Angry groupings of Africans chanting struggle songs and shouting “Amandla!” have always invoked fear in the hearts and minds of the elite or cabals that defend unfair systems of government celebrating inequality as normalcy.
Armed with heavy military artillery, young recruits in the South African Defence Force and the police trembled with fear as thousands of toyi-toyi masses barricaded roads, brought an end to schooling and an end to the state of normalcy celebrated by their oppressors.
There was, of course, nothing normal about the oppression of the black mass by their white compatriots, but the tyrannical rule that spurned more than three centuries was a state of normalcy to those who were indifferent to the suffering of black people.
These masses — spurred to revolt by the unparalleled brutality of the apartheid regime during the last five decades of white domination in South Africa — were of course merely singing about, if not merely longing for, “their” machine guns to get their own pound of flesh.
They sang what is now said to be Jacob Zuma’s signatory call to arms, “Awuleth’ umshini wami,” and similar songs that roused emotions in a people longing for a better day. The truth, of course, is that the song is derived from an old church song remixed to suit the times of the struggle.
People’s emotions and beliefs in their “power in numbers” strategy showed in their faces as they faced the barrels of guns, not even shaken by the reality that an unsympathetic regime — with no regard or respect for black life — had its finger on the trigger.
Freedom fighters within the country who actually brought apartheid to its knees never raced literally to arm themselves against their butchers.
Thirteen years into democracy, the black mass is back on the streets. Fear is let loose on the land. Emotionally charged renegades and “young lions” within youth organisations are again, as their heroes did over the past five decades, leading the rebellion. As it was yesterday, the guilty are afraid.
The struggle is different this time around, but the empty-handed youths are defying all manner of reason and singing — merely singing — about their longing for their machine guns to right the perceived wrongs of the day. Not one is wielding a machine gun.
In the dog box and in need of rescue is one Jacob Zuma, who joined the mass democratic movement in his youth. The freedom fighter that went beyond longing for to actually wielding a machine gun in defence of “a divided people” is facing the might of the state.
Like the young lions of old, Zuma still has a lot of fire in his belly. It’s back to the streets for him. It’s back to the streets for the powerless and this is just the beginning.
The guilty are already shivering in their beds, yet no one has started marching on the tar roads to “Pretoria”. Young people are not carrying pangas yet and are not planning to necklace rebels with burning tyres.
They, like Zuma, still have a lot of fire in their bellies.
Why, then, are the guilty trembling in their glass houses when those who are singing about machine guns — but carrying none — have yet to throw stones? Why are these young lions — who have been marching in step with the poor and marginalised — vilified and described as criminals fueling the heart-wrenching rise of the communists?
Fikile Mbalula, Bhuti Manamela and Zizi Kodwa might be talking about beating the dog so hard that its handlers come out in its defence. But they will not pick up arms against the African National Congress-led government — regardless of who is king at the Union Buildings.
It is therefore time to warn South Africa’s media that the monstrous image it has created of Zuma, the ANC Youth League and Cosatu does not exist.
There will always be elements in the crowd who will burn T-shirts and sing derogatory songs about Zuma’s opponents, and there are similar people on the other side singing equally derogatory songs about Zuma. To paint everyone with the same brush is most dangerous and tantamount to finding people guilty by association. Our National Prosecuting Authority — having secured a guilty verdict against businessman Schabir Shaik — is constantly finding out that it was naive to assume Zuma’s fate was intertwined with Shaik’s.
There are elements in the broad Zuma lobby that are worrying. But that’s a topic for another day.
Today, it can be said that the pro-Zuma rebellion will never amount to a race for arms or a desire to cause harm to anyone, but those with preconceived ideas about the uneducated polygamist from rural KwaZulu-Natal believe there is enough hot shit boiling to start packing for Perth.
The truth is that they will not go. Their friends are still running B&Bs in Zimbabwe and are the only ones drawing profits from the rubble that has become that country’s economy. They will be last ones to leave. They will also switch off the lights, as it were.
As long as the belly of that country still bears wealth, Mugabe’s critics will remain. The self-same people standing on rooftops with loud speakers vilifying President Robert Mugabe are the only ones making profits as that country continues to falter under a heavy scourge brought about by a systematic isolation of Zimbabwe from the global village.
They are battling to understand why African heads of states give Mugabe a standing ovation. In newspaper headlines, African presidents are ridiculed as swimming in the sewer with Mugabe and indifferent to the suffering of Zimbabweans under his rule.
It is the self-same people who seek to force-feed Africans their own versions of democracy that fail to understand and make peace with the Zuma phenomenon.
Whether voters — in this case ANC delegates — elect a despot or not is immaterial. What is important is that they would have practised their rights and chosen a leader who resembled the will of the people.
The world is littered with examples of unpopular decisions taken by the majority under the name of democracy. No one knows why Zimbabweans vote Mugabe back into office after every election if his tyrannical rule is so unbearable.
In the same way, white South Africans — who claim to be liberals — voted the apartheid government into office during elections and yet claimed to be opposed to the madness of this regime.
Worse, it is unfathomable why Americans — people who claim to hold the moral compass of democracy — voted the empty-headed Texan cowboy that is George Bush back into office while claiming to be against the war on terror.
Even today, Americans campaigning for the highest office in that land are still half-hearted about marching out of Iraq and admitting the whole war on terror was launched on the basis of a lie. They still do not see their mistake.
They will not get out of Iraq because they are haunted by images of the Saigon escape. Vietnam is fresh in their minds. It has terrorised the American psyche for years. Iraq might just be another Waterloo. The rest of the world must live with it.
Yet Africans are not allowed to make their own mistakes in their insignificant corners of the globe.
Those colluding with Zuma’s political persecutors are failing to nail him to the wall and are opting to demonise him. We are told to fear Zuma. Be afraid, be very afraid if Zuma and his friends at Cosatu and the SACP march into the Union Buildings, newspapers say.
Whether the courts find him guilty or not, Zuma is just no material for high office, his detractors say. The fact that the courts found for him on the rape case is now immaterial to his detractors. He has a moral case to argue in the court of public opinion, they say. In that court, he is as guilty as sin.
In the minds of Zuma’s detractors, the fumbles made by the NPA in pursuit of a conviction against Zuma do not matter.
We are, however, told we cannot afford to bring apartheid assassins to book. Put the money to good use. Give it to the poor.
Yet, the same people want Zuma behind bars. If not for corruption, then for crimes he may have committed during the struggle days. Find something. Anything! Lock him up, whatever the cost. Professional letter writers are advising other like-minded racists to pack for Perth, for here comes Zuma with his band of communists.
We are told to look at modern-day Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for the trajectory of that country’s economy for clues of how much could change and how much would remain the same when Zuma becomes lord of the Union Buildings.
It is unfortunate that Zuma, while engaging high gear in his election machinery to campaign for the soon-to-be-vacant ANC top job, is hamstrung and unable to communicate his vision for the country.
Organisational laws do not allow him to turn the movement of the people into his personal fiefdom and ANC voters will not crown people who are seen to be marching out of step.
The issue of what direction the country will take under Zuma’s presidency is bigger than Zuma and his entourage.
It is the ANC, not Zuma, who carries the aspirations of the African people.
And because the destiny of the African people has been joined at the hip with that of the ANC since its foundation in 1912, it is the ANC that will define our future and the direction the country will take.
It is therefore difficult for those who think our future is shaped by individuals to read the future because Zuma is mum on this subject.
There is no crystal ball, they protest. Give us clues. In reality, there is no need for clues or crystal ball gazing. The future of the country, of the ANC and the people is written in black and white and copies of it are easily accessible.
Business people hoping to understand the future of our country need to get their hands on the ANC policy-conference discussion documents. They can also analyse the resolutions. The self-same shall be further discussed and endorsed at the national conference.
They will also note that Zuma was present at the conference and so were his backers within the broad mass democratic movement. Zuma’s input and the contributions of those who wish to see him leading the organisation have been incorporated into the current policy positions of the ANC. These are not likely to be changed or reviewed until the next conference.
Those who know the ANC, suggest that a serious review on policy and a comprehensive change of guard in the ANC are most likely to be done in 2017. Such extensive introspection was done in 1997, will be done in 2007 and it could be another 10 years before another.
The business community would note that the ANC is not talking about cloning Chávez’s policies. The status quo is being maintained, so its business as usual regardless of who leads the pack after December.
With that said, you would think the “concerned group” would continue with its process of sucking our country’s wealth and leave us to gather wild berries to feed our kids.
But no, Zuma critics will not rest until we have all swallowed the lie that Zuma, being one man, can dragoon the ANC to shift from its course into another Zimbabwe. This has not happened — not because President Thabo Mbeki was at the helm, but because the ANC was running the show.
Armageddon will not happen as long as the ANC — not individuals — continues to carry the aspirations of the African people.
People need to also wake up to the reality that Zuma, the monster, does not exist.
Zuma embraces communists. And so do the majority of the African people in this country. The Communist Party exists in South Africa not as a threat to the aspirations of the broad populace, but as an organisation that complements the ANC.
The ANC, with Cosatu and the PAC in tow, is a way of life for the African people in this country. The demonised leaders of Cosatu whom Zuma embraces are not calling for anything foreign but a sincere commitment to the second stage of the national democratic revolution.
This is merely more emphasis on meeting the needs of the poor than calling for land grab. This is, in my view, what Zuma is likely to bring into governance.
The former deputy president is a proponent of rural development — so one is likely to see more emphasis on investments on social development programmes for the poor.
While Mbeki’s tenure in office propelled more Africans into the black middle strata and maintained progressive macro-economic policies, Zuma’s might be characterised by fast-tracking of rural development, construction of thousands of free medical clinics, rolling out of education campaigns to millions of illiterate adults, provision of food to the poor and rolling out massive housing programmes.
This is all not new.
Back home, Zuma is already running the Jacob Zuma Children’s Education Fund, which is a bold attempt to educate thousands of pupils orphaned, by political violence and decades of faction fighting in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
He founded this trust using ministerial discretionary funds while he was minister of economic affairs and tourism in that province.
It is Zuma’s wish to enroll thousands of poor pupils in schools and he has publicly expressed disappointment with the current government for failing to establish a nationwide literacy programme for illiterate adults, saying this is in contrast with a sub-clause in the Freedom Charter that says the “democratic state will introduce a mass education plan to eradicate illiteracy”.
The ANC deputy president says a government based on the will of the people should be at the forefront of redressing the past injustices, particularly in the area of education.
In the same vein, Zuma is now mustering support of the business community to back a bold plan to build ablution facilities in rural KwaZulu-Natal, starting in his home village of iNkandla in northern Zululand.
“I believe that we want to change the quality of life for the better. There are things you can do immediately. One of these is sanitation. People suffer from cholera because they use the open veld.
“You cannot hope to put a modern running toilet in each household, so I developed an idea to have communal facilities,” he said.
These rural; projects do not only portray Zuma’s passion for rural development but his understanding of the difficulty government is facing in its quest to improve the lives of rural people.
“How do you connect a homestead on top of the mountain with the one at the bottom? My view is that we create public facilities. I am engaging the private sector and government in this regard and we will have a pilot project at iNkandla in the area of Amakhosi,” said Zuma.
Since being sidelined from government, Zuma has occupied a space in which he is able to criticise government and its domestic policies.
“I have a problem with the rural sanitation programmes that are in place because they cannot be used in [suburbs like] Westville in Durban. People need not bath in an open river if they can have proper showers,” he said.
Zuma says he is mindful of the fact that people need water, electricity and proper sanitation. “If you have not addressed those, then the question of a better quality of life will just be a theory.”
Zuma is neither a Messiah nor a menace to society. I think those of us who are in the media should be careful not march out of step with the rest of the country. In the same way that Africans do not believe they can get justice from the courts, they could soon lose faith in the media — and that would a tragedy.
I don’t know when the media will start to undo the harm they have done to Zuma (I must add Zuma has also played into the hands of the media. He makes good copy for newspapers), but the starting point might be to accept that Zuma, the monster, does not exist.
So, why should we fear Zuma, the 100% Zuluboy?