We’ll know you by your fans
Last week, former African Union (AU) Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma returned home after a four-year absence, during which she held a job she did not really want and clearly did not enjoy. She wasted no time plunging into campaigning for the job she really wants: the presidency of the Republic of South Africa.
Some of Dlamini-Zuma’s boxes and suitcases were probably still in transit when she showed up at a “prayer meeting” in Khutsong on Gauteng’s West Rand. The event may have been in a church and there may have been some hallelujahs and amens bellowed, but this was no prayer gathering. Worship was a cover for something much more immediate than the afterlife.
This was the launch of Dlamini-Zuma’s bid for the presidency of the ANC and the republic.
The attire of the congregation and the preaching on that particular Sunday betrayed the true nature of the service.
The apparel of the womenfolk was not very churchy. Those familiar with the hideous uniform of the ANC Women’s League would have recognised the gaudy look of these women, who have gained great popularity for their entertaining performances outside courtrooms. Seriously, do make an effort to go and watch these shows if one ever comes to a courthouse near you.
The speeches contained only a passing acknowledgment of the God whose house this was. It was all about NDZ.
To be fair, the Dlamini-Zuma campaign’s chief sponsor, women’s league president Bathabile Dlamini, did remember that she was in a church and therefore needed to make reference to the owner of the house.
She told the congregation that Dlamini-Zuma was like Jesus because she was “both a lion and a lamb”. Quite what that means I have no clue, but I am sure the power of the Holy Spirit enabled those who were in the House of the Lord to decipher the parable.
And I am sure the Holy Spirit also helped them understand this next gem: “She is fearless and simple. Truth never runs away from her tongue. She is a leader with two ears.” Huh?
Dlamini-Zuma herself did not leave much to interpretation when she told the congregation that Africa needed more female leaders and it was time for South Africa to follow the lead of Liberia, which leapfrogged over many established democracies when it elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president 11 years ago.
A democracy that did not give due place to the majority – women – was not a true democracy, she said, adding: “We must be there in the ruling of the country.” Preach, sister, preach!
It is a good thing that Dlamini-Zuma and her followers are defying Luthuli House directives by openly campaigning. An above-board campaign such as the one launched by NDZ last week enables the public to scrutinise her and the people around her. It helps us to understand who may rise with her and wield influence in her administration, thereby determining the culture of her tenure.
In that Khutsong church on Sunday there were faces that should raise concerns about a future Dlamini-Zuma regime. Singing along to the hymns was one Des van Rooyen, a native of Khutsong who went on to bigger things. Bigger things that the people of Khutsong are not all proud of.
A known acolyte of the Guptas, he is most famous for being one of the main pawns in the family’s brazen state capture efforts. He was party to one of the worst calamities to befall South Africa’s economy in recent times. In fact, he is just a calamity himself.
Also feeling the Holy Spirit was Kebby Maphatsoe, the guy who wears ill-fitting fatigues and pretends he was once a real soldier. Another proud asset of the Guptas, the chair of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Military Veterans’ Association is at the forefront of the war against corruption.
Maphatsoe’s glue to the Guptas is as strong as the substance that keeps the mop on US President Donald Trump’s head firmly affixed. He is currently embroiled in an ugly dispute with former MK members about the whereabouts of their moneys and the association’s investments. Not a sweet, saintly soul, this one.
Also swaying to the hymns was a man who really needs prayer: Humphrey Mmemezi. Once regarded as one of Gauteng’s filthiest and dimmest politicians, Mmemezi was forced to resign from his provincial Cabinet post over a litany of serious breaches of ethics. He was really, really bad and clumsy with his crookedness.
One of his smartest moves was buying a painting from McDonald’s using a state credit card. He then tried to hide the R10 000 purchase by disguising it as burgers to that value. Really smart.
Word on the street is that the so-called Premier League – the informal ANC lobby group led by the premiers of Mpumalanga, Free State and North West – has fallen out of love with Dlamini-Zuma.
But the fact that they were in her corner in the first place begs the question as to why they saw her as someone they could travel with. Knowing what we know about them, and the fact that at least two are Guptarites, raises further questions.
Dlamini-Zuma may well be the best person to lead this country – if she wins in December and if the ANC wins in 2019. She may surprise us by not protecting the person whom everyone thinks she will protect. But what of the company she is keeping?