SAA struck, so stuck with NDZ




There has been a brief let-up in the rain that has been hammering Durban for what seems like forever. The sun is, in theory, up. The sky is still dark; there’s a whole lot more rain waiting up there.

Aching bones and deadlines had me out of bed long before the theoretical sunrise, so I’m on the keyboards already.There have been some delays in copy coming together, so things are about 12 hours behind schedule.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is on the TV, soundlessly addressing a Brics gathering in Brasilia. His lips move, but all that is audible is the stray cat that lives at the kitchen door, whining for food. The TV volume is off because the rest of the house is still asleep, so I’m deprived of listening to the head of state’s address.

Ramaphosa’s deputy, David Mabuza, is also out of the country. Comrade Rizla —as Mabuza is known, somewhat disrespectfully, in parts of Mpumalanga — is in Uganda on an African Union mission.

The minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is, theoretically and in practical terms, the head of state in the absence of the president and his deputy.

Fair enough.

Dlamini-Zuma missed out on becoming Number One when she lost out to Ramaphosa in the tussle for the ANC presidency at the governing party’s national elective conference at Nasrec in December 2017.

It’s rather sweet of Ramaphosa to appoint Dlamini-Zuma as acting lahnee in his and Mabuza’s absence, rather than one of his backers from the Nasrec campaign,
such as Lindiwe Sisulu or Naledi Pandor. It’s all very unityesque and all that.

Perhaps there is more at play and the constant realignment that has been taking place in the ANC since 2017 means that Dlamini-Zuma is now closer to the president than Sisulu. Or less of a threat, come 2022 when the party elects its new national leadership.

Word has it that relations are far from rosy between Ramaphosa and Sisulu, whose deployment to human settlements, water and sanitation is seen as something of a hospital pass — or a suicide mission — depending on one’s level of cynicism. Perhaps the deployment is more about Dlamini-Zuma being number three in the governing party pecking order, or something symbolic like that, a reflection of relations in the governing party’s top leadership.


Thus far, though, Dlamini-Zuma has been well-behaved. Stayed on script. No ad-libbing. No turning back the clock with a late night Cabinet reshuffle while Cyril and DD are gone. No deciding this was a good time to even the score for her loss at Nasrec.

Things could have become crazy. Perhaps they still will.

Imagine what could happen. Tito Mboweni out as finance minister. Carl Niehaus in. Pravin Gordhan axed from public enterprises. Des van Rooyen in to replace him. Hlaudi Motsoneng in at communications and Nomgcobo Jiba in charge of the National Prosecuting Authority. Edward Zuma in as minister of police; brother Duduzane in at the justice ministry and Kgomotso Pahlane back in as police commissioner. Nasrec might as well not have happened.

Dlamini-Zuma really has been well-behaved.

There has been no lifelong presidential pardon in advance for her ex-husband, former president Jacob Zuma, in the absence of One and Two. No appointment of axed Durban mayor Zandile Gumede as KwaZulu-Natal premier or former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo as minerals and energy minister.

Thus far, there has been no revoking of South Africa’s existing extradition agreements, no issuing of arrest warrants for Mabuza or Ramaphosa, so perhaps Dlamini-Zuma has bought the unity story Ramaphosa has been pushing for real.


Others haven’t behaved as well while entrusted with running the Republic on a part-time basis.

Mangosuthu Buthelezi managed to invade Lesotho whenNelson Mandela left him in charge of the shop.

Dlamini-Zuma appears to have no intention of annexing Swaziland or Zimbabwe over the weekend, so things should be as One and Two left them when they eventually get home. No diplomatic incidents. No coup. No drama.

I wonder if Ramaphosa and Mabuza flew with the national carrier, in line with the New Dawn’s austerity measures, rather than using their official aircraft? Led by example, and all that.

If they did, neither is coming home any time soon.

The strike by staff at SAA appears to be ending no time soon, so our men could end up stranded abroad while negotiations between management and the unions play themselves out.

Perhaps we should be getting our heads around the idea of a Dlamini-Zuma presidency in the longer term, unless the two of them manage to get onto another carrier or hitch a ride home.


Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller and blag artist.

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