uBaba’s latest ploy is hard to read

Monday. I’m up early. There are only six weeks to go till the May 8 elections, so there’s no time to lie around. Factor in another outbreak of xenophobia, this time in the Burnwood Road informal settlement in Sydenham, and it’s clearly going to be a rough week.

Burnwood is just behind Sydenham Heights, three massive blocks of council flats built for coloured people moved from Greyville and other areas around Durban during apartheid.

I misspent a fair bit of my youth in the Heights, as the flats are known, and in nearby Knight Road during the 1980s, with some pretty dangerous cats. Jazzy. Dizzy Boy. Nutty and Ants and their younger brother, Callies.

They all died violently, except Jazzy, who’s somehow still alive.

The mobile pings.

It’s the Pooja Uncle, Durban’s only purveyor of Marxist-Leninist prayer goods, a good bra of mine who, despite his abandonment of political activity, is probably the most politicised person I know.

I open the message.

It’s a picture of former president Jacob Zuma, hugging Andile Mngxitama from Black Label First, taken during a visit the party paid Nxamalala at his home this weekend.

uBaba, as his followers call him, looks well pleased with proceedings, despite the fact that the BLF is contesting the election against the ANC, the party he was once president of.

Zuma is all teeth, shield and polished double dome, clearly lapping up the attention — and the opportunity to give the ANC the middle finger once again — as he snuggles up to Mngxitama.

I guess Zuma is pretty used to the BLF boss. They’re both Sons of Saxonwold, after all, having fed from the same Gupta trough. uBaba has also spent a fair amount of time giving Mngxitama platforms to shaft the ANC from at his court appearances on fraud and corruption charges in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, so I guess they’ve come to know one another pretty well since last Valentine’s Day, when Zuma grudgingly “resigned”.

A second photo arrives. It’s uBaba with the full BLF team. I look closer. Seated at the table with Nxamalala is Sally, an old bra of mine and the Pooja Uncle’s.

I’m not shocked: I’d seen Sally on TV laying siege to Peter Bruce’s pozi in a BLF T-shirt a while back, but it’s still weird seeing her at the table with Nxamalala.

Ping! A third image.

This time it’s uBaba in a pair of baggies, floating blissfully on his back in a swimming pool. It’s clearly not the firepool at the Nkandla house — the pool’s the wrong shape — so it must be in Durban. There’s no sign of Andile and team. Perhaps swimming is a pursuit of land thieves? Perhaps Zuma doesn’t trust them not to take a piss in his pool?

I wonder what’s his game, effectively endorsing the BLF six weeks from voting day in the toughest election the ANC, which he allegedly loves so dearly, has faced since 1994?

Perhaps the pressure from the court case; the Zondo state capture commission; the potential of his supporters on the ANC parliamentary list being purged for criminality, leaving him exposed; and the sense of pique at being sidelined by the ANC in the province have finally gotten to Zuma, driving him over the edge? Could it be that the old man has finally lost his mind?

Perhaps this is a strategic move by Nxamalala, aimed at splitting the ANC further than he has already by boosting the share of the vote taken by the BLF and the rash of other rats- and-mice parties that have sprung up in his name.

Zuma’s enemies in the ANC believe that this is his strategy. They say Zuma wants to fuel electoral losses by the ANC that are significant enough to give his supporters in the party’s national executive committee — and Parliament — the ammunition they need to force the recall of President Cyril Ramaphosa on the basis of the lost electoral support. How better to do this than through parties started by his lieutenants, such as Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Jimmy Manyi?

It’s a heavy move, even for Zuma. Not totally outlandish though, given his history.

What does Nxamalala really have to lose by sabotaging the ANC campaign, if it can rid him and his lieutenants of Ramaphosa? The ANC clearly doesn’t want him around any more: even KwaZulu-Natal dumped him from its May 8 campaign.

Zuma’s successor has moved slowly since he fired the old man and took his job, but Ramaphosa has made his intentions towards his former boss and his network crystal clear. If Ramaphosa retains the presidency, Zuma is going to jail, so why not try to cripple him? As Dizzy Boy used to say: “It’s that time.’’

Perhaps Zuma’s enemies are wrong and the former head of state is just a lonely old man, bored with his enforced retirement and only too happy to open his door to rare guests, even if they are nutters?

I should pop past and find out.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller and blag artist.

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