Re­brand­ing of tainted Zuma should be re­jected with the con­tempt it de­serves

Business Day - - LIFE - CHRIS THURMAN

Five years ago, I got into trou­ble with some read­ers of Busi­ness Day for com­plain­ing that South Africans too read­ily sub­scribe to the mantra, “Don’t speak ill of the dead.” This was after the demise of Louis Luyt, whose obit­u­ar­ies high­lighted his rise from fer­tiliser sales­man to rugby ad­min­is­tra­tor and glossed over his role as apartheid pro­pa­gan­dist.

For­give and for­get: two dan­ger­ous words when it comes to politi­cians.

If the re­brand­ing of Ja­cob Zuma is any­thing to go by, how­ever, the Zuma camp is quite con­fi­dent that South Africans don’t have to wait for some­one to die be­fore they are will­ing to for­give and for­get. The man who used to be pub­lic en­emy num­ber one is now be­ing pre­sented to us as a so­cial me­dia sage, a de­fault mem­ber of the pan­theon of ANC stal­warts, and (God help us) a record­ing artist.

This is all de­press­ingly pre­dictable, not least be­cause of the in­ter­sec­tion with an elec­tion year, the govern­ing party’s ab­surd “unity” cam­paign and the trans­par­ent tac­tics of the Zuma fac­tion to un­der­mine Cyril Ramaphosa. It also seems Zuma’s net­work of pa­tron­age not only still has some power, but also has some dirt on Ramaphosa and the “good” peo­ple in the ANC who stayed quiet and played the long game dur­ing Zuma’s pres­i­dency.

Pho­to­graphs of Ramaphosa smil­ing broadly with Zuma ran­kle ev­ery­one who isn’t a fool or a toady. Yes, Ramaphosa has to shore up sup­port in KwaZulu-Natal. Yes, he needs to se­cure a solid vic­tory for the ANC in the 2019 elec­tions. The tainted votes of Zu­maites and those they in­flu­ence are just as valu­able as the votes of those who may now re­turn to the party.

That doesn’t make the strat­egy any less sor­did. Ramaphosa is sul­lied, com­pro­mised. Still, he has enough credit to carry him through this nec­es­sary hu­mil­i­a­tion; he’ll pay such dues if it means he’ll have five years, maybe 10, to clean up party and state. That’s the the­ory, any­way.

But the rest of us — we don’t have to be com­plicit. We don’t have to play Zuma’s game. And those of us with an in­vest­ment in the arts and cul­ture sec­tor, whether as cre­ative pro­duc­ers or as con­sumers, sure as hell don’t have to ac­cept his ar­ro­ga­tion of an un­earned cor­ner of real es­tate on the SA arts land­scape.

It’s bad enough that a new chap­ter en­ti­tled “Zuma mon­u­ments” could be added to the piti­ful his­tory of the ANC — and state-com­mis­sioned stat­ues. The for­mer pres­i­dent’s vis­age adorns that cu­ri­ous mon­stros­ity in Groot Marico mark­ing the site of his cap­ture in 1963. There is a large-scale statue of Msholozi that is mer­ci­fully far away in Nige­ria (where it is deeply re­sented by the lo­cals). Now a bronze Zuma stands along­side the M4 high­way in Durban.

Well, we are told that it is Zuma, just as we are told that the fig­ure next to him is Thabo Mbeki. Sculp­tor Lun­gelo Gumede had it eas­ier with Ramaphosa and Nel­son Man­dela, who flank the group; they are clumsy but vaguely recog­nis­able. As for the Zuma and Mbeki stat­ues — let’s just say that the un­like­ness is canny. There are other icons on dis­play to cel­e­brate the party’s 107th an­niver­sary, and more stat­ues have been com­mis­sioned for out­landish sums.

To be clear: it is not wrong to spend pub­lic money on art. But it is wrong to waste mil­lions on bad art for a bad cause (in this case, the ANC’s spe­cial­ity of re­cruit­ing past glory to dis­tract from present fail­ings).

Not sat­is­fied with shoddy stat­ues, eThek­wini head of parks, recre­ation and cul­ture Them­binkosi Ng­cobo is also pre­par­ing the way for Zuma’s pro­fes­sional singing ca­reer.

The for­mer pres­i­dent is due to front an al­bum of strug­gle songs, and Ng­cobo’s lat­est coup is get­ting Lady­smith Black Mam­bazo to pro­vide back­ing vo­cals.

Ap­par­ently the group’s founder and mu­si­cal di­rec­tor, Joseph Sha­bal­ala, is an old friend of JZ. I don’t care. By link­ing its strong, global brand to Zuma, Mam­bazo is in­sult­ing the peo­ple of SA and col­lud­ing in an at­tempt to sani­tise the rep­u­ta­tion of a wicked man.

Zuma should be in a prison cell, not a record­ing stu­dio.

/Sun­day Times/Muntu Vi­lakazi

Born to sing: Ja­cob Zuma sings the in­fa­mous ‘Umshini wam’ at the At­teridgeville Su­per Sta­dium in Tsh­wane. when he was still ANC pres­i­dent.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.