By his friends - thugs, smugglers and scofflaws - shall you know him
If you want to know a man and judge his character, look no further than his company. If he keeps the company of upright, refined and law-abiding men, he himself is probably a man of integrity. But if he walks in the company of rogues, criminals and hooligans, that man is probably a scoundrel himself.
This is why it should not be difficult to find out what kind of a man President Jacob Zuma is - just look closely at who he counts among his closest friends. You will see that though our president is not known for unwavering loyalty to his friends, he certainly feels comfortable in their circle of corruption.
Revelations in this paper today about the first family's close ties to tobacco smugglers, self-confessed fraudsters and money launderers do not come as a surprise to many of us who know this man.These details are contained in an explosive new book by crack investigative journalist Jacques Pauw. Titled The President's Keepers: Those keeping Zuma in power and out of prison, it will open a can of worms. For the first time Zuma's tax bill is revealed, with the book putting it at just over R60-million.
You would have read elsewhere in this paper today about how controversial and flamboyant businessman and tobacco smuggler Adriano Mazzotti has emerged as a financial backer of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's presidential campaign. Dlamini-Zuma will go up against Cyril Ramaphosa for the party's presidency at the ANC's national elective conference in December.
The book claims that Mazzotti donated election material including T-shirts, caps and shirts to the Dlamini-Zuma campaign. This is the same man who has admitted, in an affidavit and under oath, to owing the taxman in excess of R600-million in unpaid taxes.
The relationship with tobacco smugglers does not end with Dlamini-Zuma and Zuma. It extends to other members of the Zuma clan, including the president's eldest son, Edward. Tobacco smugglers have, for several years, been paying Edward tens of thousands of rands every month to buy his political influence.
But most shocking of all is the revelation that Zuma, in the year he was sworn in as the fourth democratically elected president of South Africa, was also drawing a R1-million monthly salary as an "employee" of a private security firm. The company, Royal Security, is owned by another one of Zuma's dodgy friends, Roy Moodley. This revelation means that while he was president of the country, Zuma was also a "ghost employee" at Royal Security.It is an uncontested fact that some of the president's friends are corrupt, self-serving, morally bankrupt men and women who are often found on the wrong side of the law. One of his closest friends, Schabir Shaik, was sent to jail for paying him a bribe. This is why these new revelations do not come as a surprise at all.
We expected nothing less from this man. He is, by the way, the same man who once told the nation to deal with the fact that the Gupta brothers were his friends. Asked by an opposition politician in parliament if he was prepared to cut ties with the Guptas, Zuma responded: "Every human being has a right to have friends ... We are not in the state that bans people because they have friends with others."
Clearly there is a problem with the president's circle of friends. His own party is as concerned as we are about the friends the president keeps. Four months ago Mzwandile Masina, the party's regional leader in Ekurhuleni, pleaded with Zuma to ask his friends to allow the ANC to govern this country.
"Comrade President, let's ask the Guptas to give the ANC space to conduct the revolution. We do not mean to choose friends for leaders of the ANC, but there is a limit to everything. We cannot surrender the sovereignty of the ANC and the revolutionary causes in this particular process," Masina said.
Who can blame Masina when even the likes of Glenn Agliotti claims Zuma as a friend?