Tag Archive: Jacob Zuma

(Written 15 December 2013)

Dear All,

With the demise of Nelson Mandela still dominating everything in the news this week, including the advertising, South Africans return again and again to the question, “How did it all go so wrong in the new South Africa? How did it happen that we started heroically with the ANC of Mandela, and a brief decade and a half later, we are saddled with the corrupt and incompetent ANC of Jacob Zuma! At the same we ask rather dolefully, “What can be done to right the ship?”

In thinking of this, the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens came to mind. I first heard this poem recited in 1971 by my good friend Giles Tayelor. We were steaming across the Indian Ocean at the time and I remember the dramatic moment vividly. The two of us were engineer cadets on the SA Vergelegen and he, being a SACS boy and all, had been taught poetry at school. (I had had no such luck having been sent to a technical school.) On that afternoon the blue-black sea was quite rough with storm clouds overhead and we were looking out over the aft deck at the wake of the ship when he told how, in the poem, “the lift grew dark, and the wind blew loud, and gurley grew the sea. The ankers brak, and the topmast lap, It was sic a deadly storm”. He recited how the sailors tried valiantly to keep the ship afloat until (depending on the version you read) “a bolt flew from our gude ship’s side, and the salt sea it came in…”  And as every well-educated schoolboy knows, Sir Patrick and the good ship did not survive, the poem ending poignantly, “Half-owre, half-owre to Aberdour, ‘Tis fifty fathoms deep; And there lies Sir Patrick Spens, Wi’ the Scots lords at his feet!” http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/child/ch058.htm

Of course, what makes the story so heroic is that it all started out with hope. Hope that the treacherous journey to bring the king’s daughter back from Norway could be achieved, the poem beginning: “The king sites in Dumferline town Drinking the blude-red wine; “O whare will I get a skeely* skipper To sail this ship of mine?” O up and spak an eldern knight, Sat at the king’s right knee; “Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor That ever Sail’d the sea.”  ”    *skilful

In 1994 we started out with hope, but when we look at the storms gathering in all quarters of South Africa today we see that the “lift is growing dark and the wind is beginning to howl”; and to illustrate the warning signs I draw your attention to the rather strange case of Thamsanqa Jantjie who was appointed by unknown to sign, for the deaf, the speeches at Mandela’s memorial service on 10 December 2013. It is a case that epitomizes the strange world of Jacob Zuma; something captured perfectly by Zapiro.

Zapiro and the interpreter

Zapiro and the interpreter

 Now, before you say the president cannot be responsible for everything, may I say that  I know that Jacob did not appoint the interpreter personally, I know that mistakes happen, and I know that in the bigger scheme of things, Thamsanqa Jantjie’s blatant lies about his being a qualified interpreter for the deaf is a relatively small thing, albeit a sad one. I know that there are fraudsters and shysters all over the world, but consider the circumstances of his appointment.

 The Sunday Times of South Africa, dated 15 December 2013 (p. 3) informs us that the head of the ANC’s religious and traditional affairs desk, Bantubahle Xozwa, happens to own South African Interpreters, the company that employed Jantjies. For these ‘services’, South African Interpreters included in their bill an invoice from another company, Asange Image Studio. The reason being that images are required “for all appearances” of SA Interpreter’s workers. You may well ask why another company is required to provide something that could so easily be acquired in-house until you find out that Asange Image Studio is owned by Cikizwa Xozwa, Bantubahle’s wife. Cikizwa also happens to be the office manager for Jackson Mthembu, the ANC spokesman; small world this. It seems that SA Translators and Asange have done quite a lot of business with the ANC and here is the cherry on top, their “invoices to the ANC all have the same false address and registration number”.

If all of this sounds a bit like everything else that surrounds Jacob Zuma, but you are not convinced, here is the clincher. When it was asked who Jantjies was, remember, this is a man who had been given top security clearance to be in the inner circle with people like the President of the United States, and it was asked how he came to be appointed…, nobody knows! The ANC’s Jackson Mthembu tells us Jantjies’ “services were secured by the government”, but conceded that the ANC has “utilized his services over the years”. Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu, the government’s deputy minister of women, children and the disabled (by every account a totally dysfunctional department) is quoted as saying that her department did not hire Jantjies. Furthermore, she “did not know who had”; adding that “somebody, somewhere, is lying”. Err, yes, that is one of the few things we worked out pretty quickly.

As noted, this little episode epitomizes Jacob’s administration; everything about it is “so totally Zuma”. In the Zuma world it is OK to provide a mediocre service and defraud the public. We have ample evidence of how those in the inner circle of ‘number 1’ have license to feed from end-to-end through the country as though it were a trough. In the Zuma world it is OK for cabinet ministers to cheat on travel expenses and to botch substantial tenders (Joemat-Peterson), no matter what the cost to the country’s natural resources. And if you get found out, well, just hang in there, the Secrecy Bill is just around the corner to protect the government’s flops. In the Zuma world it is OK to spend an unauthorized MR200 (US$20,000,000) on yourself while pretending it is for your security because if you are the president surrounded by a sycophantic coterie of security ministers, you can have your private home in the rural midlands at Nkandla declared a national key point; while at the same time your friends can land their private airliners at the Waterkloof Airforce Base, a real military installation in a built-up area, because that can be declared… “not be a national key point”. And all the while those actually responsible will know nothing! It is pure Zuma.

So we ask ourselves again, how can the hope we had be saved? Where will we find a skilful skipper to sail this ship of State for we have seen ‘the new moon with the old moon in her arm’, and we know that if we are to continue this way ‘we’ll surely come to harm’. Who can sail South Africa away from the storm that is the accumulation of the corruption, lies, mediocrity and feigned ignorance that characterizes the administration of Jacob Zuma; an administration spectacularly symbolized by the mumbo-jumbo of the delusional Thamsanqa Jantjies?




(Written on 13 October 2012)

Dear All,

Once upon a time there was a president of a struggling country. The suffering people of the land had been exploited by their political masters over many years and as their lives became more and more miserable the desperate citizens turned to their smiling, dancing president for the requisite leadership that had hitherto been absent. The people looked to their president for words that they could understand, for words that would inspire them, for words that would make it possible for them to see their way forward. As it happened, at that time, an election was looming and there was a small possibility that the president may lose his #1 position of privilege at the State’s feeding trough – a position he was very keen to retain because he was misappropriating a great deal of the peoples’ money to build a giant castle for himself at Inkandla – and so he went to speak to his old friends, the ANC’s Umkonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association.

But instead of saying things that could be plainly understood by the ex-soldiers and the nation, the president spoke in metaphor. He told them that a previous President of the ANC had warned them to “beware of the enemy within”. He told them not to get into busses if they did not know where the bus-driver was going. He gave them the surprising news that fraudulent and corrupt leaders were alien to the ANC. Without being specific, he told the veterans to “remain vigilant” in guarding against those who lobby for positions.

Zuma stumping for a second term

In listening to the president’s metaphoric messages I was reminded of the Macbeth skit from the BBC 60s & 70s radio show, I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, a show featuring John Cleese, Graeme Garden, Jo Kendall, David Hatch, Tim Brooke Taylor and Bill Oddie. In the following piece, Macbeth is giving instructions to the murderers:

(Read the whole wonderful script at http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=83483 or listen to it starting at 16:45 at http://www.myoldradio.com/old-radio-episodes/i-m-sorry-ill-read-that-again-macbeth/3)

Lady Macbeth: Macbeth, we must put an end to Banquo and his son Fleance, I have hired two murderers.
(knock knock)
Lady Macbeth: That’ll be them.
(enter two murderers)
Macbeth: Ah, you must be the…
Murderers: exactly.
Macbeth: As you may know, I have a little…
Murderers: inconvenience?
Macbeth: Exactly, I was hoping that it could meet with a little…
Murderers: shall we say… accident
Macbeth: My very words.
Murderers: there is of course the question of…
Macbeth: Say no more.
Murderers: Splendid.
Macbeth: So you will…
Murderers: Quite.
Macbeth: And it will be…
Murderers: Naturally.
Macbeth: Then I think we…
Murderers: Understand each other? Good.
(exit Macbeth)
Murderer 1: What have we got to do?
Murdered 2: I’ve absolutely no idea.
Announcer: The next day, Banquo was murdered, but his son Fleance escaped. When Macbeth heard this, he tore his hair and stamped on his rabbit.

The problem with the metaphorically speaking president’s exhorting of ex-soldiers to do something about an ill-defined enemy is that it is not clear who the corrupt, misdirected bus-driver may be. Who is the enemy lobbying for a top position by the bulk-buying of members (in ZwaZulu-Natal)? Surely the president wasn’t referring to himself… or is there someone else in the ANC guilty of these alien tendencies?

Sadly, this fairy tale does not appear to end happily ever after.



(Written on 27 May 2012)

Dear All,

In 2004 George Ellis was awarded the Templeton Prize and in an interview titled Science and Hope (July 2005) on American Public Media’s  Speaking of Faith, in which he discusses a wide range of important topics, he speculated that had George Bush reacted differently to the al-Qaeda 9/11 attack in 2001, the outcome could have been quite different, and by implication, a much better one. The full interview is well worth listening to and can be heard at http://www.publicradio.org/tools/media/player/speakingoffaith/20050707_scienceandhope

George Ellis – Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Complex Systems at UCT’s Department of Mathematics

In essence Ellis suggested that if the attackers had not been demonised as they were, but had been engaged in a way that goes something like, “I don’t understand why you did this. I want to meet with you in some neutral country so that you can tell me why you acted in the way you did”, the outcome may not have been the terribly destructive Iraq war that followed. I think Ellis was quite right, but sadly George Bush was a president looking to punch someone on the nose in revenge. Anyone’s nose… and Saddam Hussein fitted the bill. I was living in the USA at the time and well remember the rhetoric in which the Rambo mentality swamped rationality. In a ghastly, numbing way the Hollywood (entertainment) model of simply killing people as a solution to conflict became an awful reality. For leadership to move a nation in a way that is bigger than the need to hit back calls for what Ellis describes as ‘kenosis’, and it certainly is a much more difficult route to take, calling for a real President.

Nelson Mandela was such a President

After all the injustices meted out by Apartheid and almost unimaginable personal sacrifice, Nelson Mandela proved to be bigger than all of that. Who can ever forget the way in which he spoke to the Nation on the 10th of April 1993 on the assassination of Christ Hani?  

We are a nation deeply wounded by callous, uncaring men who plot such heinous crimes with impunity.

The cries of our nation are heard from old men who bury their sons and daughters, wives who weep for their husbands, communities who endlessly bury young and old, infants and pregnant women.

This killing must stop.

Chris Hani championed the cause of peace, trudging to every corner of South Africa calling for a spirit of tolerance among all our people.

We are a nation in mourning. Our pain and anger is real. Yet we must not permit ourselves to be provoked by those who seek to deny us the very freedom Chris Hani gave his life for.

Let us respond with dignity and in a disciplined fashion.”

Once again South Africa was saved by a greatness that is still astonishing. http://www.nelsonmandela.org/omalley/index.php/site/q/03lv02039/04lv02133/05lv02149/06lv02150.htm

And now?

South Africa’s current president

Now we have a president unable even to defuse the crude parodying by an artist. We have a president who when accused of soliciting a bribe in the heady days of the New South Africa’s ‘arms race’ demanded his day in court so as to clear his good name… only to make certain that that day never came. We have a president who has left the country, as Julius Malema described it, on auto-pilot; and all the while an industry of toadies seeks to dismantle the Constitution in order to hide their nefarious activities and to become the new BOSS* of South Africa.

Surely the ANC still has enough good men and women in it to give us a President once again.



PS: *BOSS: Bureau of State Security. See South African Public Service Amendment Act of 1969 and the State Security Council Act No. 64 (1972)

PPS: Some months ago I had the opportunity to sit next to George Ellis at lunch and was dying to ask him about that interview, but didn’t. I was so concerned about making a fool of myself that I never spoke a word to him.

(Written 12 Feb 2012)

Dear All,

I did not listen to the president’s state-of-the-nation address to the South African people on 9 February 2012 because I cannot sit through a speech by a man who in my view has no credibility.

Sure the beaming Jacob seems affable enough and he will probably be a good guy to have at a party – a considerable number of women appear happy to share their bed with him – but I cannot listen to him speak without being reminded that there is something deeply disturbing about a nation that selects as its leader a man who, when as the minister of economic affairs of ZwaZulu-Natal, was in the pay of a fraudster; and when confronted with that fact he demanded “his day in court” only to spend a great deal of effort making sure that that day never came. Moreover, I cannot but wonder how this nation accepted a man in its highest office who, when in charge of the nation’s moral regeneration program, seduced a distraught woman young enough to be his daughter; that in spite of his already having three wives at homes. I ask myself how reliable a leader a man would be who, by now with four wives, produces a child out of wedlock with yet another woman, to add to his already sizeable brood of thirteen? That when the nation is burdened with many, many fatherless homes. I wonder how we can take seriously a man who never says anything one would bother to quote. And as he speaks I am reminded that his only contribution to the politic of the day has been the ‘Zuma manuva’ – a verbal slight-of-hand that promises jobs that don’t materialise, that claims to fight corruption while introducing a secrecy bill, that praises teachers for good work while they are actually on a go-slow strike, that puts municipal clean-up projects in hand without their having the capacity to carry them out. Most of all, I cannot help thinking that the relationship he has with Gupta to all intents and purposes appears to reflect what he once had with Schaik.

All-in-all, I cannot listen to the president without asking myself if the expectation of the ANC is actually so low that it is accepted that Jacob Zuma really is as good as it gets?

In a fine book by Luigi Barzini, The Italians (Penguin, 1968), there is a chapter titled ‘Mussolini or the Limitations of Showmanship’, and when one reads that chapter there is the invitation to consider the future of South Africa in the light of how the Italian public was seduced by Mussolini. I don’t suggest we make a comparison of Fascism and the ANC’s policies (Is nationalisation really in or out?), but that we consider how the Italian people went along with their flawed leader’s charades until it was too late to turn back. Barzini writes, “Trying to find out what really happened, one gets lost in a complex psychological labyrinth, bewildered by an Italian play of mirrors reflecting each other’s distorted images. There is no doubt, to begin with, that Mussolini deceived the people. He used deceit as a tool to govern with. The thing is not deplorable in principle. All great statesmen have had recourse to occasional distortions, misinterpretations and outright lies” (p. 171). But in the end, the Italian public had to turn from Mussolini’s speeches in which he told them of glorious military victories, fabulous industrial output and improving life-styles, to look at the actual defeats, the industrial failures and the poverty brought about by sycophantically following a leader who smiled and smiled, but had no integrity.