An au­di­ence (well, al­most) with ‘Prez Ja­cob Gupta’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

FUNNY how, in one of his in­fre­quent ap­pear­ances in the National As­sem­bly, Ja­cob Zuma, or “Pres­i­dent Gupta” as he is now known, should sug­gest op­po­si­tion MPs who boy­cotted his clos­ing speech on the Bud­get de­bate were ne­glect­ing their du­ties.

Fun­nier still was his dis­missal of the “al­le­ga­tions and ru­mours” of state cap­ture by the Gup­tas, which came even as leaked e-mails and doc­u­ments con­tin­ued to dis­gorge an em­bar­rass­ment of riches to the con­trary.

As the pres­i­dent pointed out to the empty op­po­si­tion benches, he does in­deed en­joy laugh­ing. What else can you do but laugh? Es­pe­cially when your pop­u­lar­ity has plum­meted so dra­mat­i­cally in re­cent months.

Sev­eral com­men­ta­tors have sug­gested Zuma’s pop­u­lar sup­port is down to about 20%. Can there be such a thing as an un­pop­u­lar pop­ulist politi­cian?

That aside, Zuma cer­tainly did seem a bit more cheer­ful and jaunty as he railed on about politi­cians who be­lieve their own pro­pa­ganda and what have you than he was at the week­end’s ANC national ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing in Pre­to­ria.

There, in his clos­ing re­marks, Zuma had laid into his crit­ics in the NEC who had sup­ported se­nior party strate­gist Joel Net­shiten­zhe’s mo­tion call­ing on him to re­sign, even threat­en­ing them. “I have been quiet be­cause I don’t want to harm the ANC, so con­tinue at­tack­ing me in the me­dia and you will see.”

Such talk is not to be taken lightly. Just ask Solly Ma­paila, the sec­ond deputy general sec­re­tary of the SA Com­mu­nist Party and an out­spo­ken critic of Zupta Inc. A bunch of heav­ies call­ing them­selves the MK Foun­da­tion be­gan protest­ing out­side Ma­paila’s home on Tues­day, with a TV crew from the Gupta-owned ANN7 chan­nel in tow, in what the SACP claims was an or­ches­trated act of in­tim­i­da­tion di­rected at their leader and his fam­ily.

In­ter­est­ingly, EFF leader Julius Malema had warned Ma­paila in a tweet the day be­fore that he was be­ing threat­ened be­cause “the old man is not happy with him and any­thing is pos­si­ble”. Although we won’t ad­mit it now, there cer­tainly were some of us who be­lieved that with the tabling of Net­shiten­zhe’s mo­tion there was a good chance Zuma would be ousted.

Con­trary to re­ports that more than half of the NEC’s mem­bers were op­posed to Zuma, only 23 voted for the mo­tion. Still, at least 18 mem­bers did speak out against him. And rather than leave the room, he chose to re­main and lis­ten to his de­trac­tors.

What they said must have en­raged Zuma. He tore into the Gaut­eng ANC lead­er­ship in par­tic­u­lar, say­ing that they couldn’t blame him for their em­bar­rass­ing losses in the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions and sug­gested it was their own fault, bizarrely, as they had re­fused to hand out T-shirts bear­ing his name when they cam­paigned in the prov­ince.

Such ut­ter­ances speaks vol­umes of the con­tempt for vot­ers. And don’t think the vot­ers don’t no­tice.

The party did pre­sum­ably hand out the ap­pro­pri­ate T-shirts, along with the food parcels and goodie bags, in the run-up to last week’s by-elec­tion in Nquthu, KwaZulu-Na­tal. But, for all the good that did, the once mori­bund Inkatha Free­dom Party pulled off an ex­tra­or­di­nary vic­tory here, in Zuma’s own back­yard.

Such set­backs were con­ve­niently for­got­ten by those elated Zuma sup­port­ers at the NEC meet­ing, one of whom was the Min­is­ter of Po­lice, Fik­ile Mbalula. He told The Star that it was the party vet­er­ans and stal­warts who wanted Zuma to step down who were the real prob­lem here.

“We can’t be black­mailed by the stal­warts who are filthy and stink­ing rich be­cause they ben­e­fited from (black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment). If they have made up their minds to sell out, they must leave the ANC out of it,” he said.

“We won’t be lec­tured by them. They mas­quer­ade as peo­ple who are gen­uinely con­cerned about the ANC, but we know they are not.”

Umkhonto we Sizwe Mil­i­tary Vet­er­ans As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man Kebby Maphat­soe said much the same thing. “Those who want Pres­i­dent Zuma to step down are the ones who are rich. Some of them are long-serv­ing cab­i­net min­is­ters, they have good pen­sions.”

Or­di­nar­ily, a com­ment to the ef­fect that there’s none so blind as those that won’t see would do, but it would seem we’re deal­ing with folk who go to sleep wear­ing hel­mets fash­ioned from tin foil to pre­vent their brains from be­ing in­fected, gamma ray-like, from any­thing re­motely re­sem­bling rea­son, com­mon sense or ra­tio­nal thought.

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