13/02/2018 11:52 SAST | Updated 13/02/2018 13:25 SAST

EDITOR'S NOTE: Zuma Has Always – Always – Acted In Self-Interest

Given Jacob Zuma's approach to Nkandla, state capture and his corruption charges, the ANC shouldn't be surprised by his refusal to leave.

Jacob Zuma sings for his supporters at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on August 4, 2008. Zuma appeared in court to push for the dismissal of a corruption case that could have stopped him becoming president.

President Jacob Zuma was never going to leave quietly. He was never going to up sticks and thank his colleagues for all the fish. It was always going to be a game of brinkmanship, with the self-interest of Zuma at the centre of his Machiavellian manoeuvres.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has tried everything to engineer the drastic change that this country desperately needs. He won the party's fraught leadership contest in December, he built a broad intraparty coalition that nominally supports his agenda, and he's stuck to the rule book in negotiating Zuma's exit... and then some.

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Jacob Zuma (L), leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC), chats with Julius Malema, president of African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), at the Pietermaritzburg high court outside Durban August 4, 2008.

But Zuma has not played ball – and he was never going to. He received an ANC delegation last Sunday, only to tell them where to get off. He then flashed his smile at Ramaphosa on Tuesday, indicating his willingness to negotiate and igniting optimism. But then he proceeded to harden his stance and openly challenge the ANC's executive committee.

Now, it seems – because we're still waiting for an official account of events from the ANC – that he's simply telling the governing party to go jump. He'll remain in the Union Buildings as long as the Constitution allows him to.

It shouldn't come as any surprise. Zuma has only ever been in this for himself, having done a masterful job of casting himself as the victimised "people's champion". Self-interest is Zuma's reason for being.

His only motivation to become the standard-bearer for the "coalition of the wounded" circa 2005, was to stay out of prison. The 18 charges and 783 counts of corruption, fraud and money laundering, and sky-high personal debt, was a great motivator. When the charges were dropped in 2009, it wasn't in the interest of justice or the rule of law — it was in the interest of Zuma.

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma (C) is briefed by his attorneys at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg March 12, 2008.

When the public protector released the report into Nkandla, Zuma fobbed it off and tried to bury the report, with the help of trusted minions such as Nathi Nhleko, the now discarded minister of police, and Mathole Motshekga, then chairperson of Parliament's portfolio committee on justice.

His government and the governing party did sod-all to investigate the allegations around state capture, with ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa once issuing a breathless statement accusing the media of "portraying the leadership of the ANC ... as collaborators to fit the fictitious narrative of a Gupta-controlled country".

And when the public protector investigated state capture, Zuma tried everything he could to impede the process. All in an effort to protect what is most important to him: his self-interest.

For Zuma it never was about the ANC; the party of liberation and his political home. It also never was about the country and its people that he swore to serve with honesty and commitment. It was always about him.

And now he's taking the ANC to the brink. They should have seen this coming.