Helplessness and worry. Those are the overwhelming feelings experienced by South Africans as we watch the Jacob Zuma situation being played out. If ahead of the weekend there was the chance that the rule of law would be enforced, all hopes were dashed when the ANC made public their allegiances and their loyalties. Since Sunday, lines have been drawn, and there is little doubt as to which side of Nkandla fence, members of the ANC are standing.
This is probably why the Kenyan proverb, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers” was a constant reference of the situation, on social media. With mock charges, trumpet sounds and stamping of feet, there is little doubt that carnage will follow and that the damage will be significant.
As if we didn’t have enough to keep us up at night. The Covid crises, the bungling of the vaccine rollout and 3rd wave preparation along with our standard worries of the dire economic situation and rising unemployment left us no time at all. Add this hot mess to the mix and it seems unlikely we will see a restful night until sometime mid 2022.
There are days when being South African is very confusing. There are days when we shake our heads in bewilderment, convinced that there are things we must be missing. Because it cannot be as bizarre and dangerous as it seems.
Sunday July the 4th was one of those days. It was a day that did damage on so many levels.
The news that Jacob Zuma’s contempt of court charge that was final and binding and the end of the road was none of those, was deflating. The optics outside Nkandla where no Lockdown laws were enforced was infuriating and that the current President, Cyril Ramaphosa, had once again gone the silent route was all too much. It was a day that begged for leadership, from the police, from the NEC or from the President. But there was none. Instead, we saw Ministers attending rallies of support for a delinquent and convicted former President on whose shoulders rests the responsibility of the corruption and theft. Around him, rallied his enablers, still eager to impress the man as his power flickers and spurts much like the electricity supply of his looted nation.
For a short time we were told that “Zuma will be addressing the nation.” He was doing nothing of the sort. He was addressing the media. And in doing so, followed his playbook and oscillated between being the victim and threatening to tell all. The biggest lie being that he was not afraid to go to prison. His behavior tells another story completely.
As if the lack of leadership from President Ramaphosa wasn’t enough of a concern, Sunday was a clear demonstration that the Covid protocols are only for the beach goers and those trying to earn a living.
One morning in December, after the irrational closure of empty beaches along the Garden Route, I sat along the wall at the entrance to the beach, coffee in hand, and watched the police arrest people who had been caught swimming. At the time, we had discussed as family what we should do. We knew that the regulations made no sense and would not contribute towards COVID safety, but as parents we also were cognizant of the lessons we teach. We made it clear that as foolish and as frustrating as it would be, we would be adhering to it. In our case the impact was our family alone. How much more so if someone is a member of a political party.
The fact of the matter is that if someone doesn’t respect the ruling of the constitutional court, why would they care about Lockdown regulations?
And yet, Sunday might in a strange way be the best thing to happen to country. The loyalties within the ANC have now been publicly noted. The commissioner of police has stated his allegiance to the Zuma faction and will live by his decision to do so. If handled correctly, Cyril Ramaphosa now has a unique opportunity to purge the party of the corrupt and lead with the support that he hasn’t had until now.
That said, not to be a coward or anything, but it might be a good idea if the rest of us keep off the grass until all the trumpeting is all over.