Zuma fan extols icon 'in all his glory'

Don Makatile

Don Makatile

One Zuma supporter who sings a particularly sweet version of Nearer to thee, my Lord, is Phindisile Xaba.

Popularly known as MaMkhize, the Msinga-born mother of five has become a permanent feature outside the various courts the clean-shaven ANC deputy leader has appeared in.

The end is nigh, she sighs in faultless isiZulu. It certainly has been a very long trip for her and other Zuma supporters, she nods in contemplation.

Like all children of the time who - born on the farms in and around Tugela Ferry - had to earn their stay on plots by tilling the land like their parents, MaMkhize did her fair share of what she now considers slavery.

"I was paid in sacks of mealie-meal and brown sugar," she recalls. "Never money."

When she looks back, she says that this is the kind of hardship Jacob Zuma's selflessness has freed them from.

She has only kind words for Zuma. "He forsook all just so you and me can have the kind of life worthy of a human being."

She rattles off the countries Zuma was active in during the years in exile, like she was reading from a book. For a person with a mere Standard 4 (Grade 6) education, her knowledge of the struggle years is impressive.

Like her idol, she's proof that an elementary education or total lack thereof is no impediment to a life above that of mere hewers of wood and drawers of water.

She says she is steeped in the traditions of the ANC and was a member from the time membership cards were still no more than pieces of card box.

She came to Johannesburg in 1996 to set up home in Ivory Park, Tembisa - one of the first informal settlements in the country.

Her children go to school in the area that grew from a mere shanty town. She did not know Zuma personally before the court dramas, she says, but was drawn to his plight by the injustice she saw visited on him.

A highly spiritual person, she says she foresaw Zuma's rape accusation in a dream and told a comrade about it. In the vision, she saw herself walking naked into Zuma's house.

Hardly two days later, it was headline news: "My comrade thought I was a witch."

She'll be the first to decry rape, she says, but warns that women should not use their bodies to lure men into temptation. "How do you walk into a man's house, scantily clad, spend the night and cry rape eight whole days later?"

She's been everywhere the law has taken Msholozi - Durban, Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg. "Sometimes I hardly ever use my money. People in the movement offer me lifts and money."

She's particularly a darling in the taxi ranks where drivers offer her the best sitting places, more often than not, at no fee, she says.

She has also been to Zuma's rural homestead in Nkandla, where 10 cattle were slaughtered to celebrate one of Zuma's few court victories.

They are on the cusp of cele- brating yet another victory, "maybe the biggest so far" as Msholozi is, in her words, obviously going to be elected the next ANC president.

"We don't want the third term," she says, "We don't want another Mugabe."