All change…

So he was pushed to the very edge and now he’s jumped.
Well, I say “jumped”: actually, it was more of a dignified step.


Mbeki – gone: “Butchered”, no less.

Yes, it’s big news, but it’s not bad news. It’s not even unexpected news after the Nicholson ruling on the Zuma case. Scandals, allegations, divisions, resignations: this sort of thing happens on a fairly regular basis in democratic society. Of course, it’s a new thing for South Africa, because democracy is still a new thing for South Africa. But one only has to look to the UK (it’s about 6000 miles, I’m told) to see much the same process under way there.

The papers are full of screaming headlines about political uncertainty, mass hysteria, turmoil and disorder across the country. Anyone reading them would think that there is utter chaos here. And of course, there is always a difficult transition period in these matters. But life does go on and it’s going on completely as normal today. Slightly more quietly, perhaps, because there’s a public holiday this week.
Here’s what we were dealing with on the way to work this morning.


Another tough day in Africa after Mbeki resigns

I’m sure there will be more news to come from this story: in fact, I’ll be gutted if there isn’t. But for now, that’s it. Stay calm, don’t panic, watch with interest, enjoy the weather and don’t believe all that you read.
Apart from on here, obviously.

Where I lead…

…the South African Human Rights Commission follows.

SAHRC Chair, Jody Kollapen on the Zapiro cartoon furore:

The view of the Commission is that while the cartoon captures a significant political and social issue within society today — on the role of the judiciary and its place in society — the cartoon may well have gone a bit too far in terms of how that particularly relevant social, political, legal issue was captured.

Hang on, isn’t that what I said?

That Zapiro cartoon

Ever since The Sunday Times published the “rape” cartoon that the entirety of South Africa is now talking about (that would be Sunday), I have been literally inundated with an email asking what 6000 miles… readers should say when asked about it, in order to remain “on message”.

This cartoon was removed at the
request of Zapiro’s legal team.

6000, September 2009

Exhibit A: the cartoon in question.

Looking around the SA interwebs, plenty of others have already had their say:

“While we accept that cartoonists have the licence to express controversial views, yesterday’s cartoon is in extremely bad taste and goes way beyond limits of acceptability”
“The cartoon rubbishes the collective integrity of the alliance and constitutes yet another continued violation of the rights and dignity of the ANC president.”
“In a country where we have a serious scourge of fighting violence against women and in particular, rape, we need to be very careful how we use the notion and the concept of rape loosely to demonstrate any form of perceived abuse.” [link]

and for the other side:

“Good for you dude. That cartoon is an absolutely accurate description of the state of affairs… so I’m doing my part to spread it around.” [link]
“There is a very, very pronounced tendency in this country towards exceptionalism, as if our politicians are more sacrosanct than politicians worldwide. That I take issue with.” [link]

For me, Zapiro (the pen name of cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro) has taken things a step too far on this occasion. I have issues with his trivialisation of rape and his portrayal of abuse of women for political ends and also his imagery (again) linking Jacob Zuma with rape – 2 years on from JZ’s acquittal for that crime. It seems likely that Zuma will now sue for defamation – he may feel that he has a strong case, given Shapiro’s apparent vendetta against him.

Please don’t think that I am naive as to what Shapiro is trying to say – I wrote about the whole situation just last week. Disappointingly, the astute, amusing, politically savvy and downright insightful political spectator and commentator has let himself down with this particular piece of work. Many would say that in just stirring up this fuss, he has achieved his objective – to publicise the issue of JZ’s inevitable presidency versus his corruption trial and the difficulties that poses for this country. I think we were all aware of that issue anyway.

I just feel that it could have been done a whole lot more tastefully.

Amnesty for Zuma?

The debate is on. Should the charge of racketeering, the four charges of corruption, the charge of money laundering and the twelve charges of fraud against ANC President Jacob Zuma be dropped?

The charges stem from an arms deal way back in 1999 and the case has been dragging on ever since. In the meantime, Zuma has been sacked from his post as Deputy President of the country, has successfully defended himself against charges of rape and, more recently, been elected President of the ANC and is now effectively South Africa’s President-in-waiting. But all the while – in fact, now more than ever – those corruption (and racketeering, money laundering and fraud) charges have been hanging over him.

Over the years, certain groups have continually protested Zuma’s innocence and called for the charges against him to be dropped, claiming that they are no more than a political smear campaign. Now, as we finally approach the 2009 election and a possible trial date for Zuma, those groups are becoming ever more vocal.
They say that the trouble is that if (ok… WHEN) Zuma is elected as President of the Republic next year, it’s going to do the country’s somewhat shaky reputation a whole lot more damage to have a potentially corrupt fraudster in charge. I see that.
What I don’t get is their insistence that things will be better if we drop the charges. Look at it this way: if it goes to court and Zuma is innocent, then it’s all ok – we’re in the clear with him. If he’s not, then we’re in the poop. Again, with him.
But if the charges are dropped and we never find out, then what are people going to assume?

I also don’t like the way they are going about attempting to force this issue through. Threats of violence, anarchy, civil disobedience. COSATU’s General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi:

“There are sentiments that Zuma is a target of machinations that go very, very deep. And all of us fear what the reaction is going to be and what may happen the day something happens to him (Zuma) in particular. We can see exactly what the reaction is going to be.
People may misinterpret this as a threat to the judiciary or as a form of blackmail to try and get Jacob Zuma off the hook.
But this is an honest assessment. We honestly do fear what may happen if eventually the matter goes to court and the verdict is that he is guilty and going 14 years to prison.”

Struggling with what I should think on the subject, I tried to contact our 6000 miles… political analyst. But he’s in the USA chasing good-looking girls with strange accents and being re-educated into renouncing his links with Blade Nzimande.

I too fear for the future in SA if JZ goes to court. Then, equally, I fear for the future if he doesn’t go to court. But what message are we sending out if the charges are dropped? That certain individuals are above the law, no matter what crimes they may have committed?
We’re in for a very rough ride over the next few months (or years?) whatever happens, but while I see the sense in protecting the country’s reputation and economic status, something just won’t let me support an amnesty for JZ.

Sorry, Msholozi.

Zuma “shocked and embarrassed”

Not by allegations that he showers to protect himself from HIV, nor by his pending corruption charges, but by white poverty in South Africa.

The head of South Africa’s governing African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, has said he is shocked and embarrassed about white poverty in the country.
Mr Zuma was speaking after visiting the Bethlehem township near the capital, Pretoria, where white families live without running water or electricity.
He said the high level of black poverty did not mean whites did not suffer too.

Yes, in this country famed for its haves and have-nots, traditionally divided among racial lines, there has been a blurring, with an estimated 131,000 white individuals classed as homeless. Of course, this number is tiny compared to the number of black people in the same situation, but that still doesn’t make it right or any easier for those who are struggling. In raising this “awkward” issue, JZ is once again making all the right noises and appealing to potential white voters with the election coming up next year.
Does he really care? Who can say?

I, for one, refuse to believe the ZumaRuma™ merchants who can see no good in the ANC President. While I sometimes feel that he is playing a clever political game – he’s talking a lot about issues that matter to South Africans, but actually promising very little – I don’t think that he is an evil, white-hating racist as some would have us believe. I think he is more grounded and in touch with the population than Thabo Mbeki is or ever has been – and that’s a good sign in someone who, it seems, will be the President of the Republic from next year.

He does have some baggage though, obviously. Primarily his corruption trial* which, despite a myriad of delays and stalling, will raise its ugly head again over the next few months (next thrilling installment August 4th).
However, rapidly moving up to become Zuma’s second biggest suitcase is ANCYL President Julius Malema. Just as soon as JZ pacifies the whities, his sycophantic lapdog Malema alienates them again by saying something daft or inflammatory. After his somewhat ill-advised “kill for Zuma” comments last month, he moved on in spectacularly idiotic style yesterday, suggesting that JZ could rule the country from prison

We can’t imagine the courts finding (Zuma) guilty because, if you arrest him, he will lead us from prison. We are not afraid to be led by a president in orange clothes.
If you want to save yourselves the embarrassment you must drop the charges, because arresting him will not stop him from being the president.
There is no other candidate.

Am I alone in thinking that Julius was surprised to get a laugh when he said that? What’s the betting that he was stone-cold serious? One wonders if, behind the scenes, he’s been working out how to get world leaders to come to Pollsmoor Prison to conduct their business and setting up a video link to the UN, “just in case”.

However, the tide is growing for the charges against Zuma to be dropped. Not just because Julius loves him and doesn’t think he did anything wrong, because they’re rubbish reasons, but for the more serious reason that it would almost certainly be catastrophic for the country and the economy if he were to be found guilty and then take office as President. Or take office as President and then be found guilty.

So perhaps Zuma should not run for President? Or is it a case of better the devil you know?
Because Malema the Suitcase actually got one thing spot on: There is no other candidate.

So where do we go from here?
I don’t mind admitting that I’m a bit stuck on that one right now.

* Actually, to be precise, it’s a corruption, racketeering, money laundering and fraud trial.