/ 1 July 2017

99 problems but remorse ain’t one: JZ could learn from Jay-Z

Not too late to say sorry: Jacob Zuma could take a page out of Jay-Z’s book. Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters
Not too late to say sorry: Jacob Zuma could take a page out of Jay-Z’s book. Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters


The Mail & Guardian continues a series of first-hand accounts of the ANC’s national conferences through the eyes of insiders, with this daily column that examines the strategies and tactics of delegates, hangers-on, made men and wanna-BEEs.

In Polokwane, we followed the adventures of Sabelo Moroka, a pre-op transexual looking for a prospective husband to pay for a sex-change and a better life for all (of her family and friends). In Mangaung, a maskandi musician from KwaZulu-Natal detailed his attempts to sign a record deal for a pro-Jacob Zuma album, but was just unable to track down Arthur Mafokate at Cubaña, or any of the other watering holes where the rich and infamous were hanging out. In 2017, we are spreading our coverage to include a wider set of characters from the ANC’s policy and elective conferences. We kick off this series with a rather earnest young ANC delegate from Gauteng, Firebrand Mapaila.

When life gives you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade. Which is what Beyoncé did when Jay-Z cheated on her: she made the album Lemonade.

Jay-Z dropped his new album 4:44 this week and its grovelling introspection and obvious responses to his wife’s smackdown of his philandering in Lemonade got me thinking about the lemon the ANC has sold the country.

Our own JZ. Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. Jiggaman. uBaba. Daddy. The butternut head who appears to have been cheating on the country with the Gupta brothers — the Jennies with the gelled hair.

Attempting a musical analysis of uBaba and the state of the ANC’s integrity makes sense because, since I attended my first national ANC conference in 2007, it has increasingly been about singing and dancing rather than the discussion of substantive issues that my “cleva comrades” from Gauteng have always insisted on.

But their Marxist-Leninist analysis of the economy always gets drowned out by the maskandis from KwaZulu- Natal, who sing beautifully and have well co-ordinated dance moves. Dialectical materialism doesn’t translate into catchy choruses for songs, sadly.

Even before Makhandakhanda took to the stage on Friday, the maskandis were in full flight, singing “Sitjele ukuthi uZuma wenzeni [Tell us what Zuma has done?]” and unveiling a catchy little number, replete with hand signals asking for more money: “Asiphelelanga. Kushoda umnotho, awukho la. Hayi hayi asiphelelanga [We are not complete. We still need the economy, it’s not here. No. No. We are not complete].”

Better rehearsed than the kids you see doing co-ordinated dance moves for small change at Jo’burg intersections, certainly, but lacking in intellectual depth if this is their sole contribution to unpacking what “radical economic transformation” actually means … that is, aside from what the white monopoly capitalists at Bell Pottinger have told them it is.

But, in his opening address at the ANC’s national policy conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg, uBaba urged us not to consider our choral comrades as “riff-raff”. He says they hold the power in the ANC and that we should stop being elitist. I’m trying: I’m a communist, “my father was a garden boy”, so, in preparation for this conference I stopped reading policy documents and Antonio Gramsci and picked up the music reviews in Heat magazine and Isolezwe.

I think I can understand JZ through Jay-Z’s latest album. Although Jay-Z was getting all apologetic with his lyrics, JZ was getting apoplectic with his opening address — telling everybody who would listen that he won’t be removed as president of South Africa. uBaba doesn’t care to apologise to the ANC, or the country, for Nkandla, alleged state capture by the Guptas, helping the country into a “technical recession”, rising unemployment or a clamping down of the ANC’s internal democracy — because? Well. Radical economic transformation.

Nah, because, well, as Jay-Z raps: “I’ll fuck up a good thing if you let me … A man who don’t take care of his family can’t be rich.” And Daddy has a big family. He has to be mega-rich, even before he starts thinking about the legal bills he will have to pay for a litany of court cases after he is president.

On the album, Jay-Z admits he’d “probably die with all the shame” for his indiscretion, opining, “What good is a ménage à trois when you have a soulmate” but I suppose the country — maybe the ANC even — has never been JZ’s soulmate.

The ménage à trois between the ANC, South Africa and the president of both, is obviously not working according to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe’s diagnostic report delivered to the policy conference on Friday.

All that’s left for our JZ is threesomes with the Guptas.