Conversation? It was more of a monologue by passengers, or would-be passengers, of the Jacob Zuma bandwagon.
The event in question was the launch of the Post-Polokwane Conversations (PPC), a series of “round table discussions” beginning at the Ntuzuma Full Gospel Community Church north of Durban — where, a year ago, ANC president Jacob Zuma was made an honorary pastor.
Addressed by speakers such as academic and political analyst Sipho Seepe and Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini, both confirmed Zuma-ites, it included churchgoers, business people, fading politicians and even policemen. According to Madoda Dhlamini, a driving force behind the PPC, the initiative is an attempt to “demystify” the ANC national conference in Polokwane for people at ground level.
Dhlamini, an advertising industry player and chief executive of Storm Communications, said the intention was to take the discussions nationwide. Similar events are planned in Boipatong and Polokwane next month, followed by Kimberley and Phutaditjaba in the Free State in October. Dhlamini was adamant that the PPC is “not a party or pro-Zuma mouthpiece”, but the “conversation” suggested otherwise. It boiled down to an orchestrated attempt to spruce up Zuma’s image, using the Bible, serial Mbeki-bashing and the usual rhetorical grandstanding around the ANC president’s court case.
Bishop Pule Magethi felt there were “interesting” and “obvious parallels” between the biblical story of King Saul and his “god-anointed” heir, David, and that of Mbeki and Zuma, respectively. “David [Zuma] respected the state’s criminal justice system despite its blatant injustice against him. Nowhere did he criticise it publicly or fight against it … Our criminal justice system has collapsed in terms of its efficiency … It’s important for ‘David’ and his colleagues to restore confidence in it,” said Magethi, who reminded his audience that God “removes kings and sets up other kings”.
Cosatu’s Dlamini talked of the policy shifts expected from the new ANC leadership to create “decent jobs”, free education and to drop “market-driven rural development”. The rest of the time he spent ranting against Mbeki’s “abominable” behaviour in appointing the SABC board and calling for intensified support for charges against Zuma to be dropped. The crowd, numbering about 150 and progressively shrinking as the afternoon wore on, cheered.
Seepe bemoaned “the consolidation of power in the hands of a few” during Mbeki’s reign. This “centralisation of power has also lead to a centralisation of thought”, he said, with “people beginning to say and think what the president says and thinks”. He restated the belief that Zuma would not have a fair trial and that the charges against him should be dropped.
As recently reported by the Mail & Guardian, Seepe is part of a “brains trust” which is strategising on how to strike the charges. The PPC is also the brainchild of the Ntuzuma church’s pastor Asanda Qangule and Sipho Nyawo, director of the Amathonga Institute, which “helps organisations improve their performance”.
Nyawo, dismissed as Transnet executive director in 1996 for credit card abuse, has strong links to Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust chairperson Barnabas Xulu.
The Ntuzuma event cost “just under a million”, Dhlamini told the M&G.