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The Z to Z of SA politics

How many political lives does a Zuma have? And just how many ways are there to skin the said Zuma?

I’m not sure about the lives but when it comes to skinning this particular cat I know who I’d ask. One Jonathan Shapiro — or Zapiro — as per his pen of-deathly-satire name.

While our president is the master of saying what everyone wants to hear and committing to nothing, Zapiro has a knack for pinning him down on the less than savoury aspects of his character.

Jacob Zuma depresses as he impresses. An Ipsos Markinor poll released earlier this month revealed that, while the Obamas of this world plummeted in popularity, Zuma’s approval rating increased since he took office from 6,1 to 7,6 on a scale of 10. Low expectations will do that for you. Things were going well for the man even the opposition called “charming” while criticising.

But then he appeared on e.tv last week in an hour-long interview that may have just shattered that cautiously growing respect. He presented the worse kind of doublespeak in response to questions about pardoning Schabir Shaik, his former financial adviser who was found guilty on two counts of corruption and one count of fraud.

If you watched the interview you would recall his arrogant attitude to the many questions put to him by interviewer Nikiwe Bikitsha (also a columnist for the Mail & Guardian). While he began in his usual convivial manner, his irritation manifested itself in the ugliest sort of patronising attitude towards Bikitsha as the questions heated up. “Thought Zuma treated the excellent Nikiwe Bikitsha like a little village girl in e.tv interview last night,” said one Twitter post in the aftermath. “Offensive and patriarchal.”

“Why should I pardon him when he has not applied? I have nothing in front of me,” he kept saying, with a jarring smirk. When Bikitsha pointed out that the application was said to have been made he skirted the issue again, insisting he couldn’t comment before applying his mind. “If there was an application before me, you should ask the question. Why should I respond if I do not have the application before me?”

The presidency later confirmed that the application was, in fact, before the president, along with 300 others.

Shortly afterwards the M&G broke the big story revealing .

To refresh our memories: after Shaik was jailed Thabo Mbeki seized the opportunity to sack then-deputy president Zuma. The man made the mother of all comebacks to replace Mbeki as the country’s number one. Political life two of nine? Not if Zapiro has anything to do with it.

  • You can read Verashni’s column every Monday here and follow here on twitter here.

Read Michael Trapido‘s Thought Leader post on the Zapiro cartoon published by the M&G on Friday.

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Verashni Pillay
Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.

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