President Jacob Zuma's recent Cabinet reshuffle has reaffirmed that for Zuma, politics are played by any means necessary. The decision to release Blade Nzimande as minister at the department of higher education and training (DHET) has nothing to do with Nzimande's competence or lack thereof. Through this move, Zuma has communicated emphatically his annoyance and impatience with the South African Communist Party (SACP) acting in an oppositionist fashion by demanding his resignation as president of South Africa.
The relationship between the SACP and Zuma has irretrievably broken down. Once bosom buddies, the two no longer see eye-to-eye because of a number of fallouts that have happened over the last three years. Part of it has to do with the SACP's reading of the South African political temperature and realising that there is no honour in publicly supporting or even appearing to be creating excuses for the Gupta family that is accused of "state capture".
The other part is the manner in which Zuma appeared to undermine Nzimande's responsibility and authority during the Fees Must Fall debacle of October 2015 where the President imposed a zero percent fee increment, some say without having consulted with the Minister.
The President received the Higher Commission report that unpacks discussions and considerations on the feasibility of free higher education a while ago. He surely wants to release it to the public having a Minister at DHET that he has a cordial relationship with for purposes of implementation. While this may be an opportunistic argument (to mask the political game at play) it is, however, an important one too.
Politics must not cloud our ability to recognise what the desirable ideal is -- a cabinet that functions and communicates. The same is said to have happened in the presidency with relations between the president and his deputy being at an all-time low with little or no direct communication between the two. How can such a relationship be good for cabinet's functionality and by virtue that of the country?
Politics is a game of power. What we often hope for is that the game is played fairly and within established parameters that are recognised and respected by all. When it comes to the game of power at a national level we have legislation that regulates the conduct of political parties during elections.
Zuma is bigger than the ANC. The movement is so paralysed it cannot even hold him accountable.
This type of legislation when it comes to the internal conduct of politics in political parties is contained in their respective constitutions and governing rules. However, today's African National Congress (ANC) has its constitution and rules selectively implemented; especially because the current president has defined himself out of those rules. Jacob Zuma is that one member the ANC, through the ages guarded against.
The dictum has always been that no one is bigger than the ANC as a way of centring the party and making sure each individual is held accountable. I doubt the ANC founding fathers ever imagined that the movement would be led by a rogue president who uses the movement for his own desires and material gain while neglecting the greater good of the people of South Africa.
Zuma is bigger than the ANC. The movement is so paralysed it cannot even hold him accountable. He has brought the organisation into disrepute but no one has courage enough to institute disciplinary proceedings against him, even the ANC president is not beyond reproach and is accountable to the organisation.
But when it comes to Zuma the constitution of the party gets suspended. Even the so-called people who are trying to "prevail on the President's conscience" are not willing and able to do the right thing -- confirm the centrality of the ANC as a party and charge Zuma for behaviour that is at variance with the ANC constitution. This type of inaction then centres Zuma and leads to politics of personality rather than of policy as one colleague remarked to me.
However, all things considered, the SACP played its political card -- given that it is an independent organisation to the ANC -- by calling for Zuma's recall, advising that it no longer wishes to have him address gatherings of the party etc. Zuma had to retaliate, politically.
In his retaliation he also seems to be making an important point -- the SACP, in the absence of the ANC's cooperation, is a dead entity. I long stated that the SACP had become a political carcass for having allowed itself to be co-opted to the politics of a cult in the personality of Jacob Zuma.
Nzimande was a collaborator that has now been churned out from the centre and he owes South Africa an expanded explanation accounting for his actions in sinking our country into the deep morass it finds itself in.
The SACP forsook its historic role of being a melting pot of ideas and a hub of intellectualism in the mass democratic movement. Instead, the party reduced itself into a sloganeering entity hell-bent at protecting the person of Zuma. In that moment a treasonous act of suspending reason and compromising principle was committed at the expense of the country.
Therefore, on the one hand, the cabinet reshuffle showcases the brutality of Zuma the politician and his continued recklessness as the "one man wrecking ball" as once stated by Max Du Preez. On the other hand, this cabinet reshuffle is also good riddance. Blade Nzimande has contributed vastly to the reversal of our democracy that has happened in the past 10 years, the significant part of his 19 years at the helm of the SACP.
Nzimande once wanted a piece of legislation that would outlaw insults about the president. Surely, now he will want to be seen as a victim. No, he is not. It is true that "there is no honour among thieves", Nzimande was a collaborator that has now been churned out from the centre and he owes South Africa an expanded explanation accounting for his actions in sinking our country into the deep morass it finds itself in.
For Zuma, the words of Machiavelli in his book The Prince must ring loud in his ears: "A man who is used to acting in one way never changes; he must come to ruin when the times, in changing, no longer are in harmony with his ways." At some point, Zuma will come to ruin. His brazen politics that have no respect for people, the rule of law and normativity will reach a dead-end someday. The question is, would it be a dead-end for the country's future too?