The Big Read: Zuma becomes a Groot Krokodil
It might be hard to believe but there is a silver lining to the shameful scenes at last week's State of the Nation speech.
It is this: the days of the presidency of the empty suit that is Jacob Zuma are numbered. The country has turned against him. He has turned against the country. He has now entered his final march to Nkandla.
Zuma walked into the House on Thursday having already turned popular sentiment against his presidency. Thousands of police were deployed in the people's parliament. Soldiers in full uniform walked up and down the red carpet after he asked for a doubling of defence force personnel for no apparent reason.
Zuma himself, paranoid and afraid of his own people, was surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards. It was as if we were watching Die Groot Krokodil back in 1985, unable and unwilling to cross his own Rubicon.
Zuma faced a country that is crying out for economic growth and jobs. These are two areas in which he has failed dismally since he took over in 2009. Instead of taking this challenge by the scruff of the neck and giving us real plans and timelines, he waffled on about a concept (radical economic transformation) he seems to barely understand or to have thought about deeply.
That told us all something. He is desperate.
The August 3 municipal polls, in which, under his leadership, the ANC lost major metropolitan governments, rattled him profoundly. That is why he has stolen from the EFF playbook - suddenly he wants land, he wants the mines and he wants the farms. Nothing wrong with that, of course, except that it is all words. No action will come of it. He speaks radical language on the one hand but is a sheep when he has to act.
Worse, he talks tough on land, for example, when he knows full well that the legislation he spoke about in his State of the Nation speech is neither new nor radical.
Zuma told the nation that he would refer the Expropriation Act back to parliament for more public participation, so that it could continue to pursue land reform and land redistribution in line with the constitution. Radical? No. New? No. Any indication that this policy will be pursued with vigour? No.
Zuma then said the government would continue to implement the Strengthening of the Relative Rights programme, also known as the 50-50 programme, in which farmers sell half their land to farmworkers.
That is also a grand plan, but neither new nor that radical.
Further, one cannot help but be cynical about Zuma's land consciousness when Minister of Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti is reported by the Sunday Times to have influenced the sale of a R97-million farm to an ANC crony.
The farm fell into disrepair immediately after Nkwinti's crony took over.
That is the type of rot that underlies Zuma's newfound enthusiasm for "radical economic transformation".
His policies are not about the people. They are about looting the fiscus for friends and family.
It won't last, though, and Zuma knows this very well. Over the next few months watch as more of these types of deals are done.
The truth is that this year's State of the Nation speech had nothing new to offer a country begging for good news and plans that can be implemented. Zuma has run out of ideas. His comrades in the parliamentary benches know that he is taking them towards a cliff edge, and many will now be working to get rid of him.
This was Zuma's last State of the Nation speech as leader of the ANC. Next year, he will not be able to make up policy on the hop as he has been doing lately. He will have to listen to the ANC and, given that his machinations to get his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to take over are taking strain, he might have to listen to a president who is not too enamoured of him.
That man might be Cyril Ramaphosa, who is now reportedly so disgusted by his comrade that they barely speak to each other.
What happens in January next year? The new national executive committee of the ANC will meet to prepare its January 8 statement and after that will hold a national executive committee lekgotla to give direction to the cabinet.
Everyone in the room at that meeting will be painfully aware that a national general election will be due in 18 months.
Do they want Zuma to be president as the ANC campaigns? Who in that room will want to be the person trying to justify Zuma's legion of scandals?
Someone will raise his hand. Another will raise his in support. The new ANC secretary will do a tally. It might be curtains for Zuma, removed by his own comrades.
If his comrades don't rid themselves of Zuma next year, Gauteng and perhaps two other provinces will fall into the hands of the opposition at the 2019 elections.
Then it will be curtains for the ANC.