Michael Trapido
Michael Trapido

Sowetan opinion poll a mini-referendum on Zuma and arms deal?

Yesterday, although it may still be up, the Sowetan ran an opinion poll that posed the following question: “Do you think that people/organisations who received kickbacks in the arms deal should receive amnesty?” The result at the time of writing, with just more than 1 100 votes cast, was 56,87% against and 43,12% in favour.

One of those votes was mine — in line with what I have said previously I am very much in favour of the granting of an amnesty to Jacob Zuma and the others involved in the arms deal for the reasons I have outlined ad nauseam.

I must record that President Thabo Mbeki has categorically denied any question of wrongdoing in respect thereof.

I must also record that the media have been reporting a slight warming to the prospects of JZ becoming our next president. (After Polokwane I don’t think that JZ needs the media to confirm his overall popularity.)

That said, what was of interest to me is that just more than 43% of those polled said “yes” to an amnesty. These would be, I believe, primarily black, middle- to upper-class voters. Of course the odd whitey (like me) is in there but in essence it’s your more affluent and educated black voter.

These are people who would factor in issues such as morality, ethics, law and any number of other norms or social constructions relevant to South African society. Of course I would love to see the result of a poll that asked: Would you give Jacob Zuma amnesty? This would replace the issue with the personality in the minds of most people.

If that is a random sample of your middle- to upper-class black voters, then what would a poll on the question of a Zuma amnesty look like among black lower-middle to poorer classes? My guess is that, at the very least, 60% would be in favour of such an amnesty.

Post-Polokwane, the political goal posts have shifted dramatically with the reopening of the arms-deal investigation. The ANC will of necessity close ranks to deal with an issue that affects both camps and which will ensure that a single approach has to be adopted. This means that the bulk of the ANC’s 70% of the national vote would be in favour of any measures proposed to neutralise this threat to the party leadership.

We know that there would be a white majority against it based on principles, standards, the need to be firm on crime, accountability and any number of other factors. Among other communities I believe that the thinking will be closer to their view than that of the black community.

Bearing in mind that the ANC’s support constitutes by far the majority of our voters, JZ’s popularity (as demonstrated repeatedly but most significantly at Polokwane) and the fact that the amnesty would include many other powerful figures, I believe that there would be an overwhelming “yes to amnesty” vote in a referendum.

I defer to Professor Steven Friedman, Justice Malala and the many other experts in assessing this — that said, I’ll still bet them a beer that Zuma and company romp home.

In accordance with the reasons I have given in this blog on a number of occasions, I believe amnesty is the way to go.