uBaba fails to show up for Mama


The national and provincial elections are, thankfully, over. For all the dreariness of the election campaign, voting day and its aftermath had their fair share of drama, despite the fact that so many voters stayed away from the polls.

For all the low turnout, the counting and release of results was, from the perspective of a journalist, a nightmare, a seemingly never-ending quagmire of objections, walkouts, behind-the-scenes negotiations and, as always, waiting for the politicians and the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to get their act together.

I don’t blame the rats-and-mice parties for crying foul. They didn’t have any other option, having been given a resounding Don’t Come Monday by the electorate. They had to blame somebody and the IEC was a sitting duck, so the squealing makes sense.

It may also be a pretty long time before any of them get any more TV coverage, given their inability to get a seat in Parliament, so one assumes they were enjoying a last few moments in the limelight.

Black Label First’s Andile Mngxitama appears to have gone missing since voting day. Even on social media, our man has done a duck. Perhaps he’s hiding from the Gupta brothers, who will be rather unimpressed that the money they gave him for a deposit to register his party has been forfeited to the IEC. Perhaps they took away his phone, or cut his data allowance.

Then again, the Guptas stole the money from the state, so all Mngxitama really did in losing the deposit was pay back, albeit indirectly, a minuscule portion of the billions they looted. Perhaps our man is just on a bender with the African Content Movement’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng, drowning their individual and collective sorrows in massive quantities of Carling draught while wondering who next will pay their bills.


Perhaps the two will have sobered up sufficiently to reappear, on the eve of the local government elections in 2021, babbling enough drivel to convince a few more wit ous to vote for right-wing councillors.


Wherever they are, they’re not at the Durban commercial crimes court, where I am, waiting for their comrade from the Hands Off Jacob Zuma campaign, Durban mayor Zandile Gumede, to make a bail application on corruption charges relating to R208-million the city paid for refuse collection that never happened.

Neither is the former president, for that matter, which is a bit swak, given that Mama, as Gumede is known among the faithful, is always the first to turn up at court when uBaba makes his corruption appearances, one of which is coming up in Pietermaritzburg on Monday.

She was certainly there during all his appearances in the high court in Durban, which is where Zuma first appeared and where his trial proper will be conducted if his application for a permanent stay of prosecution isn’t successful next week.

I wonder if Mama will pitch on Monday? If her enemies in the ANC get their way and force her to step down as mayor, I guess she will have the time.

Perhaps uBaba and Mngxitama stayed away because this was only a bail application, not a fully fledged court appearance. Perhaps they didn’t get the sort of heads-up they would have when uBaba was running the show. Then again, had uBaba still been the lahnee, it would have been one of the cops investigating Gumede in the dock.

Perhaps they will turn up in yellow T-shirts with Gumede’s head on the front and “100% Mama” on the back when her trial starts, burning imphepho on the pavement outside John Ross House.

I wonder if there’s some kind of protocol for this kind of thing.

Either way, I would have thought Zuma would have turned up for her court appearance.

Solidarity, and all that.

It would have been a bit of a squeeze, had Nxamalala pitched: no room for the small army of bodyguards the Timer still moves with. The courtroom is tiny. I’m jammed up against a wall, standing room only, so it’s fortunate that the state doesn’t oppose bail.

Mama is stoic, all pearls, two-piece dress suit and stony face, staring into space as prosecutor Ashika Lucken reads the affidavit from the investigating officer in the case.

She’s impassive as Lucken relates how she and the city council speaker, Mondli Mthembu, the deputy secretary of the ANC region she chairs, staged a protest march to force municipal manager Sipho Nzuza into making dodge payments.

She doesn’t stir when the magistrate warns her not to interfere with witnesses in the case, which has been brought to court early because of intimidation.

The case is adjourned until August.

We make our way outside.

Mama’s muscle have made their way up to the fourth floor and have packed the foyer in front of the lifts, ready to block any attempt to take her picture as she leaves the courtroom.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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