/ 18 January 2019

Doused in black, green and gold

Keeping enemies close: Jacob Zuma participated in the ANC’s manifesto launch and January 8 celebration in Durban. Photo: Delwyn Verasamy
Keeping enemies close: Jacob Zuma participated in the ANC’s manifesto launch and January 8 celebration in Durban. Photo: Delwyn Verasamy


Durban has this tentative, don’t-know-what-just-hit-me sense to it, a dizziness even, courtesy of a week (plus some change) of being buried under the black, green and gold deluge of humanity and luxury vehicles that came with the governing party’s election manifesto launch-cum-January  8 celebration at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.

The small city of gazebos around Mabhida is gone. So are most of the comrades. The statues of Jeff Radebe and Peter Ndoro (that’s who they were, right?) next to the M4 on the way to Ballito and Umhlanga have been packed up and carted off. Thankfully.

The comrades must have commissioned the twin brother of Rasta — the Republic’s worst portrait artist — to do the sculptures of Oliver Tambo and other ANC presidents for all the resemblance they bear to their intended subjects. I sincerely hope that the statues of Tambo and Nelson Mandela, on which the eThekwini municipality plans to spend R20-million, are better than the ANC-commissioned ones.

The launch was quite a show of strength, though, both for the ANC and for its former president, Jacob Zuma. Msholozi looked well pleased with himself at the reaction he got when president Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged him in his speech, and with the roar from the crowd as he danced his way into the stadium.

Ramaphosa, who didn’t really have any choice but to have Zuma on the podium with him on Saturday and at the events during the build-up, handled it well. Gave Zuma and his supporters the moment they’ve been waiting for since he was fired last February. Allowed them a few seconds to vent. Then moved on. Continued as planned.

The other option, banning uBaba from the podium and from the party’s campaign in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, would have turned out badly. Very. The bitter­einders in the Zuma camp here have been gagging for a chance to make their point and humiliate Ramaphosa publicly. Barring Zuma or failing to acknowledge him would have played into their hands. Given them something to mobilise the boo-brigade with.

It’s also a lot easier for Ramaphosa to keep an eye on Nxamalala when he has him close. You never know what the former head of state will get up to, left to his own devices, so it makes sense to keep him where you can see him.

Involving uBaba in the campaign also has electoral value in the Zulu kingdom. With the proliferation of splinter parties run by Msholozi’s former accomplices, from Hlaudi Motsoeneng to Jimmy Manyi and his ATM (that’s Atul, Tony and Msholozi, by the way), allowing the old-timer to run around KwaZulu-Natal in an ANC skipper and cap with an armful of pamphlets can’t hurt in terms of stopping Zuma’s supporters from voting for those guys.

Keeping Zuma onside also stops him from running amok on Twitter and Facebook. Up to a point, at least.

Zuma’s online video thanking his fans for the big shout-out on Saturday was a bit of a strange move on the old man’s part, but not totally unexpected. I guess it must have been tough for him to sit on the stage, listening to Ramaphosa delivering the manifesto, rather than the other way around, which he is much more accustomed to. He’s going to have to get used to it.

Zuma’s inbox must be lit, though. Party central. I wonder how many nudes Msholozi gets every day? How many DMs from fans wanting to test whether he is, indeed, fit and fresh? How many proposals, decent or otherwise?

I wonder whether our man responds in kind. Or does he simply zoom, giggle and delete? My money is on the latter. Zuma knows only too well the danger of leaving an electronic footprint — he and his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, found that out the hard way. The former president is way too sharp to get caught out sending the freaks pictures of his penis like former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba did.

The phone goes. There’s a message.

Ramaphosa, it seems, has headed off to Mozambique. I can’t say I blame him. He must be bushed after his visit to KwaZulu-Natal, feet sore from dancing on eggshells, eyes aching from keeping them on Nxamalala.

The message continues.

Ramaphosa has, it appears, left Radebe to watch the shop while he’s in Mozambique.

For a moment, I’m seized by panic. What if Jeff loses his mind? Does something weird, like violate the sovereignty of a neighbouring state?

I’ve been like this since September 1998, when then acting president Mangosuthu Buthelezi got a rush of blood to his head and invaded Lesotho. Shenge had been left in charge by then-president Nelson Mandela, a move that turned out to be a rather spectacular flop.

I wonder what Madiba was thinking?

The moment of panic passes.

Jeff, as we know from recent history, is a lover, not a fighter. The neighbours need not fear.

The republic, it seems, is in safe hands.