During his seven years in office to date, President Jacob Zuma has confessed to some sins, but continues to commit many others. Carien du Plessis takes a look at some of the seven deadly sins that have landed the president in hot water and that has lost him the love of some of his compatriots and former supporters.
Remember The Spear? And remember the rape of Lady Justice? Zuma’s thin skin has led to law suits and protests which pushed back some of the boundaries of free speech. Zuma sued cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, known as Zapiro, and Sunday Times for R5-million over a cartoon depicting Zuma raping Lady Justice in 2010. The case was withdrawn two years later. The Spear led to protests and a big debate with sometimes unsavoury exchanges. There were also threats of boycotting City Press, which published the cartoon, but the issue was eventually defused by the parties talking. Also, the hubris of thinking that the ANC – of which he is the head – is more important than the country has raised questions over whether he really understands what it means to govern a country.
The honourable president is well-known for his libido and his unique traditional views on polygamy. It got him into trouble when he was charged with rape in 2005 for having sex with a comrade’s daughter (he was acquitted of the rape charge but admitted to intercourse). ANC supporters came out in droves to support him during the rape case, but there was a perceptible chill in 2010 when it emerged that he fathered a child with Sonono Khoza – the child of soccer boss Irvin Khoza. Zuma had to apologise before the ANC forgave him on this one.
Upgrading his Nkandla home at public expense is the kind of sin that cost him credibility and – depending on developments in the next few weeks – could ultimately also cost him to lose his job prematurely. What was supposed to have been a security upgrade to his KwaZulu-Natal homestead turned into a project that cost more than R240-million up to date and which included non-security upgrades such as a swimming pool (and nevermind how many ANC MPs and ministers called it a fire pool, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s final word was that it’s a swimming pool).
Zuma’s supporters were quick to claim that former president Thabo Mbeki was using state institutions to wage selective political battles against him. Judging from the way in which the Hawks – allegedly with the tacit blessing of No 1 – are waging battles against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Zuma could have been envious of Mbeki’s manoeuvres and is revelling in the fact that he himself now has the power to abuse state institutions to fight his political battles too.
Zuma must have felt vindicated when he took his first oath to become president in 2009, because only a few weeks before the corruption charges against him were withdrawn. Maybe he thought his time to eat had come, and much of this “eating” has occurred at the expense of the needy. Since Zuma has come to power, members of his family have scored contracts in the oil, gold, cigarette, diamond, airline and retail industries. His son, Duduzane Zuma, has close business links with the Guptas. There have been various allegations recently that the Guptas are closely involved in some executive appointments – something which has irked many in the ANC and which has cost Zuma some support.
Expelling Julius Malema from the ANC Youth League and the party as a whole turned out to have been a bad decision. One of the charges against Malema was based on his unfavourable comparison between Zuma and his predecessor Thabo Mbeki. Malema had since formed his own party which went on to win 6% of the vote in the 2014 elections. In better days Zuma described Malema as someone who would be worth inheriting the ANC, but their relationship turned decidedly frosty, with Zuma acting like an angry father. It’s a “sin” that has caused him lots of sweat – at least during his National Assembly appearances.
He can be forgiven for the fact that he’s not an avid reader, but Zuma’s habit of taking ages to study important documents and findings of the many commissions of inquiry that he’s ordered to date, at times made him look unresponsive and uncaring. Using the delaying tactic of saying he would study a report first before responding in the media – for example the Public Protector’s report on Nkandla – also create the impression of not caring. Hopefully he will make a priority of studying Thursday’s Constitutional Court’s finding that he has failed in his duty to uphold the Constitution.