Many of us suspected it, but now we know for sure that President Jacob Zuma doesn’t see himself as President in the first place, but as the boss of the ANC, writes Max du Preez.
On Sunday the emperor whipped off the G-string that covered the last of his shame
Democracy or not, this is a very big deal. The party is more important than the state, the people.
With that, Zuma also implied that if he had to choose between our Constitution and the interests of his party, the Constitution would come second. And there we were, thinking all the time he simply didn’t understand what a constitutional democracy meant.
If you’re not a loyal ANC cadre, you’re a second-class citizen. Based on the 2014 election results, that’s about four out of 10 South Africans. Comrades come first. OK, we suspected that, but now it’s official.
Zuma and his lapdogs have now destroyed any argument that disrespecting Zuma was tantamount to disrespecting the highest office in the land. He is, after all, a party politician before he is president.
A call to intolerance
Those who lobby for a withholding or avoidance of tax now have a little bit more legitimacy. We taxpayers will apparently soon have to fork out something like R4bn for a new jet for the ANC leader, they will say, or point out that the ANC leader’s wives cost the taxpayer about R16m per year.
In 50 years’ time, historians will refer to Zuma’s statement on Saturday when they attempt to analyse his term as President.
However outrageous Zuma’s statement was, it wasn’t the most dangerous thing he said at the ANC’s KZN conference. He also declared: “ANC branches must make it impossible for any counter-revolutionary grouping to mobilise our people and lead them astray.”
This is Zuma speaking, and in KZN, so no, he couldn’t have been asking branches to market the party more efficiently. This was a call to intolerance, and we shouldn’t be surprised if some in his audience understood it as a call to strong-arm tactics against opposition parties.
Zuma’s vicious and personal attacks on respected ANC stalwarts Kgalema Motlanthe (Zuma’s predecessor as President, remember?) and Frank Chikane were also a call to intolerance. “Don’t provoke us too far. Don’t,” he warned. “No one is bigger than the ANC. They are cowards. Just an unnecessary irritation. And we may not tolerate this for too long.”
Clearly Zuma is on the warpath. He feels under siege. It means we will see the Real Zuma in the months ahead: the ruthless one that had sharpened his talents as head of the ANC-in-exile’s feared intelligence machinery.
Luthuli House, the domain of secretary general Gwede Mantashe, reacted with a respectful and conciliatory statement to Motlanthe’s criticisms of the ANC at first.
“The ANC wants to affirm Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe as a leader and voice of reason who has always been on the forefront of raising pertinent and thought-provoking questions within the structures of the ANC. He remains a critical opinion maker on how we as the ANC should confront internal challenges on matters that, if unattended, could materialise as future problems. The ANC embraces his forthrightness and willingness to provide leadership beyond formal structures of the organisation.”
Number One used the sjambok
Cosatu, whom Motlanthe had criticised directly, issued a sober statement saying it didn’t agree with him, but added: “The federation still holds the former ANC Deputy President in high regard and we always appreciate his views and opinions. He is one of the sharpest minds and principled leaders to be produced by our revolutionary alliance.”
Then, three days later, Mantashe surfaced with an opinion piece in his own name, directly questioning Motlanthe’s bona fides. “On the one hand you position yourself as an insider-turned-outsider, but at the same time you want to leverage former relationships for personal, political or other gain.”
There can be only one explanation for the radical change of mind within three days: Number One used the sjambok. There was no way that Mantashe didn’t approve that first statement.
Zuma’s new belligerence can mean that he will silence all dissenting voices, neutralise his opponents and ruthlessly govern until 2019.
But it could also be that he is underestimating the resentment in his own party towards him and overestimating his own power, which could mean he will not last longer than the ANC’s elective conference in 2017.
If that happens, hopefully we’ll then get someone that all of us can call our president.