POLITICS
24/04/2018 13:10 SAST | Updated 24/04/2018 13:13 SAST

Jacob Zuma Just Won't Go Away...

The deposed former president has been showing his true colours since he was ejected from office in February, chumming up with some interesting characters.

Jacob Zuma addresses supporters outside the High Court in Durban on April 06, 2018.
MARCO LONGARI via Getty Images
Jacob Zuma addresses supporters outside the High Court in Durban on April 06, 2018.

ANALYSIS

He just doesn't want to go away.

Jacob Zuma might no longer be head of state, but the man in charge of the country for almost nine years has remained close to or at the forefront of our national discourse ever since he was ejected from office a little more than two months ago.

His freedom from the constraints of convention and party discipline has also seen him cosy up to some decidedly controversial characters, with the radical, reactionary Black First Land First Movement [BLF] and its firebrand leader Andile Mngxitama seemingly becoming Zuma's favourite — they supported him in court, and he obliged them with a speech over the weekend.

Besides his appearance in court on April 6, Zuma stirred up social media last week, when news broke that he had become a father again and was poised to marry once more. He followed up that news with a speech on Saturday, in which he regaled the BLF about land, calling it "a life-or-death issue".

This is the trajectory Zuma's post-presidency career has taken since his Valentine's Day abdication:

1. 'BLACK UNITY NOW!'

Zuma was honoured by the shady and obscure National Funeral Practitioners' Association of South Africa (Nafupa SA) at an awards ceremony on March 8 for his "selfless contribution" to service delivery and achieving "radical economic transformation". Before the ceremony, the little-known organisation was involved in a confrontation with Avbob, alleging the latter was "too white". Zuma was cheered by the BLF at the function, and he duly obliged when he was requested to conclude the evening by singing "Umshini Wami".

2. 'MY FALL IS THE FAULT OF A MINORITY'

On March 30 (three days after an "exclusive" interview about his new life on Gagasi FM in Durban), Zuma attended two Easter services in Durban, telling congregants that it was the fault of a "small minority" that he was ousted from office the month before. Zuma has always been very adept at co-opting churches and various Christian denominations in getting his message across, accepting prayers and blessings from various religious figures, both traditional and nontraditional.

Independent Media

3. HOT ON CR'S HEELS...

Two days after President Cyril Ramaphosa attended the Good Friday service at the Covenant Fellowship Church International on KwaZulu-Natal's north coast, the former president hot-footed it to the same church to convince congregants of his commitment to his faith. Speaking at the church on April 1, Zuma said South Africans must pray for politicians, especially in the build-up to the election. The SABC, who used to cover every move Zuma made, also attended this service near Richard's Bay, which would have pleased the former president.

4. WINNIE GIVES JZ A GAP

The death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela gave Zuma an opportunity to hop on a Kulula flight from Durban to go to her Soweto home to pay his respects. According to reports, he received some of the loudest cheers when he arrived at the Orlando home to visit the grieving family. He told onlookers Madikizela-Mandela "was an example" to all and that she was "clear" in her convictions.

Getty Images
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Jacob Zuma during 105th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the African National Congress (ANC) on January 08, 2016 at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

5. 'BLACKS ARE NOW SAYING IT'S ENOUGH!'

On April 6, Zuma was back in court facing charges ranging from corruption to money-laundering. Sitting in the dock, he was saintly and submissive, but when he emerged from court it was vintage, persecuted, man-of-the-people Zuma who addressed a few hundred people from the back of an events truck. Applauded (again) by Mngxitama and the BLF and praised by the ever-present Carl Niehaus from the MK Military Veterans' Association, Zuma told his supporters he was being hounded because he was promoting "radical economic transformation" – and, he intimated, because he was black. "There's nowhere where the black child does not suffer. No matter where you go, blacks' and white people's living spaces are different. The problem now, the one I'm hated and vilified for, is that freedom without economic freedom is not complete. Blacks are now saying it's enough."

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Zuma speaks to supporters outside the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban. April 6, 2018.

6. THERE'S ALWAYS TIME FOR LOVE

On Friday, April 20, the news broke that Zuma has become father again — and that he will marry the mother of the child, who gave birth the week before. Zuma has fathered 22 known children from at least 11 women, it was reported. Nonkanyiso Conco worked for She Conquers, an NGO formed to combat the high rate of HIV among young women. She resigned after the birth of Zuma's child. Zuma's family has confirmed the developments, although he has not officially commented yet.

Daily Maverick

7. TRUE COLOURS

Members of BLF have established themselves as Zuma's loudest cheerleaders. They have fought a few proxy wars for Zuma – leading the charge, for example, against National Treasury and then-finance minister Pravin Gordhan in 2016 — but have been flailing about since the tables were turned on their benefactors, the Guptas. On Saturday, April 21, Zuma addressed a "black caucus" meeting of Mngxitama's outfit in Johannesburg, telling his audience the land question "is a matter of life and death". Zuma's ratcheting up the racial rhetoric, pitting himself against so-called "white monopoly capital" and positioning himself as the "one true fighter" for black rights. Right up the BLF's alley.