Tony Jackman
Tony Jackman

One day, under President Malema, will we fondly remember the good old Zuma days?

Anyone who is a politician in South Africa; everyone who wants our vote today: you’re a desperately sorry bunch, every one of you. You are, to a man and woman, failing us, the voters of South Africa. From the ANC and Cope to the DA, the ID, the little lads in ANCYL and pretty much everything that calls itself a political party, there is precious little to inspire confidence.

We’re talking about politicians here. We’re not choosing clerics. If Tutu were on the list, now HE would have my vote. But we have to choose corruptible politicians from a long list of corruptible politicians. So let’s hear it for not slinging all of the mud at the ANC, which many, particularly white voters, have taken to doing. That’s too easy — and there’s plenty of mud to go around. Let’s hear it for REAL change. Let’s hear it for something that matters. Let’s hear it for the people who sing and dance at Jacob Zuma’s feet. Let’s ask ourselves why they do that. And let’s ask ourselves: if this is not the man we want, who the hell else in the country is promising those people what THEY want? Who else are they expected to believe will give it to them?

I have been reflecting. And I have been rereading my blog post about the juxtaposition between folk in places like Constantia and Sandton, and their indifference to the plight of the poor. And I hope, I so hope, that these people are right in believing Zuma is the man to do it for them. Because the point is that what they want, they must be given, if we are all to have peace among ourselves and with our collective conscience. If you, behind your high walls in Constantia and Bantry Bay and Houghton and Waterkloof, want peace and happiness in your lives and your children’s lives, you really need to stop and think about this. It is the core at the centre of our hopes and dreams. Our country will not thrive without this being addressed.

Of all of my blog posts, the one that resonates most clearly with what I really care about, and which reflects my deepest hopes, and to a degree also my fears, is the post about those people with their hugely disproportionate possessions and wealth and the desperate nothingness in the hands of so many of these people who tomorrow will choose Jacob Zuma as the man to lead them into a more prosperous future. Anyone who has never spared a thought for the plight of those people is a part of the reason they will be choosing him tomorrow. You could think of it as just desserts. They feel ignored, their aspirations sidelined. Which is why, if he does not deliver, they will dump him and choose … well, who knows. Malema, maybe. So let’s give this some serious thought, because, hey, maybe one day we’ll be living under a Julius Malema government and fondly remembering the good old Zuma days.

There is a lot in my personal history and work experiences that influences the way I feel about this. In the Nineties, I had a job which took me much closer to these rich people than I had ever been, for I do not come from that elite world. As editor of a lifestyle rag called Top of the Times in theCape Times, I rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous of the Mother City several times a week for many years, and I came to understand how little most of them cared or even thought about anyone outside of their own gilt cages. How these people spent pretty much all of their professional and creative ability on making themselves even richer, and on narrow self-interest. Yes, there will be exceptions to this rule, as there are to all rules, and God bless those few. But they are the exceptions, let us not kid ourselves.

I remember attending celebrity auctions where it was more about what these frighteningly rich people could win when raffle time came around than about how much could be raised for whatever charity had been chosen. I found it sickening. I appeared to fit in, I guess. I am an odd sort of person — I am well-spoken, because I have taught myself to speak well. I have, if you like, had some self-elocution. People generally presume that I have an academic background. Most white people I know just take that as a given. I learnt the manners that one needs to have in the company of these rich people, the manners to which they are born. I had learnt how to write by practising and observing, not by going to university.

But I am really from working-class stock, with cousins who worked in the mills of West Yorkshire, the kind of people you saw in the movie The Full Monty. Those are the simple, hard-working, struggling people that I call kin, and I am proud as hell of them and being one of them, even though they think I’m posh and love sending me up.

But they are northern English and I am South African born and bred (and not colonial, my parents having been 20th century immigrants). And so I found myself being born South African and unavoidably white, seven years into apartheid. And I’ve been looking at myself lately, and looking at this country I love with all of my heart and soul, and trying to place an eye on the future and just finding a big question mark, and asking myself: what’s important? What do we need, what do South Africans need, what does my country need, right here, right now?

My country, the South Africa I live in, needs something to be done about that terrible disparity. If something is not done about it, and soon, those who have clung to their wealth and cared nothing for the poor will have no case to make. This is no ordinary country, and yet these people carry on as if they were living on the Algarve or in Monte Carlo. It’s so crass, so vulgar. We live in Africa. We live in a country where the majority live in the worst Third World conditions. In all conscience, we have to respond to their needs, and God help us if rich white South Africa does not wake up, right here, right now. Come out of your gilt cages, roll your sleeves up, and do something or surely face consequences of a kind we all wish to avert.

I cannot see who will solve this problem for us all. I hope, I deeply hope, that Jacob Zuma will be the man who can give these people what they want — these people who tomorrow will make him the most powerful man in Africa. It is pretty clear that the man has near fatal flaws. But there are other things that these people see, or think they see — what if they’re right? Could it be?

Jacob Zuma will not come to this position by right, divine or secular. The people do not serve the leader — the leader serves his people. To borrow a line from the Americans, as adapted by Neil Diamond: My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing, proudly I sing today. Proudly I sing of a future which, right now, has a great question mark on it.

Who will I vote for tomorrow? I don’t even know. Smart-arse commentators on my blogs have made presumptuous choices on my behalf. One even calls me a “DA sympathiser”. The parties all have questionable characters in their ranks. There is the potential for corruption in all of them. I just do not believe in politicians.

At least there is the hope that Zuma will be able to do something to improve the lot of these desperate people. And why should they be denied so that the country’s elite can have a squeaky-clean politician who will pretty everything up and put a nice gloss on things and leave the poorest of the damnably poor to rot? Because the people behind those high walls do not care a fig, trust me they do not.

Either way, he’s our man now, this man Zuma. How will I vote? I will only know when I am in that booth, poised to make my cross. And that is one thing we have. The right to choose, to vote, and it is our choice to make, nobody else’s. It will be between me and the ballot box, but if my cross does go next to that man who so frightens many of us right now, I will hold him to account.

Ah yes, sweet land of liberty. I borrowed that from America. If only we could borrow their president.