Giggling Zuma delivers a 'see no evil' masterclass at ANC policy conference

02 July 2017 - 00:01 By ranjeni munusamy

President Jacob Zuma glances up from reading the ANC national policy  conference programme. His eyes scan the massive hall where ANC delegates, guests and a huge media contingent are gathered to hear him speak at the start of the six-day conference.
His gaze settles on some elderly ANC members seated at the front. They are less well-known ANC stalwarts and veterans. The more prominent former freedom fighters, among them legends whose names are engraved in history, are absent - deliberately so.
Zuma gives the B team a broad smile and then a double thumbs-up.
The photographers sitting on the floor in front of the stage love it. It's a picture that captures the political moment even before the president starts speaking.
Zuma is gleeful and projecting that he is in charge.
The withered look he wore at his birthday celebrations in April, the day about 100,000 people arrived on his front lawn to demand he step down, is gone. Zuma is back in performance mode, preaching unity, mocking his detractors, giggling, singing, dancing, pretending his capture is still unexposed.As usual, everything is inexplicably coming up roses for Zuma - or so he wants the world to believe.
His harshest critics and the voices of morality in the ANC are not at the policy conference. Without meaning to, the ANC elders who have tried for months to jerk the ANC into confronting Zuma's disastrous leadership, have played into the president's hands.
By boycotting the conference, the stalwarts and veterans wanted to convey that the gathering was fatally flawed and incapable of proper introspection. But legitimacy and integrity are not Zuma or the ANC's concern.
Zuma's game-plan is to keep the ANC in its state of acquiescence, affirming and applauding his constant failures and wilful disasters.
The ANC's preoccupation is with power - even if it has to pretend it still has it.
In a sign of his extraordinary chutzpah, Zuma blamed some of the country's economic woes on those in the ANC who have spoken up about its decline.
In his speech on Friday, he said public criticism of the ANC by its leaders and members constituted ill-discipline and the organisation needed to deal with its problems internally.
"Some members and leaders of the ANC have become primary conveyors of negative information about their own movement. The challenge for the country is that this irresponsible, perpetual negative messaging by our own people has a negative impact on the economy."We also need to be able to differentiate between self-criticism and the furtherance of certain interests and agendas," he added.
Zuma has a unique way of dealing with internal challenges and resistance. Were it not so depraved, it would be sheer genius - the type of tactic that would make Vladimir Putin smirk.
Zuma simply pretended everyone at the policy conference was on the same side with the same objectives - even though the ANC is perforated by factional battles.
While it is mainly him that has been on the receiving end of negative court judgments, he translated the "lawfare" against him into a problem for the entire ANC.
"Why in a democracy must we spend money to go to court for everything ... is that the democracy we want?" he asked.
"When the opposition is defeated they say, 'OK, we are going to court.' A debate in parliament these days ends up in court."
This was counter to democracy, Zuma said.
While the Guptas' control and fleecing of the state is turning out to be the ANC's greatest shame since taking power, the president maintained the pretence that "capture" was an undefined and unspecified concept.
He said while the ANC supported the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry, there needed to be analysis and understanding of what was meant by state capture."We need to know what business interests have sought to influence the ANC and its government over the years, with what impact and what must be done to end the said state capture," Zuma said.
So if Zuma has it is his way, the ANC will be lulled into a general discussion about the pervasive influence of business on politics, rather than confronting how he allowed the Guptas and their network of con artists to commandeer the state.
But where Zuma proved that he is truly beyond redemption was his mockery of the stalwarts and veterans who have tried to get the ANC to mend its ways.
These are people who claim to have ANC values, he said, his voice dripping with derision. "They wanted their own conference, they think they have power," Zuma said.
Some of the veterans in the front row to whom Zuma gave the thumbs-up earlier now cluck-clucked to join in the ridicule of their comrades.
It was a gesture from Zuma to the legends of the ANC - but using another finger.
• This is the first of Munusamy's weekly columns...

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