FROM POWER TO THE DOCK

Trump this week looked a lot like a man who will one day sit, like Ja­cob Zuma, in the ac­cused’s chair

Financial Mail - - AT HOME & ABROAD - @jus­tice­malala by Jus­tice Malala

There was an out­stand­ing pic­ture cir­cu­lated on Twitter and other so­cial me­dia plat­forms last week. It is a pic­ture of Ja­cob Zuma, the for­mer pres­i­dent of our fine repub­lic (it is a fine repub­lic if you tem­po­rar­ily for­get the load-shed­ding dur­ing a week­end when the world’s stars were in Joburg to hon­our Nel­son Man­dela).

The pic­ture is shot from the side. Zuma’s hands are on his knees and he is sit­ting, head and up­per body for­ward, alone. He was in the dock at his ap­pear­ance in court last week on 16 charges that in­clude fraud‚ cor­rup­tion and rack­e­teer­ing.

Zuma felt un­well dur­ing his ap­pear­ance last week. He had some water. His lawyer said he had low blood pres­sure and he was given a sug­ary soft drink.

He didn’t greet his sup­port­ers when he went into court as he felt too un­well to even say hello.

That pic­ture, de­pict­ing Zuma in his vul­ner­a­bil­ity and ig­nominy, evoked mem­o­ries of Zuma 15 years ago. By 2003 ru­mours of the pay­ments he had re­ceived were cir­cu­lat­ing. In­ves­ti­ga­tors were sniff­ing around.

But Zuma and his sup­port­ers didn’t give a damn. In 2003 Zuma was about to start an in­cred­i­ble 15-year run of crooked dom­i­nance over SA.

In 2005, af­ter he was charged with cor­rup­tion and rack­e­teer­ing, he scored a ma­jor vic­tory by get­ting his sup­port­ers to re­store his pow­ers as deputy pres­i­dent of the ANC de­spite Thabo Mbeki’s cau­tion that this would send the wrong mes­sage about the party’s se­ri­ous­ness about cor­rup­tion and ac­count­abil­ity. It was a piv­otal mo­ment which changed the ANC’S cul­ture: whereas Mbeki had sus­pended Zuma un­til such time as he was cleared, the Zuma ANC brought along a new prin­ci­ple.

It was that you could shame­lessly con­tinue in your post — even hav­ing power over the in­sti­tu­tions that are meant to in­ves­ti­gate you — while you faced se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions. The idea of step­ping aside was de­mol­ished.

That led to the ram­pant rise of cor­rup­tion through­out the sys­tem.

From 2007 to 2017 a new cul­ture took hold. ANC lead­ers like Gwede Man­tashe, Blade Nz­i­mande and many oth­ers lost their back­bones. They be­came ra­bid de­fend­ers of Zuma.

So­cially, they would laugh up­roar­i­ously at his jokes even when they were pa­tently un­funny or, worse, sex­ist and ho­mo­pho­bic.

The cult of the per­son­al­ity took root.

That pic­ture of Zuma in the dock re­minded me that he was once in­vin­ci­ble; that he was once the al­pha and omega of the ANC; that he built around him­self an army of acolytes, from Julius Malema to Mzwanele Manyi to Atul

Gupta to Nathi Mthethwa, who poi­soned our po­lit­i­cal cul­ture on his be­half.

I am writ­ing this column in a US where Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump spent most of last week lash­ing out against the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to in­ter­fere in the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. Trump has at­tacked the spe­cial coun­sel, Robert Mueller, and called the in­ves­ti­ga­tion a witch-hunt. Just as Zuma and his acolytes at­tacked Thuli Madon­sela, the ad­mirable for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor of SA.

Mueller and his team are clos­ing in on Trump’s as­so­ci­ates, and by im­pli­ca­tion on him. Last week Trump’s for­mer long­time lawyer Michael Co­hen ad­mit­ted that well into the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in 2016, he and oth­ers work­ing for Trump ne­go­ti­ated with im­por­tant Rus­sians over the build­ing of a pos­si­ble mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar

Trump Tower de­vel­op­ment in Moscow. E-mail ev­i­dence now sug­gests that Trump’s chil­dren Don Jr and Ivanka, and Trump him­self, knew about th­ese meet­ings and lied about them.

The plea deal that Paul Manafort, Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair, struck with Mueller fell apart af­ter he re­peat­edly lied about his busi­ness deal­ings in the Ukraine — with links to Trump. In Au­gust Manafort was found guilty on eight felony counts of fi­nan­cial crimes.

Trump blus­ters and shouts down op­po­nents and crit­ics. He seems in­vin­ci­ble.

This past week he seemed tired, con­fused and afraid.

The demise of Trump has been pre­dicted by many. This week he looked a lot like a man who will one day sit, like Zuma, in the ac­cused’s chair.

Too many of his peo­ple have al­ready ad­mit­ted to crimes.

ANC lead­ers like Gwede Man­tashe, Blade Nz­i­mande and many oth­ers lost their back­bones

123Rf/alek­sandr Gu­sev

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