Rhodes has fallen, but how long until Zuma falls?

Jacob Zuma. (Gallo)

Jacob Zuma. (Gallo)

He doesn’t deserve one, not by a long shot, but I’m pretty sure that a bronze or cement statue of Jacob Zuma would be more welcome than the real deal.

South Africans got the ball rolling for some real change over the past couple of weeks when they lobbied for a noteworthy protest to see the Cecil John Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town (and others) removed.

The #RhodesMustFall campaign, which started as a Twitter trend, soon gained enough traction to actually manifest some sort of result – it’s not unknown that protests that start on Twitter often don’t result in any practical outcome.

#BringBackOurGirls for example has not brought back the 200-plus Nigerian girls kidnapped by militant Islamic group Boko Haram last April – it started a conversation, brought awareness (which is important as well) but a whole year later, and the Nigerian people and the parents of those children are still waiting for their return.

#RhodesMustFall, however, did see Rhodes fall. Excellent.

You know what we can’t get right though, and what the ANC in particular can’t get right? Seeing Zuma fall.

A living artifact
The statue protest saw some solid mass, some material thing fall. Rhodes’s statue, however, was fixed. A thing without purpose or action or influence, unable to look back at its own past, stuck in the mud, cast in stone and unable to move.

It couldn’t build Nkandla, spend taxpayers’ money, or swim in fire-pools. It can avoid Parliament but it can’t live a life of opulence, influence and corruption. You know who can though? Jacob Zuma.

When will we see him fall? He is hardly deserving of a bobble-head figurine, let alone a statue to celebrate his tainted legacy. I would honestly prefer some sort of model version of him over the real one we currently have. Although, in practical terms, with the little he does, he is already nothing more than the living version of an artefact.

It probably sounds like I don’t support the #RhodesMustFall campaign. Like I am trying to deny its significance and requesting that we address more pertinent matters. It probably sounds like I am one of those people who lean toward the “what the hell is the big deal and these statues should remain where they are because these people contributed to society (the white portion of it mostly), in a meaningful and constructive way” brigade. I don’t feel that way.

Parliament is no museum
Let me issue a disclaimer right now: While I do not support the complete destruction of statues, I do condone their removal from public areas and especially institutions that require transformation. (Yes, for those of you who aren’t aware, transformation is an ongoing process. And for many people, it’s nonexistent.)

Statues that celebrate people who are basically anti-anything meaningful, people who don’t or did not seek to move this country forward, do not deserve a podium where they can loom over the future of this country when in fact they are only reminders of the past (and not in a good way).

Their place is in a museum, where the people they represent or represented can be contextualised in a factual way – instead of a nostalgic one (trust me, this does happen).

You know what’s not a museum though? Parliament. It’s a place of national importance, where discussions, debates and decisions take place that are relevant to this country.

Earlier this week, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, said there is a faction of ANC MPs who are plotting to oust the president for their own selfish needs – (the fact that she so sternly needs him to stay raises many an eyebrow). Over and above that, she asked other members of the ANC to defend Zuma from the group who are trying to unseat him. 

A museum is a place where interesting things are housed. And while Jacob Zuma and Mbete are interesting, they should not be stone temples that are worshipped, symbols who support each other’s podiums and praise them without ever exercising any significant change. If this is the case, what difference does it make? Let Zuma fall.

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Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is the social media accounts director at Ogilvy PR. She was previously the deputy digital news editor and social media editor at the Mail & Guardian. Haji has an honours degree in journalism from the University of Stellenbosch and continues to write columns for the M&G. Read more from Haji Mohamed Dawjee


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