Madiba’s death may offer poll boost to Zuma and the ANC
A WEEK ago, President Jacob Zuma was a leader on the back foot, ridiculed in a front-page cartoon by a newspaper accusing him of blowing R200 million of public money on a security upgrade to his private home.
Seven days later, he has gained some political respite through the death of Nelson Mandela, an event of such enormity in the “Rainbow Nation” that Zuma’s troubles could be banished from headlines well into next year.
Seldom comfortable in setpiece events, Zuma delivered the news of Mandela’s death late on Thursday with rare gravitas – a very different figure from the cartoon character depicted sipping a cocktail and floating in a pool of cash in last week’s Mail & Guardian newspaper.
The weekly dealt Zuma a serious blow with a report alleging the security upgrade to his Nkandla home included a cattle enclosure and swimming pool – referred to in state documents as a “fire pool” on the grounds it could double up as a water reservoir for fire-fighting purposes.
“It’s been a very tough couple of weeks for Zuma, this week in particular with all the fall-out from Nkandla,” said William Gumede, a political analyst at Wits University. “But Mandela might offer him some kind of reprieve. At least people’s minds are off him for the time being.”
The ANC has stood by Zuma over the Nkandla accusations, saying it believed he had done no wrong. The president’s office has not commented.
The 101-year-old ANC is also likely to make political hay out of Mandela’s death, especially with an election less than six months away.
Although there is no chance of the former liberation movement losing its overall majority, its share of the vote has been waning since the advent of democracy.
In 2009 it won fewer than two thirds of votes.
With so-called “Born Free” post-apartheid voters coming on to the voters roll for the first
‘There is a downside – that the comparison between the two becomes impossible to ignore’
time in 2014, unencumbered by the emotional ties of their parents to the liberation struggle, analysts say that percentage could drop sharply.
However, Mandela’s death and the 10-day funeral proceedings that are set to follow are likely to serve as a reminder to young South Africans of the huge sacrifices made by Madiba and his party.
Businessman Philip Sikhumbuzo, 35, reflected the feelings of many when he woke his two small children in the middle of the night and took them, still in their pyjamas, to Mandela’s home in Houghton minutes after Zuma’s announcement.
“It’s late but this is one day in history and I want my children to remember who Mandela was,” he said.
However, putting Mandela front and square in its election campaign also carries risks for the ANC, not least because it will merely highlight the yawning gulf in stature between South Africa’s first black president and its fourth.
Besides the Nkandla imbroglio, Zuma’s five years in office have been tainted by scandals and gaffes, from the fathering of a love-child with the daughter of a close friend, to a dismissive quip about the state of the roads in nearby Malawi.
Before he came into office in 2009, he had a record that prompted Germany’s Stern magazine to refer to him as “The Black Berlusconi”, a comparison to the scandal-plagued Italian politician.
He was tried in 2006 for rape. Although he was acquitted, he admitted he had failed to wear a condom despite knowing his sexual partner was HIV positive, and had taken a shower after sex to minimise the risk of infection, raising serious questions about his judgment.
Three years later, he escaped trial for corruption relating to a multibillion-rand arms deal when state prosecutors withdrew charges.
Mandela, by contrast, was held up as a pillar of probity and virtue, a man who, on trial for his life, stood up in the dock in 1964 and declared he was prepared to die in his quest for a democratic and free South Africa.
“The ANC mobilisation and public face will be very much represented by Mandela for now, so it does allow the focus to go off Jacob Zuma, and in the election the ANC will in effect be fronting itself with Nelson Mandela,” said political analyst Nic Borain.
“It’s an appropriate strategy given the kind of trouble the president has been in, but there is a downside to that – that the comparison between the two becomes impossible to ignore.” – Reuters IN THE light of Nelson Mandela’s death the ANC has postponed a meeting of its national executive committee (NEC) that was to have started yesterday.
The party leadership was to have put the finishing touches to plans for its election manifesto launch next month, and to finalise lists of candidates for Parliament and the provincial legislatures.
Instead, ANC officials met provincial party leaders and alliance partners yesterday to plan the party’s remembrance programme for Mandela, spokesman Jackson Mthembu said. The NEC later visited Mandela’s Houghton home.
An NEC meeting and list conference would be held from December 17 to 19.
Joburg was special to him, says mayor
THE CITY of Johannesburg held a special place in the heart of Mandela, mayor Parks Tau said.
“It was here he started his career and his quest for the liberation of our country and it was to Johannesburg that he returned after a lifetime of service to the nation,” he said.
Tau said Mandela’s memory would live on through city landmarks named after him, such as the Nelson Mandela Bridge in the CBD and Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton.
“We honour his memory and, as a city, we will continue to build on the legacy he bestowed on us. We will continue to build a united, nonracial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.”
E Cape premier salutes ‘true hero’
MANDELA will be remembered as a true hero, Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet said.
“We… salute the sacrifices made by Madiba, his family and his generation for us to enjoy democracy and freedom,” she said.
“He was everything to all people.”
Kiviet said Mandela possessed rare skills, and was in a league of his own.
“We would have been easily tempted to jealously claim him as our own, but we recognised that his towering stature as a symbol of freedom and peace transcended the rural boundaries of Qunu, his birth place, into the world for the benefit of all humankind.”
‘He unified world against injustice’
MANDELA will for generations to come be celebrated as the world’s greatest freedom fighter, statesman, icon, role model, unifier and selfless servant of the country’s people, North West Premier Thandi Modise said.
“His love for humanity and children has left us a legacy, built a monument in all of our hearts,” she said.
“If there is any single person that has ever touched and unified the world against injustice… it was Madiba.”
Modise also referred to the dignified way that Mandela had “fought against illness and old age in the past few months of his life.
LEAN ON ME: President Jacob Zuma at mourning for Nelson Mandela.
media briefing yesterday to announce the arrangements for the official 10 days of