ConCourt gets uBaba to Estcourt

Thursday.

It’s mid-morning on day 469 of the Covid-19 national lockdown. 

I’m still half-asleep,courtesy of the previous night’s vigil in front of the TV, despite a two-hour nap that came out of nowhere in the middle of the action after I made the mistake of resting my eyes for a second.

One minute Camouflage Carl is on the TV screen, bemoaning the end of democracy as we know it and threatening apocalypse, the next I’m out cold.

Dead.

I came awake, terrified, just as the former head of state Jacob Zuma’s convoy hit the blue lights and sirens on the TV, as they pulled out of the driveway of his Nkandla home and headed for the Estcourt prison where he will serve at least part of his 15-month sentence for contempt of court.

It was hours before I finally fell asleep again, lulled into slumber by the dulcet tones of Jacob Zuma Foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi as he declared his undying love for The Patron, as the former head of state is known in certain quarters these days.

Manyi was still talking nonstop when I woke up on the couch somewhere around 3am. Half-asleep, I freaked out, thinking he had been sitting there watching me sleep, and rolled onto the floor, scrambling for the bush knife under the couch, before I woke up properly and realised he wasn’t in the room with me, but rather on loop on the TV screen.

Relieved as I was, the thought of Manyi hovering over me while I slumbered still set my teeth on edge, made me shudder as I hit the remote and headed off to my bed.

Like many of my fellow South Africans, I woke up with a sense of relief that the former president had actually handed himself over to the police to begin serving his sentence on Wednesday night. And some disbelief that the man had, at the end of the day, eventually done the right thing, albeit only when cornered, after nearly 20 years of doing the opposite.

It was no surprise that the SAPS finally moved to execute the Constitutional Court order jailing uBaba for contempt after curfew on Wednesday night, hours before their window period for doing so expired, rather than on Sunday night, when the deadline for him to surrender himself passed. 

Trying to arrest Zuma on Sunday would have caused a full-scale shoot-out with the amabutho and supposed Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) veterans who had gathered to protect Zuma — a bloodbath.

A crackdown by the police on Zuma’s supporters defying the lockdown regulations outside the former president’s home would have had the same result, which was undoubtedly what some of those advising the former head of state wanted to happen.

Moving to affect the arrest on Wednesday night meant the masses had moved on after venting on Sunday, leaving only a stick-wielding Edward Zuma and Comrade Carl to hold the fort.

Not much of a human shield by anybody’s standard, but one works with what one has. 

It’s a pity that things reached this stage and uBaba has been sent to jail for contempt, rather than answering his accusers.

The man is 79 years old, after all, a former president and a veteran of our liberation struggle.

He’s also, we are told, in ill health.

Then again, it was the same 79-year-old who decided that he would rather face a jail term for contempt than take the stand at the Zondo commission and account for his role in the capture of the state by the Gupta brothers. 

That’s hard.

Gangster.

Even by Nxamalala’s standards.

And although I’m not fully functional after the interrupted sleep and drama, I’m excited. 

The opening up of the vaccination programme means that if all goes according to plan, by this time tomorrow I’ll have joined the ranks of the inoculated.

I was relieved by the news that those of us aged between 50 and 59 are now eligible for vaccination, rather than having to wait until 15 July.  

Every day counts now.

With the third wave tearing its way through the country, new infections soaring and the death toll mounting, the sooner we all get some form of  vaccine into our arms, and get some level of protection going, new variants or not, the better.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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