Ralph Mathekga: Zuma's legacy of a divided nation

The decision by ANC branches to nominate former president Jacob Zuma to the party list is a strong statement regarding the state of the party, and also where the party is headed. It is quite odd that ANC members believe that Jacob Zuma still has something to offer this country. Zuma has made it to the list of people who might be in line to become members of Parliament. Zuma is supposed to be enjoying his retirement which include good perks as former president of the country. Among some of the benefits Zuma enjoys are financial support for his staff since he is expected to continue doing some good work to the benefit of the country. Former presidents also enjoy state provided security.  

Former presidents usually establish foundations that are set in their names so as to carry out some charitable work. Former American presidents, for example, tend to establish libraries through which they build legacies that would live beyond them. Our former president Jacob Zuma is building a legacy of a kind, a legacy based on what he knows best. Jacob Zuma is further cementing the legacy of a divided nation. Further, Zuma has promised to irritate the hell out of his “Haters”, as he expressed it on Twitter. The reality is that the ANC is playing dead whilst Zuma is staging a political comeback. Let me be fair to the man, he has never left politics since he resigned earlier in the year.  

The fact that Zuma has been nominated to the list, alongside Malusi Gigaba, is an indication that some within the ANC are out of touch with the reality. Or, those who frown upon this latest instalment of wisdom from the ANC are rather out of touch with the reality. One way or another, something is amiss here. I do not think Zuma will take up the position of becoming a member of Parliament. This is not because Zuma would find it morally wrong in going to Parliament. Zuma will turn down this opportunity simply because he is aware that becoming a member of Parliament will result in him losing perks as former president. 

The painful truth is that there are some ANC members who believe that Jacob Zuma has done nothing wrong during his tenure as the president of the country. Actually, those ANC members seem to believe that Zuma has done such as sterling job that the country is poorer without his services. For those party members, the ongoing enquiry into state capture, for example, is just a big misunderstanding about what Zuma got up to during his presidency. This also applies to countless task teams that President Cyril Ramaphosa has setup to correct some of the problems that the Zuma presidency left behind at various state owned entities such as Eskom and SARS. 

By nominating Zuma to the party list, ANC members have shown the middle finger to the nation. This must be very embarrassing for president Ramaphosa who has been selling the idea of the new dawn to those who care to listen. It is difficult to imagine the new dawn that involve Zuma playing such a prominent role within the party and possibly within the society. The ANC need to step up and address this situation. The standard retort by the ANC that the branches have spoken is just not enough to deal with Zuma‘s impending second coming.

Zuma ‘s nomination reminds me of one American senate candidate who won the elections even after he died. It is not good for anyone to lose to a dead person because it just shows how bad things are. Yet, voters in such situation are to blame for voting for a dead person. Does this mean that voters believed that a dead person can deliver better than those who are still alive? Could it be that things are so bad within the ANC that branches overlooked others and decided to nominate Zuma who might not even be able to serve. This is stranger than fiction.   

Ralph Mathekga is a senior researcher at UWC's Centre for Humanities Research, and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.

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