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Zuma crisis: Which way to jump?

Mar 18 2016 07:28
Susan Erasmus

I AM beginning to think that President Jacob Zuma could survive a nuclear onslaught after everything he has managed to stave off in the last seven years.

And staved it off with such a cheerful chuckle. There have been so many instances when people thought his days were numbered: the rape charges, the Shaik case, Nkandla, the Guptas.

But he has risen again and again from the ashes, like a grim phoenix.

And he might do just that again. Or not. And that is the big question – not just for the country as a whole, but for ANC politicians.

And that must be what I suspect is causing large-scale insomnia among the upper (and even the lower) echelons of the ruling party.

What it boils down to is that for their own political survival, each of these people has to make a decision, and make it now: support Zuma, oppose Zuma, or do nothing.

The problem is that whatever you do could backfire horribly – next year this time, you could be manning a hotdog stand in the parking lot behind Shoprite.

There are the brave ones: Mcebisi Jonas and Vytjie Mentor are the political equivalent of the mice chosen to hang the bell around the cat’s neck. It might work for them, or they could be cast into a political wilderness for ever.

The dangers of supporting Zuma

If you come out openly in support of Zuma, your political credibility and possibly even the reasons for your original appointment might become suspect – especially if the majority of the party or the National Executive Committee choose to go against him.

In short, if you owe allegiance to him because of bestowed favours (political and financial), now might be the time to get your CV together.

Many people suspect there is much muck still to be revealed and you might just be a part of it. If Zuma goes down, you will have a first-class cabin on the same sinking ship.

However, if he does emerge triumphant (even if it is just until 2019), you would surely be rewarded royally for your loyalty.

Choices, choices...

The dangers of opposing Zuma

While President Zuma remains in power, he will not tolerate resistance from within the ranks. I don’t want to go into detail, but I do get the feeling there are few things he would not consider in order to stay in power. I, for one, would not like to be on his list of enemies.

If he is ousted in some way (and never forget that he himself has showed South Africans exactly how to get rid of an unpopular president) and you are part of the majority, it will count in your favour. Your career will be safe and good things may lie ahead. For you anyway.

But if he survives and you are identified as one of the naysayers, you will probably not have another meal at the Parliamentary canteen ever again. Pretty soon you will know what it must have been like to be a leper in the Middle Ages.

The dangers of fence-sitting

This must be tempting: to just keep a low profile, not make any statements, and not come out in favour of one side or the other. The problem is that this fence-sitting will be remembered, whoever wins this battle.

Fence-sitters are never popular and are seen as chancers who go with the flow in order to protect themselves. A human thing to do, but not always morally justifiable for those who hold public office.

So if you decide to fly under the radar, hoping that no one notices you, this choice is actually a lose-lose one.

So what now - Zuma's Boerewors Rolls?

Let us never forget that technically, politicians are there to serve the people – and to serve the interests of the country. Not their own, and not only those of their particular party. Of course, the choice is also a distinctly moral one – but let’s not confuse politics with morality right now. That just gets too messy and we have quite enough to worry about as it is.

Making an active choice pro-Zuma or anti-Zuma is likely to mean all or nothing. It’s a huge gamble and I am not sure what I would do if I had to make the choice, moral considerations aside for the moment. It is indeed like putting every single cent you have on one horse. What if it is the wrong one? Or the right one?

Who knows? A few months from now, there might be a new hotdog stand opening up in the parking lot behind Shoprite called Zuma’s Boerewors Rolls.

This country has never lost its ability to surprise me. Bring it on.

Susan Erasmus is a freelance writer. Opinions expressed are her own.

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