation of the hackneyed “terminal illness” schtick, perhaps via a stunning revelation by Zuma’s “doctors” that he had, in fact, been decapitated in a tragic car accident in 2009, and had been kept alive since then through the miracle of stem cell therapy and the judicious application of Marmite.

However, the current global shortage of Marmite (which is a real thing, by the way) had derailed his treatment completely — alas, Bovril just doesn’t work as well when it comes to reattached, reanimated heads — and the president was now fighting for his life with nothing to help him but millions of rands and the apparent protection of the prison service.

Yes, it’s all deeply annoying. But I would like to point out a couple of very small silver linings to this cloud.

The first is the relatively tiny amount involved.

I’m as sick of ANC plunder as the next exhausted milking cow, but I have to concede that, by the standards of the Zuma administration in its pomp, R400,000 is barely enough to send a goat and two chickens to Mamma Magic’s Pet Grooming Emporium in Nkandla.

Then there’s the indisputable fact that private healthcare can be extremely expensive, especially when you’re trying to treat someone whose skin is made of Teflon.

And that’s not even factoring in the drama that happens every time a doctor comes near Zuma with a needle, what with Mzwanele Manyi leaping out of the bedside cupboard, screaming “To the king!” and throwing himself on top of Zuma to form a protective layer of spin. Given all of that nonsense, anything less than a million bucks seems downright austere.

But perhaps our greatest consolation lies in how closely Zuma seems to have emulated Shaik.

Yes, it’s cynical. Yes, it’s insulting. And yes, it’s laughably transparent. But let me ask you this: when last have you heard of Schabir Shaik? And would you have heard about him at all if the odd newspaper editor hadn’t sent the odd journalist to go and track him down on his golf course?

No, the fact is that once you get medically paroled in SA, you disappear. And if making Jacob Zuma disappear from public view forever costs R400,000, then I say it’s an absolute steal.

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