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We Need A New Strategy If We Are To Break Zuma's Vice-Like Grip On The Presidency

President Jacob Zuma has consistently shown that he would rather put a match to our economy than cede power.

24/07/2017 03:57 SAST | Updated 24/07/2017 03:57 SAST
Thomas Lohnes/ Getty Images
South African President Jacob Zuma arrives for the morning working session on the second day of the G20 economic summit on July 8, 2017, in Hamburg, Germany.

Jacob Zuma, the fourth president of a democratic South Africa is a man who has shown an aptitude to survive every political or private scandal he faced and has proven that he has a Teflon-like ability to endure and remain in power. Regardless of the criticism, the outrage and the calls for him to step down Jacob Zuma seems to be superglued to the Office of the President and if the report of him refusing a 2 billion rand offer to leave the Presidency is true, then it is clear that for President Zuma it is all about power and damn the consequences.

Now that Mandela Day 2017 has seen South African business, in the form of Business Leadership SA, join forces with civil society against corruption in South Africa, hopes are high that the anti-Zuma tidal wave will force the president to retreat. However, it looks like we are stuck with the Zuma presidency, under which corruption is worn like a badge of honour, until the end of his term.

Ostensibly calls for President Zuma to step down, make him more adamant to stay and flip the proverbial bird at collective South Africa. His obstinate nature seems emboldened by what he probably perceives to be a cacophony of cries for him to resign. Despite the futility of the exercise, it is imperative that our collective outrage against the President's bull-headedness continue for as long as he remains in office, but to expect him to leave because of it is foolish.

The fact is that 60 percent of the ANC members in Polokwane voted to put the fox in charge of the henhouse and the subsequent regret about being misled by the charming and affable Jacob Zuma, though laudable, doesn't help. The truth is that the avid chess player Zuma has long outmanoeuvred his opponents and is here to stay and secure his successor.

He managed to outsmart the intellectual Thabo Mbeki less than 20 years after the unbanning of the ANC at a time when his dubious reputation was known to many ranks and file members of the ANC: a reputation that was fuelled by the behind-the-hand whispers of some who returned from exile and the unwillingness of Nelson Mandela to meet with Zuma after his return to South Africa. As someone who vividly recalls the time during the early 1990's, when Jacob Zuma was viewed as undesirable, I could only make sense of his rise to Deputy President as being the result of the old belief that if Jacob Zuma was not included in a position of power, his supporters would cause mayhem. With his rise to number 2 in the country under President Mbeki, Jacob Zuma became respectable, thus acceptable, and his strategy to outwit his political opponents began.

With Kasparov-like chess moves he is always a few steps ahead of those who criticise him. His ability to caucus and win over support has resulted in the meticulous placing of people who are little more than empty suits, in strategic positions within the power structures of the ANC, where they are in the majority. It is because of this camp of allegiance that the ANC's executive committee (NEC) fail to have any influence over President Zuma. Their inability to call on him to shape up or ship out has left South Africa in the unenviable position of being led by a man willing to see the country lie in ruin rather than give up power.

Let's face it, President Zuma will not leave of his own accord and the no-confidence vote is unlikely to succeed if, what is happening to ANC MP Makhosi Khoza is an indication of how the ANC deals with internal opposition.

Warnings earlier this year, that his actions will lead to a downward spiral of the South African economy or that his decisions will cause the currency to tank were met with a hubris and a reckless disregard that raises the question whether Jacob Zuma and his friends benefited from the currency plummeting. For people who knew in advance, that the Minister of Finance was being replaced, a fortune could be made from the fall of the rand if, in true capitalist fashion, they managed to sell short the currency. After all, the firing of the previous Finance Minister saw the bottom fall out of the currency so why not do it again and make a buck or two? President Jacob Zuma has consistently shown that he would rather put a match to our economy than cede power.

In life, there are many things that one can buy, but integrity is not one of them. Integrity is something that we learn as children from parents and significant others who care enough to teach us about honesty, being honourable and acting with integrity. Through his actions, President Zuma has shown that he knows little about being honourable or what acting with integrity entails. It is therefore pointless to appeal to his sense of honour or integrity to do the right thing and step down.

Let's face it, President Zuma will not leave of his own accord and the no-confidence vote is unlikely to succeed if, what is happening to ANC MP Makhosi Khoza is an indication of how the ANC deals with internal opposition. We therefore need another strategy. It might be more effective for those fighting corruption to establish what hold President Zuma has over those who are loyal to him. Loyalty to the President is maintained at the expense of our country and it looks like the majority in the ANC leadership has lost their moral compass. How is such unwavering loyalty secured? Maybe loyalty is secured by means of a threat or an irresistible promise.

If so, then calling on the hollow men and women who are the Zuma enablers to act in the best interest of South Africa, is nothing more than farting against the thunder. The only way of breaking the President's vice-like grip on ANC-decision-makers is to find out what hold he has over them. If their loyalty is secured by threats then they need to man up and confront the bully making those threats. If promises, too good to resist are made to secure their loyalty, then an offer must be made that is equal or better than the one made to ensure their loyalty.

It is only when those protecting Jacob Zuma reject him and his politics that the President will be forced to step down much like P. W. Botha, with whom Zuma has recently been likened, resigned after his party rebuffed him.