Carpe Diem Jacob Zuma & South Africa

Lest we forget.

Jacob Zuma was a brave young Freedom Fighter, willing to risk his life to help free his people from the oppression of Apartheid.

No sooner had he joined the struggle for emancipation than he was captured by security forces. He was just 21 years old. After suffering through 3 months of solitary confinement and torture he was locked away for 10 years on Robben Island. In 10 years, he never received a single visitor. He told his mother — a domestic servant, who was not allowed into the house where she worked — to spend her travel money on his siblings’ education.

Just dwell on that for a second before continuing.

Robben Island Prisoners breaking rocks and sewing clothes in 1964

Only Jacob Zuma’s comrades on Robben Island can possibly know what that would have been like, having your life taken away at 21 years old because you fought for what was right.

One has to understand this back story to empathise with Jacob Zuma. To empathise with him, is to understand why he would move heaven and earth to avoid returning to prison — that place that took the best years of his life. Taken unjustly. For doing the honourable thing. Imagine his fear of reliving that horrific experience. The ignominy. The solitude. The embarrassment.

Sure, he has made plenty of mistakes, but who hasn’t? In his mind, he is not going back. No. Ways. He made the ultimate sacrifice. He paid his price. I mean, Apartheid murderers walk freely amongst us today like nothing happened. His jailers! After what they did? Wtf? He’s not going to let that happen. No. F’n. Way.

Not a single stone can be left unturned to make sure that it does not happen. He’s not getting charged. He’s not getting arrested. He’s just not going back to jail. Ever!

What’s the only way to guarantee that that never happens?

Become the Head Of State. Assume the very powers that put you there in the first place. It’s been done before. The playbook has been written by dictators around the world. Make sure that anyone who has any power to prosecute, or hold you to account, is under your control. Make sure you have leverage over them — make sure their own security relies on your mercy. Make sure everyone is on the same page.

If needs be, use every state resource at your disposal to keep that protection network in place, to shut people up, to make them understand that resistance is futile. Resistance is dangerous. Use the state security apparatus to accumulate leverage over all those who threaten you. No-one is squeaky clean. Everyone has a skeleton. Find the skeletons and play offense where needed against those that threaten your security.

With that in place, all you need to do is make sure you stay in power till the end of your days. That way, you remain a free man


All things considered, Jacob Zuma could not have protected himself any better than he has. No stone has been left unturned. Until now.

Keeping those that seek your downfall at bay is a full time gig — it requires undivided attention. Distracted and divorced from the realities on the ground, he genuinely believed that the ANC would rule for the rest of his lifetime — until Jesus returned. He genuinely thought he would be able to maintain his grip on power at the front of the ANC. Or, from behind the scenes if necessary once his Presidential term of office was over — for as long as he has the power to deploy cadres to maintain his protection, he would never again face his deepest, darkest fear.

The celebratory ‘dab’ personified the miscalculation of the LGE results & electorate at large

But, the results of the Local Government Elections of August 2016 have thrown this plan into disarray. The jig is up amongst supporters of the ANC, especially those in the major metros. So while he might be able to maintain control of the ANC until the end of his days, the ANC may not hold power for much longer. Indeed, given it’s trajectory, the ANC could well lose power in 2019.

Jacob Zuma votes in his home constituency, held by the IFP opposition

If that happens, all bets are off. He loses control. The organs of state fall into the hands of his enemies. Those enemies will almost certainly prosecute him on the outstanding charges against him and the many more they contend he is liable for during his Presidency. They may also seek to prosecute friends and members of his family who have ‘benefitted unduly’ from patronage during his rule.

Knowing what we know about Jacob Zuma, do we really think he is going to leave that scenario to chance? From where he sits?

Unlikely. Highly unlikely.

So, the only way he can guarantee that this does not happen is to ensure that the ANC stays in power in 2019 AND to maintain control of the ANC.

But! The efficacy of the Local Government Elections suggest that the election won’t easily be manipulated, bought or stolen. It’s possible in theory but extremely risky — a long shot. And even if the ANC were to win a slim majority, the growing voices of dissent within the ANC suggest that maintaining control of the party is no slam dunk either.

There are risks everywhere down this path. There are too many uncontrollable variables. Too many people who cannot be trusted, cannot be bought or manipulated to maintain the status quo. It’s not a safe option.


There is, however, another option that should factor into his calculus: 
Jacob Zuma could step down from his position under guarantee of prosecutorial indemnity.

He is wounded but not powerless. Don’t forget the spectre that prison conjures for him. He would do anything rather than return to that place. After all, he still has plenty of leverage: the nuclear option of collapsing the economy; ramping up the police state; purging and prosecuting his opponents; and of course reverting to the Erdogan playbook.

Nothing should be discounted when dealing with a desperate and fearful man with the kind of power structure he has at his disposal. The situation is as it is because everyone, EVERYONE, has underestimated the intelligence, cunning and survival instincts of Jacob Zuma.

“I’ll take the whole damned lot of you down with me”.

This is a critical moment.

Much further along the current path and bridges will be burnt. Those comrades being attacked now will have axes to grind and little appetite for a negotiated settlement. There will be no going back. No rapprochement. When that door closes, we move to DEFCON 2.

Jacob Zuma will tear the whole thing down: the election will have to be stolen, opponents purged, a state of emergency declared, riot police and army battalions deployed on every street.

As Nagasaki-like a scenario as that is, it won’t last forever. As sure as night follows day, South Africans will fight back, the wheels of justice will turn, and Jacob Zuma will eventually realise his worst fears: jail. And worse still, perhaps jail for others dear to him.

That’s a lose | lose scenario. Both Jacob Zuma and South Africa realise the worst possible outcome.

Carpe Diem Mzansi

No, this is a time for calm heads. For sane men and women. The sane general, Maj. General Bantu Holomisa , begged in Parliament months ago to “Give us a mandate Msholozi, to handle your exit in a dignified manner”.

Now is the time for the nettle to be grasped and for that mandate to be enacted. Grant Jacob Zuma & his immediate family prosecutorial indemnity on condition that he resigns as Head of State and ANC President by November 2016 and that he will retire to Nkandla and cease involvement in active politics or any affairs of the state. Negotiate a bipartisan guarantee that he will never be sent to jail, no matter who assumes power in the country.

“Give us a mandate, Msholozi, to handle your exit in a dignified manner”
- General Bantu Holomisa, Feb 2016

No doubt this may be a bitter pill to swallow for many South Africans, especially those who have slipped further into poverty during the term of Zuma’s regime, and it raises major questions about accountability and consequences. But, this is not the time for puritanism.

Before the opposition, especially the DA, even think of climbing on their high horse and opposing the idea of indemnity, they need to to reflect on the entire saga of Jacob Zuma, starting from his impoverishment as a child. After all, the DA subsumed into its ranks supporters of the very party that put Jacob Zuma into prison in the first place — the very people who ultimately started this mess.

This is not a perfect proposal. But then again, what can one expect given the complicated and sorry history of South Africa and it’s crime against humanity. All things considered, it’s the least worst outcome: a win win for both South Africa and Jacob Zuma.

Sanity needs to prevail now. Men and woman of integrity, those with empathy and magnanimity, need to stand up and be counted to protect South Africa’s democracy. This is not the time for settling scores. South Africa need leaders from across the political spectrum to step forward and broker this deal for the good of all.

In my very humble opinion, it’s the only viable option. Carpe Diem Mzansi

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