In his heartland, Zuma is a victim

18 February 2018 - 00:00 By CYRIL MADLALA
President Jacob Zuma talks with King Goodwill Zwelithini during the the annual reed dance at eNyokeni Royal Palace on September 6, 2015 in KwaNongoma.
President Jacob Zuma talks with King Goodwill Zwelithini during the the annual reed dance at eNyokeni Royal Palace on September 6, 2015 in KwaNongoma.
Image: Gallo Images / Daily Sun / Jabulani Langa

As the political sun set for Jacob Zuma last week and many across the country rejoiced to see his back, his key constituency - the ordinary, poor, unemployed folk in KwaZulu-Natal - will be blissfully oblivious of the mess he is leaving the country in because it is Msholozi's word they believe.

The master tactician of political smoke and mirrors, Zuma would have been aware of the importance of taking this constituency along with him in the past few weeks and minutes as power slipped from his grasp.

He may have come across as rambling and incoherent when the public broadcaster gave him a platform to explain himself to the nation as he resisted the inevitable moment of a recall by his beloved ANC.

He would never defy the ANC, and was therefore not refusing to resign, he protested.

Yet, as he disagreed with the decision to recall him, he was waiting for the ANC to provide him with the reasons to relieve him of his duties.

"What have I done wrong?" was the refrain.

Goodwill can be hard to maintain

Zuma may still be counting on King Goodwill Zwelithini’s support, but the king will be aware that it is now President Cyril Ramaphosa whose co-operation he needs in sorting out issues such as the control of traditional land

The subtle message was that if the ANC was aware of any wrongdoing on his part, it would have taken corrective or disciplinary measures against him.

Failure to act against him was proof that he had done nothing his organisation did not approve of. After all, had he not survived numerous votes of no confidence in parliament?

More important, he argued, it was not a matter of trying to cling to power at all costs.

He did not care about the privileges and perks he stood to lose if he did not resign. After all, he had not joined the ANC for those benefits. All he cared about was justice, respect for the constitution and his own rights.

That was vintage Zuma playing the victim card - he has been hard done by, but for the sake of the ANC and the country he has agreed to step aside.

Importantly, as he resigned he said: "I have also been disturbed by the instances of violence that have occurred because of the different views among members of our organisation outside our headquarters. No life should be lost in my name and also the ANC should never be divided in my name."

Now the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal wants Zuma to come along as it visits various constituencies to explain the national executive committee's decision to curtail his term of office and to drum up support ahead of the election next year.

He may have sounded "delusional" to others, but the import of Zuma's message about his dismissal is having the desired effect among his supporters - he is a victim once again.

As he indicated during the SABC interview on Wednesday, he had become aware even before the December national conference that some senior leaders of his organisation wanted him removed before the end of his term.

No doubt, when Zuma visited King Goodwill Zwelithini as pressure mounted on him to resign, he would have discussed his options and sought the king's counsel.

While they get on well and respect each other, they would have been conscious of the rapidly shifting sands of KwaZulu-Natal politics and the king's increasingly widening sphere of influence.

All major parties and political players these days trip over themselves for an audience with the king.

Julius Malema has been there with his EFF, the different ANC slates went there ahead of the national conference to pay their respects, and even Mmusi Maimane and his DA followers have been at the Zululand palace to hail the king.

At the moment, traditional leaders in KwaZulu-Natal and the king are up in arms over Pretoria's proposals to strip the Ingonyama Trust Board of the power to administer land under their control.

Where Zuma will find
joy and support in KZN is the suspended ANC
provincial executive committee

That was the matter raised sharply with Cyril Ramaphosa when he visited the king to introduce the new ANC leadership after the December conference.

Now, for all their mutual love, the king would be well aware that Zuma is no longer the man to go to to get the ANC and the government to reconsider meddling with Zulu ancestral land.

In other words, rather than command his warriors to fight Zuma's ANC battles, the king would be inclined to seek fruitful engagement with Ramaphosa on the land question and not alienate him politically.

Where Zuma will find much joy and support in KwaZulu-Natal is the suspended ANC provincial executive committee that supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the ANC presidency in December. That is also the faction that had the backing of the ANC Youth League and Women's League.

A coalition of the wounded could emerge from this axis if the new Ramaphosa administration lives up to its promise to fight corruption and the Hawks pounce on Zuma and other senior provincial leaders.

For now, Zuma can still ride on the victim ticket in KwaZulu-Natal.

After all, aren't the corruption charges a conspiracy? Wasn't the Nkandla homestead debacle the fault of some corrupt officials? Wasn't there nothing wrong with his son Duduzane being afforded businesses opportunities by the Guptas?

The list might be endless, but the tragedy is that for Zuma and many others who support him in KwaZulu-Natal, he is a victim of circumstances not of his own making.

Maybe one day he will talk and reveal the evil forces at work, as he promised many years ago as he sang and danced his way to victory in Polokwane and the Union Buildings.

Madlala is a former newspaper editor