Thanks to some unfortunate but inevitable timing – plus a few spectacularly poor choices – President Jacob Zuma will cast his vote in the August 3 local government elections after a number of humiliations have come to a head.
On Thursday morning, Zuma released the report of the arms deal commission, three months and three weeks after receiving it from the Seriti commission.
The release came out of the blue, announced by the presidency less than an hour before Zuma went on air, which was immediately criticised as a transparent effort to divert attention away from his own troubles.
But, during the three months between May and July – the run-up to the elections – there will be no steering of public discussion and he will face hostile and vocal audiences. There will also be annual events that beg renewed criticism of his conduct and person. Then, possibly just days before the elections, Zuma will have to write out a cheque to the state in payment for Nkandla upgrades, which he has tried but failed to convince the nation is a voluntary action.
Speculation has it that those in the ANC who wish to see Zuma removed as its president will blame a poor election performance – say, the loss of the Port Elizabeth metropolitan area – on him personally. In that event, the calendar will be their ally.
On May 1, Zuma is scheduled to headline the May Day celebrations. On stage, he will be surrounded by allies: the South African Communist Party leader, Blade Nzimande, who insists Zuma’s dignity should be protected by law; trade union federation Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, who has continued to support Zuma, despite a nasty spat with his administration over a tax law; and South African National Civic Organisation president Richard Mdakane, who has a long association with Zuma and his family.
But instead of speaking in his stronghold of KwaZulu-Natal, or even in a more neutral province, Zuma will be appearing in front of the cameras in Gauteng, a province where ANC and some alliance leaders are in open revolt against him and where audiences have long proven truculent.
Also in May, the popular Robert McBride will be in the Constitutional Court to argue again that Zuma’s appointed minister of police – with Zuma’s tacit acceptance – flouted the Constitution in his efforts to remove McBride as head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.
Also expected before August, and probably in May, is a high court ruling on the ongoing spy tapes saga, in which the Democratic Alliance seeks the reinstatement of corruption charges against Zuma.
Then, at the end of May, the treasury – which Zuma tried to put under the control of the little-known Des van Rooyen, precipitating an economic crisis of confidence – must publicly put a figure on the benefit he unduly derived from the state for upgrades to his Nkandla compound.
All of which will be just in time for the start of Moral Regeneration Month in July, during which citizens will be urged to accept accountability for their actions and to respect the Constitution, and the celebration on July 18 of the birthday of Nelson Mandela, to whom Zuma is so often – and so negatively – compared.