Trapped in blind loyalty

HANDS OFF:  Supporters of then Deputy President Jacob Zuma demonstrate  outside the Johannesburg High Court during his rape trial in 2006. Photo: Tyrone Arthur
HANDS OFF: Supporters of then Deputy President Jacob Zuma demonstrate outside the Johannesburg High Court during his rape trial in 2006. Photo: Tyrone Arthur

Army of sycophants the power behind Zuma

IT WOULD be laughable were it not so tragic. So invoked with regularity, this phrase might soon lose meaning if it hasn't already.

Such is the state of our politics surrounding its leading character, President Jacob Zuma.

He is the only president who survives through people's support - in many cases unwarranted - and yet gives nothing in return.

It all started before he became president. During his rape trial, throngs of people - "ruralitarians", the unemployed, tribal warlords - camped outside court to support him.

In one of the camping sessions, critical intellectuals who had raised concerns about Zuma's conduct were labelled "dogs" by one of Zuma's staunchest campaigners.

Whenever he appeared in court in relation to the corruption charges, traffic would come to a standstill as supporters rallied around him. This kind of mob support did not end with his acquittal on rape charges or when the corruption charges were dropped under circumstances which the courts are still to validate.

During his rise to power, Zuma, through his shrewdness and ability to please everyone, at least for a short period, cultivated a powerful army of sycophants.

They would come in handy at a later stage. Indeed, no sooner did he set foot in Mahlambandlopfu state house than presidential blunders became the norm.

And for each blunder, an automatic alarm went off, signalling a rallying cry for the sycophants to deal with those who dared question his probity - or lack thereof.

When his personal misdemeanours were revealed, the sycophants went on a defensive strategy, saying Zuma was not the only leader who is generally challenged on matters of fidelity.

Their defence of Zuma has been heightened - despite the fact that he has off-loaded some of the verbal warlords like Julius Malema, his former poodle.

More than ever before, Zuma needs support from ordinary citizens. He can barely stand on his own. It is hard to imagine him stripped of power. What will he be? And the painful truth is that citizens will get nothing from him.

A self-styled imbongi analyst recently suggested that Zuma needs just one big idea to leave a lasting legacy. This, the imbongi analyst suggested, could come in the form of the infrastructure plans. What the imbongi analyst would not say is that infrastructure was a priority for the previous government.

Zuma's government has correctly positioned itself to fast-track it as a counter-cyclical measure to lift the economy. But this was made possible by the fiscal stance, often opportunistically referred to as "neo-liberal offensive" or "96 Class Project". Had it not been for the prudent fiscal management policies of previous years, Zuma would not have had room to appoint the biggest-ever cabinet, giving some left-wingers izikhothane status they have always craved.

But that's another matter.

What is immediately galling is that the weaker Zuma appears, the more he needs to be defended, even for ridiculous things using ridiculous methods.

The Spear, an ugly piece of art that should have been ignored, was converted by his blind loyalists into something of a national crisis. Much energy went to waste. Even a taxi driver lost his job for joining the anti-Spear protest.

In Parliament, opposition MPs who are not a threat to the ANC are being kicked out for raising issues about the National Prosecuting Authority's refusal to hand over the so-called spy tapes despite a court ruling.

Editors who publish commentary critical of Zuma are labelled a "wild pack of dogs" by pretentious communists, part of the presidential sycophantic group. In addition, they are threatened with Stalinist statutory tribunals that would make nonsense of freedom of the press enshrined in the Constitution.

Fortunately, the ANC has wisely insulated itself from some of the anti-civilisation noises.

By failing to censor SMSes critical of Zuma the state-owned broadcaster stands accused by the sycophants of not loud-hailing and defending Zuma.

Those punted to contest Zuma in Mangaung get threats from former members of the now defunct Umkhonto weSizwe, styling themselves as a military detachment defending "the movement and our people". Can someone tell them the ANC has abandoned the armed struggle and is now a governing party!

Things got more ridiculous the other day when Helen Zille and her publicity-hungry coterie decided to visit Zuma's luxury villa-cum-compound that is costing the taxpayer a fortune. People put themselves up as human shields to stop Zille from getting closer to Zuma's home.

Shouldn't such brave people volunteer to help the police to fight crime?

To top it all, the pretentious communists are proposing new Mugabesque measures to protect Zuma. They want legislation which, for lack of a better description, we shall call a President of South Africa Protection of Dignity Bill. The bill will make derogatory comments about the president illegal and punishable.

I thought the Boeremag were the only group with plans to drive us, black people, to Zimbabwe. But when right-wing elements connive with pretentious communists to achieve the same objective, then we are damned. There is no escape route.