Conspiracies or not, Jacob Zuma must account

Former President Jacob Zuma
Former President Jacob Zuma
Image: Alon Skuy

If there is one thing that we should have learned from our politicians over the past decade, it is that many of them have become adept at shifting the goalposts; some more so than others.

A politician is accused of doing one thing or another and, instead of responding to the direct charge, they resort to political conspiracies; blaming their woes on "dark" but unnamed "forces" that are out to get them for one reason or another.

More often than not there is always a group of people ready to believe the politician to be a victim. They take to the streets to demand that the investigations should be stopped as they see them as persecution.

If the politician is wily enough, we would soon use this perception of his "victimhood" as a political current to sweep him into higher office.

It is a trick that has worked many times and, because of that, our country is poorer. Political leaders whose moral and ethical conduct mean they should be nowhere near public office do not just end up being embers of parliament or provincial legislatures but can rise to the very top of a province or even the republic, just because we have bought into the idea that they are victims of persecution by a rival in their party or a foreign intelligence agency.

All of this happens because we, as the voting public, allow it to happen. We are quick to be seduced by conspiracy theories and counter-narratives instead of insisting on political leaders to account for their alleged crimes, abuse of power or any other indiscretion.

Former president Jacob Zuma's first day of appearance before the Zondo commission was dominated by his old - but not well reported - claim that he is a target of an international conspiracy that dates back to 1990.

He'd have us all believe that all the scandals associated with him over the years, from his relationship with convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik to the R200m upgrades at his Nkandla home and his controversial relationship with the Gupta family were all as a result of a "plan" by unnamed intelligence agencies.

Whether such conspiracy existed or not, Zuma has to account for what happened under his watch when he was the president with the duty and power to protect the country's sovereignty.

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