Yesterday, I telephoned an old friend in Johannesburg to commiserate with her about the death of Nelson Mandela. What depressed her, she said, was not so much the passing of her 95-year-old political hero, but having to watch his successor announce it to the world.
‘To see Jacob Zuma standing there in front of the TV cameras made me feel sick,’ she said. ‘He is the absolute opposite of everything Mandela believed in and lived for.’
As the world watches the Mandela obsequies being played out, a preening President Zuma will be the awful spectre at the wake, escorting presidents, prime ministers and princes around the ceremonies.
He is the embodiment of how the African National Congress, the oldest liberation movement in the world, has rotted from within and abandoned its founding principles as the defender of the poor and powerless black majority.
Tainted: President Jacob Zuma is the embodiment
of how the African National Congress,
the oldest liberation movement in the
world, has rotted from within.
Nkandla - before.
Nkandla - after.
After colluding with Zuma in keeping an official report into the project secret, the ANC this week gave in to pressure and said South Africans do indeed have the right to know how their money was spent.
It is likely that the opposition in Parliament will make token efforts to impeach Zuma, but equally certain that because the public is so inured to corruption, he will be re-elected president in next year’s elections.
Not that Zuma is alone in funnelling state money for his own benefit. Today in South Africa, no road is built, no hole dug, no airport terminal extended without the payment of kickbacks to the politically well-connected.
In life, Mandela — who, as a foreign correspondent, I watched walk free from prison near Cape Town on February 11, 1990 — held his nation together.
Today the country faces uncertainty.
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said this week: ‘What is going to happen to us now our father has died?’
True, Mandela was scarcely well for the past five years or so, but that did not matter, for his very presence — weak as he was — served as a restraining force against those who might push too far against the ideals of the transition to democracy.
When he lived, he was a symbol of hope, and a warning of what might have been had the last white President F.W. de Klerk not had the courage to free him, and had Mandela lacked the grace to reciprocate with peace and reconciliation.