Ndumiso Ngcobo
Ndumiso Ngcobo

Are you ‘sensible’ or ‘formerly sensible’ about Zuma?

So the Zuma Tsunami was really unstoppable after all. This is the greatest news ever. Or a national tragedy of calamitous proportions.

Jacob Zuma is one of those individuals who always seem to bring it out in everyone. The passion, I mean. I have yet to meet an individual who shrugged and went, “Zuma? I don’t know. I suppose he’s alright”. I have made this point before but everyone seems to fall into two categories where JZ is concerned:

1. The Zapiro school of thought: JZ is the Beast foretold by Nostradamus 450 years ago.
2. When JZ takes a whizz, shouldn’t there be someone collecting the healing waters?

Most people who fancy themselves as belonging to the nation’s intelligentsia will, of course, vehemently deny harbouring any strong feelings about Zuma one way or the other. It is, after all, rather unintellectual to be emotional about the subject of one’s “objective” analysis. I call such assertions of objectivity green lies.

Zuma has this incredible knack for drawing people out of their shells and forcing them to wear their hearts on their sleeves. I am still in two minds whether he consciously does this. If this is a conscious skill on his part, I hereby declare Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma a genius. Especially since JZ is not known for making public pronouncements on who he favours and who he wishes to see hang by their nads on Mary Fitzgerald Square. And that includes some people who have made it loud and clear how much they despise him. Anyone with a cursory appreciation for the elementary rules of power knows how much this skews the scales in his favour.

I was reminded of this phenomenon while following the recent spat between Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro, Karima Brown and Dr Xolela Mangcu in Mondli’s backyard in the last few weeks. It struck me that when Zapiro “outed” those that he deems to be jostling for a good creeping spot up JZ’s colon (Brown, Mangcu, Seepe, Gordin, Jordan, Hlophe, Mpshe et al), he has set up a tantalising match-up between the Formerly Sensibles (Zapiro’s words not mine) and the Sensibles in the next 5 years. Let the games begin.

I am no Zapiro, so I am not in any position to declare who belongs in the Sensibles camp. But I would venture that Tutu, Lekota, Zille, Malala, Makhanya, De Lille, Holomisa, Shilowa et al would not sue me if I said I expected nothing less from them than their full participation on the Sensibles’ side in the impending battle. I believe they have made their views loudly and clearly on this matter.

My first observation is that both sides have accused the other side of suffering from a severe case of herd mentality where Zuma’s sainthood/Satanism (depending on where one stands) is concerned. Each side claims neutrality and accuses the other of holding extreme stances on JZ. For instance, Karima Brown’s brilliantly-worded (let’s admit it) missive in response to Zapiro employed the phrase “herd mentality” to describe the mainstream media’s stance on Zuma. And many such accusations have also flowed out the pens of the Sensibles camp, including that of Zapiro, whose cartoon started the latest skirmish. And I love it when people call each other sheep.

My second observation here is that the Formerly Sensibles have their work cut out for them. I have often observed that, when faced with a conundrum of which side to pick in an intellectual debate, it is probably prudent to pick the more pessimistic side. It is much easier to appear intellectual if you predict doom and gloom because … well, one is likely to be proven right. By show of hands; (and using Ockham’s Razor), what is the likelihood that the very first six months of Zuma’s presidency will not be rocked by some government scandal or the other? Can we agree that predicting a disaster here is a bit like standing on the 1-Star Stop bridge overlooking the N1 in Midrand and predicting a minibus taxi-inspired inferno at some point or the other? Pointing out all the dark blotches on a white canvas is a much easier task than trying to point out the white vastness of the canvas. That’s just how the human brain is wired.

Here is my own prediction of what the next 5 years have in store for us. The next 5 years will not be any better or any worse than the last 15. Triumphant declarations of rampant decay and glorious trumping up of mediocre achievements will be based on Sensibles or Formerly Sensibles’ covert/overt membership. Depending on who you listen to, the Mbeki years were either an unmitigated disaster or a case study in how African governance should work. The macroeconomic indicators were effectively managed while job creation stagnated. Sars optimised tax collection while the fiscal coffers were regularly raided. Significant strides were made in many primary-healthcare KPIs while there was a lot of dilly-dallying in dealing with Aids. Access to poverty-alleviation grants reached previously undreamt-of levels while basic qualitative numeracy and literacy stuttered. South Africa Inc established herself as a major global roleplayer while the parastatals limped from one retarded crisis to the next as Erwin and Co looked on in bemusement.

And so on and so. A typical C-minus report card. Those who thought Mbeki was an insufferable prick with an advanced Napoleon syndrome groaned and turned in an “F”. Those who drank heartily from the fountains of Mbeki juice handed in A-plus report cards. Just the way it is supposed to be. Expecting anything else would have been expecting humans to act in un-human ways. And I expect nothing more and nothing less in the next 5 years. There will probably be some shifts in emphasis, as is in the nature of all new brooms. My brain is too simplistic for the intricacies of governance. For this reason I will not be able to regale you with my dof predictions of where the Zuma Tsunami will thrive and where it will falter. Zuma is neither the messiah nor the beast. Only membership to the Formerly Sensibles or the Sensibles will make people believe one or the other.

The more cynical reader has spotted the gaping hole in this entire analysis. Yes; my own declaration of where I stand on Zuma. If my earlier “green lies” assertion regarding those who claim objectivity on Zuma are accurate, then I must belong to either the Sensibles or the Formerly Sensibles. Let me know what you think.

    (Note: This whole fence-sitting, neutrality scene is underrated in its intrinsic Swiss serenity. You should try it some time.)

[email protected]