Yes, he did it again. President Jacob Zuma has, with the 17 October 2017 cabinet reshuffle, managed to change his mind about the executive more often than South Africans have gone to the ballot box since the birth of our democracy. By retaining loyalists and axing critics, the president has once again used the power of the presidency to flip the bird to all those who believe that he will act in the interest of anyone else except his own.
When some members of the leadership of the South African Communist Party [SACP] held a news conference to denounce the removal of Dr Blade Nzimande as Minister of Higher Education and Training, their outrage at President Zuma's unilateral decision was on full display. They decried the president's lack of consultation and his flagrant disregard of the mandate given to him by the party-political system of which the SACP is an integral part.
They condemned President Zuma's detachment from his party, the African National Congress [ANC], and his shameless use of Cabinet as his personal reward system.
Despite their apoplectic fit and their threat of consequences for the unity of the ANC/SACP alliance, the president was probably not shaking in his boots because Zuma has the office of the President of South Africa and no amount of name-calling or crying foul will make an impression on him. For Zuma has consistently proven that he does not give a tinker's curse about threats of causing economic instability.
The SACP, with its proud history of being the first Marxist-Leninist party on the African continent, is the only party in the South African parliament to expressly mention in its name the economic and social system it prefers. The ideals of the founders of communism were that social relations be regulated on the principle of fairness, which will enable all citizens to enjoy a dignified existence. These ideals seem to have long been forgotten, as the current SACP sold out the masses when they sided with President Zuma during parliament's vote of no confidence in August of this year.
Ironically, the SACP did not call a press conference when Statistic South Africa [StatsSA] revealed in August that more than half of our population live in poverty nor was there an outcry when StatsSA released data showing that our levels of crime, though declining, are still unacceptably high. But, on the day the SACP's number one man gets axed from the small elite circle of powerful pawns around President Zuma they hastily call in the media to voice their indignation.
The SACP, ANC and COSATU members who believe that President Zuma will heed their calls to step down are mistaken if they believe that the President will act in the interest of South Africa and relinquish his power.
When South Africa had our very own March Madness, the day President Zuma reshuffled his cabinet at midnight, the SACP's second deputy general-secretary Solly Mapaila stepped before a microphone and said: "Quite clearly South Africans need to take action against the possibility of the looting of the Treasury, which comrade Pravin Gordhan has done an excellent job [preventing]." Yet five months later, when they were expected to walk the walk and not just talk the talk, the SACP failed to take action when they supported President Zuma during the no-confidence vote in August.
A successful no-confidence vote would have been in the interest of South Africa and all its people. Voting for Zuma with the ANC emboldened the President because he now knows all too well that he can always count on the loyalty of his comrades even at a time when thousands of South Africans took to the streets voicing their dissatisfaction with the leadership of the country. The contention that SACP cabinet members act in the interest of the people of South Africa is meretricious because the SACP parliamentarians failed to act in the interest of the people of South Africa on August 8, 2017.
It is understandable that voting in favour of a motion tabled by the Democratic Alliance would have gone against every fibre of any full-blooded SACP comrade and yet, in the interest of the people of South Africa, the SACP members of parliament should have been obliged to hold their noses and vote in favour of the no-confidence motion. Now they lament the fact that President Zuma gave their leader, Dr Blade Nzimande, the boot.
Let's be honest, the state of our universities and the lack of safety for women on university campuses, the ineffectiveness of our Technical Vocational Education and Training colleges, and Minister Nzimande's deafening silence (except for the statement on legal costs) after his ex-deputy Manana beat a woman all add up to a fail on the report card of Dr Nzimande as minister. Minister Nzimande's departure clearly does not sadden many.
The SACP, ANC and COSATU members who believe that President Zuma will heed their calls to step down are mistaken if they believe that the President will act in the interest of South Africa and relinquish his power. Jacob Zuma has during his tenure as president managed to outsmart the brightest minds in the ANC and the Alliance, not yielding to calls for him to step down as early as 2009 already. President Zuma has perfected the art of appealing to the loyalty of his comrades in order to survive politically, while elegantly side-stepping any calls for him toe the line, by drumming up his support base and mobilising his faction.
Jacob Zuma has proven himself to be loyal only to himself. He has called himself a proud Zulu who adheres to traditional values. One of those traditions is polygamy and despite the many attempts to convince South Africans of the contrary, most South Africans cannot shake the suspicion that Jacob Zuma was unable to pay the lobola for all his wives out of his own pocket. This widely held belief must be humiliating for a proud man such as Zuma and it is therefore not surprising that he wants to push through the nuclear deal that will set the Zuma family on a trajectory of unspeakable wealth for generations to come.
Would the South African taxpayer's money not be better spent on maintaining and upgrading our existing infrastructure, instead of building something new that we cannot afford?
South Africa cannot afford even a phase-implemented nuclear power programme with a partner such as Russia whose nuclear track record is less than stellar, given the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the sinking of the nuclear-powered Kursk submarine in 2000.
With the 2017 infrastructure report card of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering giving South Africa's infrastructure an overall grade of D+, which means "at risk of failure" [E being unfit for purpose], would the South African taxpayer's money not be better spent on maintaining and upgrading our existing infrastructure, instead of building something new that we cannot afford?
There is no doubt that the nuclear deal would have been off the table and President Zuma a distant, unpleasant memory, had the SACP voted and acted in the interest of all the people of South Africa (as many of us expected) and not in the interest of the man at whose prerogative their leader, Dr Blade Nzimande, served in cabinet since May 2009.