Khaya Dlanga
Khaya Dlanga

The president is public property

Julius Malema said that President Jacob Zuma is “our father”, I must admit, I half expected him to complete the statement by saying “who art in heaven”. Let’s face it, the president has never done anything wrong in the history of his existence according to the Youth League and the ANC. St Zuma is saintlier than Mandela. A man who repeatedly said he wasn’t a saint, let alone a messiah. Zuma on the other hand, very few see him as one, yet the ANC likes to present him as one. I know he has never claimed to be one. The ANC seems to have sanctified and raised him to the level of a deity. Maybe we should expect to see government offices adorned with his face in stained glass windows beaming upon us. He is infallible. Every indefensible action is defended. The public and the press are publicly ridiculed for questioning the questionable. He is beyond reproach. Again, not according to him but by those who surround him. The president has said nothing to refute implied sanctification.

When he married his third wife I did not see what the big deal was all about. Let the man have his three mothers-in-law I said. It was his democratic right. Some of us applauded him for his honesty, he sees a woman he likes, he marries her. That was admirable. That was until we found out that he had fathered a 20th child according to reports, out of wedlock. Many people have children out of wedlock. There are such people within my family.

Then the ANC tells us we are being disrespectful for asking questions. Excuse me? They tell us it is a private matter. This does not work for us. Since the taxpayers pay for his wives. When Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States and upon arriving in Washington before his inauguration, he said, “the truth is, I suppose I am now public property”. I know fully well that many will give the easy and lazy answer “this is not America”. Of course it’s not. The fact of the matter is that he was put in office by the public. The public foots his bills. The public pays for his spouses. Therefore the public has the right to know, especially considering what an expensive affair this will be for it. As much as the ANC would like to keep him an ANC matter, he is more than a simple ANC matter, he belongs to us, the public. Whether some of the public like him or not, he is theirs. He is a property of the state. We are concerned for his health, his well-being and how he represents us before the world’s stage.

According to News24: “The state will contribute an amount equal to 17% of his salary to a pension fund and will pay two thirds of his medical-aid contribution covering his family. He will also be insured by the state for accident and life cover. When he travels on official business, he may be accompanied by his spouses — (the handbook makes allowance for spouses in a polygamous marriage) and those dependent children who cannot remain at home are entitled to accommodation and subsistence at the expense of the state. The same arrangement applies to travel abroad.” If this is what we pay for then we have the right to know. There is nothing disrespectful about wanting find out what one is paying for.

Everyone celebrates when a child is born. It is a beautiful and good thing and adds incalculable joy to the parents. Having read the president’s statement I get the feeling that he is blaming us for having had unprotected sex with a woman who is not his wife. All of a sudden, if we talk about this issue we are questioning the right of the child to exist. Not at all, we are questioning the apology you made after the rape trial (in which he was exonerated) when you apologised for having had unprotected sex. Of course we appreciate the fact that he is taking responsibility for the child, but then again, he is supposed to take responsibility.

The birth of this child is only a reflection of a lot of men in South Africa. Men who are married and father children with other women. My own father fathered a child with another woman even though he was married to my mother. Clearly, the president is a reflection of what is happening within our society. One would expect that he would try to change this, if not, at least pretend to. Having unprotected sex with a woman who is not his wife is not sending out a positive signal to the rest of our men — particularly after he apologised a few years ago for even more dangerous behaviour, unprotected sex with a woman he knew was HIV-positive at the time. Unfortunately when it comes to his partners and sex this will follow him forever — just like Zapiro’s shower. He is a clear indication of what is wrong and broken with many men in our country. Young men have few positive role models and the president is not helping. By all intents and purposes, even though he has three wives, one can’t shake the feeling that he still cheats on his three wives. That’s what this implied.

It is a pity that we rarely debate policy positions. It’s as though he were a celebrity of sorts, not a head of state. One wonders if the press should be blamed or he should be blamed for putting himself in positions where he is treated like a celebrity. He is in danger of being a celebrity president, where his contribution to the liberation of the country is but a footnote in the books of history. Does the president want to be known for everything else other than the instrumental achievements before the 2000nds? Will he be asked about his child out of wedlock and having unprotected sex after he apologised for it when he is in Davos again? Why can’t the ANC demand discipline from the president?

The best thing about the ANC is the worst thing about it. Loyalty. Loyalty at all costs it seems. The ANC’s relativism when it comes to defending its leaders is disturbing. Senior leaders are always defended even though it is clear that they are in the wrong. I’m not suggesting that people should be thrown under the bus, recognise that something is wrong, correct it and move on. The sooner you do so in public the sooner the irrelevant headlines will disappear.

This begs the question, where does loyalty lie? Is it to party first, then to nation? Or is it because the party is so powerful that the perception is that the ANC is in fact the nation? If that is the view, doesn’t the party fall into the trap of arrogance and a sense that it can do no wrong because it is the sole party that is in fact looking after the needs of the people? The ANC needs to stop running like it is still in exile, still a banned organisation. The symptoms of a secret organisation are still alive.

The problem I have with ANC is the same one Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had while Nelson Mandela was president. He’d said that the ANC had “stopped the gravy train long enough for it to get on it” a few months into the Mandela presidency. Madiba reprimanded him on TV for this. A few weeks later Tutu was on the phone with him and said “for goodness sake, how come you can shout at me like that in public”, Mandela laughed according to Tutu.

In conclusion, I would like to agree wholeheartedly with Tutu’s words when he said: “There are those of them who don’t actually recognise people who are basically on their side, who are critical, not because we want to see them fail. It is precisely the opposite. It is to say we want to see you succeed and that is why we mention these things … there are those who are becoming … I would say dangerously hypersensitive.”

  • BoyUninterrupted

    Yes Khaya. An emphatic yes to all of the above.

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  • Gavin-Paul Jollife

    Thanks for this , imformative and interesting , wish more people wpuld speak out .

  • Thami

    Great article.Well said,100% on point.

  • GreatSkee

    I can safely say now more than ever i am ashamed to be a member of the ANC. This is the same man not too long ago we were prepared to fight for at all costs and now he is slapping all of our efforts back into our faces. We as the ANC must admit we made a wrong move here and we are going to spend the rest of his serving period simincile singayazi ba uzakulala nabani amithise bani… SMH and hanging my head in shame. As for Julius Malema, that comment about adults and their issues, dude (cant bear to call u combrade rite now) that was not funny, we are adults to vote but not adult enough to know when a man is whoring or not! please

  • Lindiwe

    I agree with you 100 percent! I hope many people could start taking responsibility for their actions! I doubt if that word exists in ANC’s vocab! We need a miracle and a stop to this stupid blind loyalty!

  • Paul Whelan

    Nice article.

    There is no harm in loyalty, even perhaps blind loyalty at times.

    SA’s problem is that there is only one party to be loyal to.

  • Foom

    Well said!

  • Victoria Malakou

    Very relevant article. Particularly relevant to hard working tax payers who have to put up with the much discussed state of our roads and traffic lights, yet we are expected to excuse our own president time and again for seeming reckless behaviour both personally and professionally. As our leader it would seem to me to be a given that both privately and professionally he is accountable to the people of his country. I personally can’t think of a first world country that would allow such “dirty laundry” to go unquestioned by anyone in a state position. Leaves food for thought as to why we seem to be in a constant struggle to trust our leaders to do their jobs and manage our country.

  • Rustum Kozain

    A good piece. But there is more at stake than wishing the ANC takes the criticism as sympathetic criticism (NP Van Wyk Louw had the same issue with the Nationalists and coined the term ‘lojale verset’ – loyal resistance/criticism.)

    What is at stake is a democratic principle: the ANC (and all politicians) should accept criticism as par for the course, and not become hyper-sensitive, and arrogantly over-defensive in the face of any criticism.

    The ANC is/has been f–king up in a big way. SA is good if, white or black, you’re comfortably middle-class or better. But lower middle-class and below, people across races are deeply unhappy, disappointed and angry, feeding into blind and intolerant ethnic and racial chauvinisms and taking it out on each other (look at any comments thread in SA). The next decade is going to be interesting and scary.

    Pumla Gqola’s take on the polygamy:

  • Walter Pike

    Khaya – what I have been wondering is another totally different question.

    Do all these woman bonk him because he is irresistibly handsome and sexy. Would he be voted onto lol

    You know what disturbs me about this is not only the morality issue and “love child” thing. But this woman is his friends daughter. Think about that for a second.

    Would you bonk your friends daughter??

    Sorry to be so frivolous.

  • G

    Clear, concise, objective and hard-hitting. The truth hurts like a mo’fo’ but indeed it shall set us free. Bravo Mr. Dlanga. Pure poetry in writing (if you catch my drift).

  • sebastian

    Julius Malema is, of course, JuMa to Zuma. His utterings and actions have amptly demonstrated his gangster mindset and tactics. His contempt for democratic process and debate infers a rising dictator. He, much like his mentor, represents the worst of African chauvinism. None of his actions demonstrate capacity for leadership.
    In the political realm he is currently the “useful idiot” of the Presidency, proclaiming populist ideas to inflame the public and to make Zuma appear as the diplomatic mediator, the calm and soothing presence that attracts votes. This is the oldest trick in the Stalinist textbook of dirty politics – engineer a crisis and then appear as its solution.
    The above presumes that Zuma can control JuMa, and JuMa is cunning enough to make it appear thus. But, then, this is exactly how Hindenburg felt about Hitler and Lenin about Stalin.

  • Ndamu

    Great article!

  • Kirsty

    “The best thing about the ANC is the worst thing about it. Loyalty. Loyalty at all costs it seems.”

    I couldn’t agree more with this statement – it’s a fact that a huge proportion of South Africans continue to vote ANC because of the debt they feel they owe them. I think this is why COPE will struggle to get more of a foothold… for now, anyway.

    Incidentally, in the UK John Terry, the England football team captain, is being hauled over the coals after an affair he had with a team-mates wife, which apparently resulted in a terminated pregnancy. It seems that football teams too are “public property”.

  • refilwe

    Nice article Khaya, I only wish it would have some sort of impact on the ‘culprits’ but alas…

  • Joe

    Good article Khaya.
    This handbook you refer to seems to be costing us all a lot of money. Maybe it’s time that the people who have to pay, become the authors of the contents of said handbook.

  • A. Sevillano

    You may be able to say it louder, but never clearer. An excellent article highlighting the reality of accountability. Keep on trucking!!

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  • Namhla

    I couldn’t have said it better even if i tried.

  • Mike

    Now you’ve done it Khaya! Siphiwo, Kitty Kat and Dave Harris are going to come after you with their machine guns blazing. They are going to call you an unreconstructed racist who longs for the days of apartheid. You are going to be called an untransformed bigot bowing to your white masters who should join them in Australia.

  • Musa

    Zuma has been like this forever, that is why many opposed his rise to power in the ANC and in the country.However such opposition was met with chanting and singing, with a few choice words from time to time.

    The result: a deeply flawed person was elected as president whilst everyone knew about such flaws.Now we must bear the consequences of our poor (collective) judgement.In this life you get the leaders you deserve.

  • Conrad Steenkamp

    Excellent article, Khaya. You bring together diverse strands of thought very neatly. well done.

  • Laura

    I just decided that all this furore is actually quite a good thing. Because it is good for our leaders to know that their positions come from us and they are accountable to us.

    Mbeki, you are messing around with the rule of law? Goodbye! Zuma, you are clearly a serial womaniser? Well, that is NOT OKAY! Your citizens are ashamed of you!

    Its good, they must know they are there on our account. And that they will not stay there if they mess us around.

  • Sipho

    Khaya if your concern about Zuma and his children is about the cost to the state, why not motivate through your party in parliament to change the rule book. Surely the rule book can be changed to accommodate one wife and one child, if that’s what your party prefers. At the moment you’re giving us your opinions which are tainted by your party allegiance. I personally think Zuma has been excessive in his personal relationship but it’s not against the law to be excessive.

  • Alto

    Yes, Khaya, yes, yes, yes.

    And maybe the one big gain SA will get out of this affair is that many South Africans, who would not have previuosly, will now question the blind loyalty they have to the ANC and its leaders in particular

  • Hugh Robinson

    Very good reading – Why bother to make celestial claims when all around you people do it for you?

    This is not a simple matter of having babies with another women this goes to the core of ones being and worthiness. If ZUMA has no respect or loyalty for long time friends how can he run a country.

    Forget the we screww someone whilst married theory, so therefore it is not unusual.

    A simple telling question needs an answer.

    Is it a Black, African, or even Zulu cultural thing to go out and screw the young daughters of loyal friends or is it frowned upon within black culture?

  • Owen

    Great article – If one’s friends are not critical of one then are they really friends. Friends help one through life and sometimes friends have to reprimand otherwise when does one know that one has strayed.

  • Vuyo

    What is appalling is the deafening silence of the ANC women’s league. Kanti why. The sad part is this is allowing or giving a gap for most black men to say this is African culture…Crap! Culture is created, so the fact that there were wrong things that happened in our culture, they are right. A breed of men needs to arise and change the sorry state of affairs in SA. Women will never be fully emancipated if this is the treatment we get. God, we need to hold our leaders accountable for such…PS: I inherited the president, I did not put him where he is…but sadly I suffer!

  • Bhut’ Zizi

    Amen Khaya, you speak for millions!

  • Sputs

    Khaya, thank you for a carefully crafted, well reasoned and sober article. I fully concur with your views, objective and truth-based and truth-drive.

    My hope and prayer is that the spokesman of the ANC could come across your article, and have the willingness to juxtapose his defensive article against yours.

    The time has come for those loyal members of the ANC to seriously review their slavish commitment to the ruling party before it is too late. The president does not take himself seriously why should his followers take him seriously?

    The time is apposite for Zapiro to drop the shower head back to its original position.

  • Bhut’ Zizi

    Amen Khaya, you’ve articulated the sentiments of a lot of black people. Sadly, the silence from most our brothers and sisters is still deafening.

  • Khutso

    Well said!!!!

    I am really dissappointed in his actions, especially since Zuma has got such a large following of people around the country people who would rather listen to him and follow his ways. I wouldnt be surprised if there was a growth in african men marrying second or third wives and also a growth in infidelity stats.

    This is embarressing for the country, and for us not to ask questions about our ‘first man’ is ridiculous! outside of this country that man represents us and how is anyone supposed to take him seriously if he behaves like a hormonal teenager, who cant keep it in!??

    This is not the way a man in charge of a country should behave and should not be offended if him people start asking questions or judging him!!!

    he just needs to grow up and leave women alone! (this isnt the time or the place!!!)

  • Obzino Latino

    Zuma may have, like any reasonable normal being, some weakenesses such as his undying love for sex with consenting adults.

    The fundemental question flowing from your purported intellectual debate would be, from which angle must we, as a diverse south african society, having just emerged out of a depressing racial, cultural (socia),economic and political oppressive system of governance led by colonial and apartheid agents for decades, morally judge each other. What is the stricking line of balance to restrict subjectivity in such an inherently dynamic morality contest Does our constitution provide us with wisdom as to how to handle such scenario. If yes, where lies confusion,but if not, what are we doing about it / are we handling the issue decently and sensitively as naturally expected?

    Do we acknowledge our diversity as the constitution demands,how about redress of unequal racial, cultural and economic power that reflects our society 20 years after this democracy, do we know or are we really interested to know what constitutes our very diversity, are we ready to handly these questions with less emossions as academics, media, and general societal intelligentsia as we should in the 21st century?

    The challenge we should grabble with here is “let he that is wthout sin among you let him cast the first stone” All Jesus was asking was can’t we, as civilized beings, handle the weaknesses of other fellow beings with decency and care and really stop being vindicative in our varying approaches!

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  • Fundiswa

    Nice piece. I don’t see Zuma stepping down as president…at least not over this sex scandal. And the one reason for this is that his family is “content” with his behavior and so is the ANC. If he was under any pressure from his family (ANC, wives and trillion kids) to step down for embarrassing them he might…just might consider stepping down. For now we can all keep our yes wide open for more scandals as Gedleyihlekisa never seems to disappoint.

  • Wawa

    If Jacob ‘Big Daddy’ Zuma marries or falls in love with a woman almost the same age as his first born son (aged 33). What trend is he setting to his children, the country and the nation especially being the president. What is really ticking in his mind when he undresses in front of these woman who are young enough to be his daughters? I give up on the man’s morality.

  • http://yahoo K Kanengoni

    While so many of us are happy to go to the altar and sing about JZ ‘s sins, we conveniently forget our own doings. At least someone has been open and honest. As heinous as it might appear, the man dealt with the issue with people concerned and should be respected for that. There are a lot of people doing the same and denying ever being involved. Even Jesus told those who wanted to stone a prostitute that they could do that if they themselves were pure and without sin. Yea point at JZ with one finger and the other four are pointing back exactly at you. Shame on many of us!

  • Citizen Mntu

    A most excellent article. Well conceived, well written! And it’s so heartening to read the other posts here that think so too.

    South Africa will only become an adult nation when its people learn to distinguish between truth & lies, between right & wrong, between scam government & value government.

    We must all hope that this latest Zuma scandal will arouse many citizens to critical thought, and that it will lead to the necessary disappearance of Zuma from the inflated position in which he presently squats.

    The man is a liar and a cheat, a selfish fool, a rotten ‘leader’ – and of course a national disaster. South Africans, wake up, stand up, get real and get a decent government for a change.

    Oh and I think it’s time we started a nationwide tax boycott too.

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