‘I will lay down my life for president Zuma,’ says son Edward
There’s a serious regrouping in the ANC to oppose enforcement of the court decision
AMID expectations that by today supporters of former president Jacob Zuma would start trickling to his home in Nkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal, his son Edward says Covid-19 regulation should not be a factor.
Speaking to the media camped outside the home yesterday, hours after the Constitutional Court sentenced his father to 15 months’ direct and unsuspended imprisonment and ordered him to surrender himself within five days, Edward Zuma said the country “must expect the worst”.
Moreover, he said they are in a war mood, and the regulations should be ignored, and if “we die, we die.”
“What do you mean what about Covid-19 restrictions? We know we are in a situation of war here. We can't be considering Covid-19 situations. If it means we die, we die, we are prepared to die,” he told the media.
He stressed that anyone who wants to come to Nkandla to support the former head of state is welcome to pop in any time.
“This is something that has not been planned. Any person who wants to come is welcomed to come any time,” he said in response to questions on when exactly they expect supporters to come to Nkandla.
During the same interview, Edward repeated his assertion that he was going to lay down his life in defence of Zuma. He said before the police come to take his father and send him to jail, they would have to first overcome him.
“Well, they have to kill me first before such thing (court ruling) is implemented … Exactly … Exactly… Exactly … Exactly. What is again I am saying is that whatever decision the law enforcement agencies, you know, decide upon, if that drastic decision happens to be taken, then they have to pass by me. Meaning, I will lay down my life for president Zuma. They are not going to take him to prison when I am still alive. So they have to kill me first. I insist on that,” he said.
TWO hours after former president Jacob Zuma began his tumble, following a guilty verdict and a jail sentence handed down yesterday by the Constitutional Court in his case against the Zondo Commission, you could sample news stories about the immediate future of the national crisis caused by the rising smoke of corruption suffocating our country and choose from two completely different narratives: one all about apparent boundless optimism, the other a mixture of caution and despair.
Thanks to live media reporting and instant communication technology, colleagues in the media and legal fraternity announced that, with the decision to send Zuma to jail working its wonders in the minds of the public, the country was heading towards the new terminus date of tipping the scale in favour of rooting out corruption in fine fettle, ready, at last, to vindicate the rule of law in the interests of justice and the public interest.
But later the same day, political commentators were saying the fight is not over, as the same government that is expected to enforce the court decision does not appear prepared to face up with possible sparks of Zuma supporters’ resistance to the enforcement of the decision. This, even after Zuma’s daughter tweeted that he will hand himself over to the police at the Nkandla police station.
Within the ANC factions, especially in branches that defied orders from the Luthuli House instructing them not to bus party supporters to attend Zuma court cases around the country or hurl insults at the party leadership when attending pro-Zuma gatherings, messages doing the rounds on social
media following the court verdict are said to indicate a serious regrouping to oppose the enforcement of the court decision.
As all this news broke from the Constitutional Hill, I put in a call to my former student and colleague, Qobo Ningiza, a UCT Law School graduate serving as a research clerk in the Constitutional Court. He expressed a sense of pride “to have been part of this historic moment from inside the court, of delivering a 15-month jail sentence to a former president” after a lengthy legal process to find authoritative and precedent-setting legal reasons.
As I listened to Ningiza, I felt a familiar pang of angst: like millions and millions of us, I want to believe that we are nearly out of the woods. The social, political, and legal damage caused by Zuma’s defiance to testify at the Zondo Commission and his refusal to cooperate with the Constitutional Court on this litigation seems to rule out doing anything similar ever again in the administration of justice in South Africa.
But, too much information suggests that this great damage that began while Zuma was still president may yet resume in another form inside the ANC and in government, if our political leaders continue to show a lack of political will to defend the rule of law.
Nonetheless, what is apparent in all this upturning as Zuma starts his first day as a convicted person amid a familiar whiff of government hypocrisy and internal mayhem, a decisive point is coming.
“Living with the Zuma verdict” is a cliché that may soon become ubiquitous. This in the face of President Cyril Ramaphosa saying after an ANC top six meeting, a few months ago, that Zuma must be given space to deal with his legal challenges instead of expecting his party to prevail over him. Also, after Police Minister Bheki Cele’s visit to Nkandla at around the same time to speak to Zuma on undisclosed government or ANC intentions.
Now that the verdict is out, a suggested way forward is said to be in circulation in the Union Buildings, but is not going to be made public.
What is perhaps being missed is something very simple: that we perhaps know too much about this leadership and the cruel way its ineffectiveness have reflected all kinds of inequalities in combating corruption to see bold action as a natural fact of life; and having had our lives upended in the cause of the appetite of politicians to finding political solutions and preserving unity in the faction-ridden ANC, we may not be about to sigh fatalistically and think of it in the same terms as, say, other jail sentences handed down to ordinary citizens or the annual arrival of the crime statistics.
As we stare ahead into a future that somehow seems to suggest guarded hope and an equal level of dread, there is an even more basic requirement in our national politics: a government that can regularly steady nerves, and calmly explain whatever considerations are in play to ensure that the rule of law is upheld. But whatever its spin-doctored messages to the public, is the government capable of any of that? That is doubtful.
When it comes to this Zuma case, most politicians have been disappointing in promoting an environment conducive to the upholding of the rule of law. Instead, their public statements have rashly talked up an imminent end to the Zuma crisis since the very beginning, and have often looked ill-informed and excitable.
Their kind of narrow party interests, indeed, does not seem to be in the business of encouraging calm. If it sees argument or controversy, its most powerful motivation seems to be the urge to inflame it.
And yet, and yet. There is one body of people in civil society whose approach to the crisis has been largely level-headed and balanced. In contrast to the behaviour of the worst people at the top political offices in the legislative bodies, these qualities have been manifested in the South African public’s high vigilance in regards to the fight against corruption, painful sacrifices in accordance with the rules, and in scores of our everyday habits: the mild and polite way we teach others to raise their bar of intolerance to corruption in both the private and public spaces; our embrace of institutions mandated to fight corruption, including the judiciary.
An overlooked lesson in relation to this case is that most of us tend to be rational and careful. As strange as it may sound, in millions of people’s anxiety about the failures of the state, there is a kind of hope.
Despite the absurdities of our politics, we now know how to carry on living in difficult and complex political circumstances, almost as a matter of instinct.
Whatever happens after this latest watershed point, and however awful this government’s failures, that will surely be the key to how we all get through the next chapter in the fight against corruption.