Cape Times

‘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.

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 ??  ?? FORMER president Jacob Zuma
FORMER president Jacob Zuma

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