“We’ve been standing here for 26 seconds and nobody has been raped.”
A quote which reveals the callous attitude and sustained denial which, for a long period of time, defined the ANC’s response to the high crime levels in South Africa. Said on 2 February 2000 by the late minister of safety and security, Steve Tshwete, and former minister of justice and constitutional development, Penuell Maduna. The two were speaking on the American television program ’60 minutes’, during a CBS broadcast, and commenting on the statistic that one person is raped in South Africa every 26 seconds, something they clearly thought they had disproved using their own special kind of logic.
“[The ANC is] more important” than the Constitution. “No political force can destroy the ANC – it is only the ANC that can destroy itself… “[the Constitution is only there] to regulate matters.”
The definitive quote when it comes to the Constitution and the ANC’s attitude toward it. From cadre deployment through its various attacks on the judiciary, it is this sentiment that still motivates much of the ANC’s action today. Said by then-ANC national chairperson Jacob Zuma, during an address to ANC delegates at a regional meeting in Durban, on 17 November 1996. Zuma was explaining the ANC’s decision to remove Patrick Lekota as Free State premier (Lekota had exercised his constitutional right to fire an MEC without consulting the ANC NEC. In response the ANC NEC had removed from office and Zuma was deployed to reinforce the principle that party members were accountable first and foremost to the ANC.)
“We need to look at the question that is posed, understandably I suppose: does HIV cause AIDS? AIDS the acronym stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Now I do believe that is a sensible thing to ask: does one virus cause a syndrome? A virus cannot cause a syndrome. A virus will cause a disease.”
The theory that HIV did not cause Aids and the thinking that underpinned a sustained long assault on best medical practice and, with it, the hopes and needs of thousands suffering from HIV/Aids. Said by then-president Thabo Mbeki in the National Assembly, on 20 September 2000. What followed would be almost a decade of denial, the promotion of quackery, the courting charlatans, the refusal to implement court orders, the denouncement of antiretroviral drugs, the vilification of those who stood opposed to this kind of thinking and, finally, the ultimate price for those in desperate need of the state’s help.
“God expects us to rule this country because we are the only organisation which was blessed by pastors when it was formed. It is even blessed in Heaven. That is why we will rule until Jesus comes back. We should not allow anyone to govern our city [Cape Town] when we are ruling the country.”
Of the many statements Jacob Zuma and the ANC have made, along the lines that it will govern until the end of days, this is the definitive one. Said by Zuma at an ANC rally in Khayelitsha, Cape Town on 4 May 2008, it illustrates perfectly the ANC’s attitude to power: that it governs not by the democratic will of the people, but by divine right and that South Africa belongs to the ANC, as opposed to its citizens. It represents the very antithesis of democracy and freedom of choice.
“I did not join the struggle to be poor.”
I was somewhat hesitant to include this quote because, on face value, it is defensible. Who in their right mind would struggle to be destitute? But it is the context in which it was said that makes it infamous. Said by ANC national spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama in November 2004, in defence of his involvement in a BEE deal involving the sale of a R6.6 billion stake in Telkom to a consortium led by former director-general of communications Andile Ngcaba. Ngonyama alone stood to make up to R160 million. Around this period there were a range of BEE deals, each of enormous value, which time and time again, would be awarded to companies loaded with the same broad group of ANC leadership figures. It was through this kind of ‘redistribution’ that ANC created a wealthy, politically connected class that not only benefited repeatedly from BEE but, in turn, would fund the ANC and its activities. If it was not technically corruption, certainly it was ethical corruption on a grand scale.
“The African National Congress congratulates the people of Zimbabwe for a successful 2002 Presidential Election.”
The ANC’s official response to the 2002 Zimbabwean election, from a 13 March 2002 statement on the outcome. Another quote that speaks the ANC’s sustained denial on a fundamental issue that affected negatively the human rights of thousands. Although Robert Mugabe narrowly won, the result was condemned by the Commonwealth, foreign observers and government, the media and Zimbabwean opposition figures as not free or fair. And with good cause. Among a myriad other problems, the number of polling stations in urban areas and MDC strongholds was reduced by up to 50%, some 1 400 opposition members people were arrested during the voting period and in 40-50% of rural constituencies, opposition officials were unable to oversee polling. Later that year ZANU-PF official Emerson Mnangagwa, referred to in some quarters as ‘The Butcher of Matebeleland’, was given a standing ovation at the ANC’s 2002 national congress in Stellenbosch.
“I think it’s very important for coloured people in this country to understand that South Africa belongs to them in totality, not just the Western Cape. So this over-concentration of coloureds in the Western Cape is not working for them. They should spread in the rest of the country … so they must stop this over-concentration situation because they are in over-supply where they are so you must look into the country and see where you can meet the supply.”
Said by then director-general of labour Jimmy Manyi, in March 2010. A quote that goes to the heart of the ANC racial attitude, to coloured South Africans in particular and race relations in general – the very idea that people of any race should be stereotyped in this way or that they have a duty to equally distribute themselves being anathema to diversity and freedom. This kind of thinking not only informs hard ANC policy (the employment equity plan for correctional services, for example) but the ANC’s general attitude to the Western Cape and coloured South Africans, which it paints as illegitmate and whom it disregards as second-class citizens respectively.
“I, for my part, will not keep quiet while others whose minds have been corrupted by the disease of racism, accuse us, the black people of South Africa, Africa and the world, as being, by virtue of our Africanness and skin colour – lazy, liars, foul-smelling, diseased, corrupt, violent, amoral, sexually depraved, animalistic, savage – and rapists.”
Remarkably, this statement was made by then-president Thabo Mbeki, as part of along diatribe along similar lines, in response to a simple parliamentary question, asking whether or not he stood by his claim that HIV did not cause Aids. The next day, on 22 October 2004, Mbeki would publish the full response as an edition of ANC Today, the natural home for so much of his racial vitroil over the years. It was typical of the way Mbeki and the ANC would play the race card, not just on Aids, but with regards to almost any public position critical of the ANC. And how, through this kind of racial rhetoric, he would re-radicalise public discourse in the South Africa. Aids and Zimbabwe might well have been Mbeki’s defining policy mistakes but it was this kind of deep-seated racial prejudice that remains his quintessential influence and, in fact, underpinned those policy positions in the first place.
“Same sex marriage is a disgrace to the nation and to God. When I was growing up, ‘ungqingili’ [homosexuals in isiZulu] could not stand in front of me, I would knock him out.”
Said by Jacob Zuma to thousands of supporters at Heritage Day celebrations in KwaZulu-Natal, on 26 September 2006. Zuma offered an apology, after the comment caused a national outcry, arguing that he “did not intend to have this interpreted as a condemnation of gays and lesbians”. The quote is not only remarkable for its bigotry but for the particular brand of social conservatism it represents, one that defines much of the thinking behind and many of the positions adopted by the ANC.
“This rot is across the board. It’s not confined to any level or any area of the country. Almost every project is conceived because it offers opportunities for certain people to make money. A great deal of the ANC’s problems are occasioned by this. There are people who want to take it over so they can arrange for the appointment of those who will allow them possibilities for future accumulation.”
No such collection would be complete without a quote about corruption. And no quote on corruption is more forthright or disturbing as this one. Said by then-ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe in an interview about corruption in the ANC with the Financial Mail, on 19 January 2007. It clearly and in no uncertain terms defines the fundamental problem: that the ANC’s general attitude to the state is one of self-enrichment and patronage – nothing more, nothing less, than the means to that end.
Where does one start, when faced with so many difficult choices?
First, there were some quotes I did not include because they were more personal than reflective of the ANC’s general attitude. Zuma’s infamous April 2006 shower quote, for example – “It… would minimise the risk of contracting the disease [HIV/Aids].” I felt such utterances said more about the individual than the organisation, however problematic.
A harder decision was to exclude the June 1999 comment by former Mpumalanga premier Ndaweni Mahlangu that “[Lying] is nothing new. Many politicians publicly deny they did certain things but then later admit to them. It is accepted and is not unusual anywhere in the world.” One could make a case that dishonesty in the ANC was commonplace but then, compared to the problems that flowed from its open positions on issues like Aids and Zimbabwe, I felt it just missed out.
On Aids and Zimbabwe the list of choices was extensive. There was, for example, the infamous quote from former ANCYL leader Peter Mokaba, made in an interview with the New York Times on 31 March 2002, where he said:
“HIV? It doesn’t exist. The kind of stories that they tell that people are dying in droves… It’s not true. It’s not borne out by any facts. Where the science has not proved anything, we cannot allow our people to be Guinea pigs. Anti-retrovirals, they’re quite dangerous. They’re poison actually. We cannot allow our people to take something so dangerous that it will exterminate them. However well-meaning, the hazards of misplaced compassion could lead to genocide.”
In the end, though, I felt Mbeki’s quote more important because, if anything, Mokaba – an out-and-out Mbeki acolyte – was just parroting Mbeki’s line anyway.
Leaving out the former minister of health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, was difficult too. Her suggestion in June 2005, that “beetroot, garlic, [and] lemon” were a suitable substitute for ARVs, came to define her as ‘Dr Beetroot’. And her stubborn refusal to implement an ARV programme (perhaps best captured by her November 2000 quote – “Today I want to dispel this myth, because it is absolutely not true [that ARV's work]. The pharmaceutical industry and those who have a vested interest in the drug industry fuels this propaganda”) was indicative of the ANC’s broader attitude. But again, Mbeki was the root cause, and so his quote won out.
Likewise on Zimbabwe – so many options. I went with the election quote because that moment was defining, not only for Zimbabwe but for the ANC which, having then endorsed the inexcusable every day for the months and years that followed dug itself deeper and deeper into the anti-democratic trench it had built. Zuma’s 15 March 2002 quote from inside Zimbabwe, that “…the elections were legitimate, are valid. They were free and fair and we have got to respect that”, was a close second, but the ANC’s national release was more representative.
In other cases it was a close call between two quotes that illustrated the same problem. Take the 26 seconds rape quote – a horrific sentiment. So bad you might be forgiven for thinking it was isolated. Not so. In May 2002 then-safety and security minister Charles Nqakula would ask, “Is that realistic? I have more than three children at home, and yesterday not one was abused.” A reference to the figure that one in three South African children are abused daily. That two police ministers could advocate the same attitude about crime statistics and the victims of crime tells you everything.
Then there was a random collection of quotes, each one of which was disturbing and powerful and, indeed, represented something important but which lost out on nothing more than their overall significance.
Here, for example, I am referring to quotes like president Mbeki’s March 2002 statement about our national sporting teams, that “for two to three years let’s not mind losing international competitions because we are bringing our people into these teams” (to this day I wonder who exactly “our people” are). And the December 2000 quote (just before the local government elections) by ANC leader in KwaZulu-Natal, Sbu Ndebele:
“To all Africans, Coloureds and Indians who voted for the DA, be warned that there’s going to be consequences for not voting for the ANC. When it comes to service delivery, we will start with the people who voted for us and you (DA supporters) will be last.”
A quote which tells you much about the ANC’s attitude to the opposition.
Racism was another issue about which it was difficult to choose the defining ANC quote. No doubt everyone remembers the late Blackman Ngoro, media advisor to Cape Town mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo, whom in July 2005 described coloured as “…beggars, homeless and drunk on cheap wine”, and wrote how “vastly superior Africans are” before concluding that “coloureds must undergo ideological transformation if their race is to prosper and not die a drunken death”. In the final analysis, I felt Manyi’s reference to national demographics spoke more to the nature of the ANC’s general prejudice.
Finally, there were many quotes that might have been used to demonstrate the ANC’s attitude to service delivery and accountability. Alec Erwin’s Eskom bolt quote, said on 28 February 2006, that “this is not, in fact, an accident. Any interference with any electricity installation is an exceptionally serious crime. It is sabotage”, was not only a good way for the ANC to excuse its failings on the eve of an election but a perfect illustration of how it was willing to say anything, including flatly contradicting itself, rather than hold someone to account for a problem. A few months later, in August 2006, he would appear before parliament to say: “The cause of the damage to the generators is the question that has caused massive public interest. Of as much interest has been whether I said that this was an act of sabotage. I did not say this.” To date no one has been fired, rebuked or sanctioned in anyway for the fact that the country ran out of electricity.
Alas, any top ten list requires some brutal decisions.
FEATURE: Jacob Zuma has, over the last five years, spent much time advocating his and the ANC’s religious credentials: that his is a party endorsed by God, that it will rule till the end of days, that its enemies will suffer damnation, that he is like Jesus, even that an ANC membership card is a ticket into heaven. I have organised all his religious rhetoric into ten key ideas – everything Jacob Zuma has ever said about the ANC and religion. Not only does it serve as a helpful archive but jointly and separately his statements paint a picture of a profoundly undemocratic leader with scant regard for the constitution or the basic tenets of democracy [GRAPHIC included].
The Ten Commandments according to Jacob Zuma
17 September 2012
“I arrived from Jordan this morning just after 5 o’clock… I must say I took advantage of being in Jordan to go to the River Jordan where Jesus was baptised – I was around there. Jericho and Jerusalem were just across the Dead Sea. So, if I look at anyone, he or she will be blessed.” [Jacob Zuma; Questions in the National Council of Provinces; 24 June 2003]
Jacob Zuma has always been a profoundly religious man. In a 2006 interview he stated that “I start from basic Christian principles. Christianity is part of what I am; in a way it was the foundation for all my political beliefs”. True to form and ever since then, as he has risen through the party ranks, so he has repeatedly given life to this claim.
His religious discourse is at its most powerful in the run-up to elections when he frequently ingratiates himself before a great many of the country’s various churches and religious institutions and makes use of those platforms available to him to preach about the ANC and its close relationship with God. He has gone so far as to suggest his party is God’s chosen political vessel in South Africa, its supporters his chosen people and its opponents his sworn enemy.
Likewise, many South African churches have ingratiated themselves before Zuma. In 2007, the independent charismatic churches ordained Zuma as an honorary pastor at a meeting in Durban. Zuma and his allies retain close ties to the Rhema Church, which not only gave him a platform in the run-up to the 2009 election but stood surety for disgraced ANC spokesperson Karl Niehaus, to the tune of R700 000, when he had previously worked for the organisation. In June 2012 the GCIS even took time out to announce the Jacob Zuma Foundation was donating a church to his homestead village of Nkandla (why this constituted government business was never explained). The list goes on. Quite where ANC politics begins and private religious convictions end has always been a difficult line to draw when it comes to the ANC President.
It is a mutually beneficial relationship for the Zuma camp. These churches provide him with the means and support to canvass South Africa’s religious communities; he, in turn, imbibes his political rhetoric with religious fervor, merging God and politics and elevating religion in the public mind.
It must be said, not all churches have agreed with the way in which Zuma has politicised religion. A significant number, as you shall see, have spoken out against him. But for the most part this is done on a case-by-case basis, by taking issue with specific statements, as opposed to any general condemnation of the broader practice.
A great many of his statements have become notorious. The quintessential example being Zuma’s bigoted 2006 Heritage Day claim that “Same sex marriage is a disgrace to the nation and to God”; a remark for which, after a huge public outcry, he would later issue a groveling apology.
So a mutually beneficial relationship it might be but his private religious convictions have done nothing to enhance his standing as the highest custodian of the South African constitution (it is worth noting the Rhema Church is a staunch opponent of gay rights).
So what are all these religious beliefs the President and his supporters are constantly advocating? I believe they can conveniently be summarised into ten key ideas, which I have called, ‘The Ten Commandments according to Jacob Zuma’. They are listed below and, further down, I have provided the relevant explanation for each one. But don’t take my word for it. Here is President Zuma in his own words:
The Ten Commandments according to Jacob Zuma
1. Thou shalt believe in God and the ANC alone 2. The gates of heaven shall be opened only unto ANC supporters 3. Blessed shall be the ANC 4. Jesus shall return only when the ANC falls 5. Those who oppose the ANC shall be damned 6. Thy constitutional democracy shall be based on the word of God 7. The Church and God shall guide ANC government policy 8. Like Jesus, Jacob Zuma shall be persecuted 9. No man shall stand in the way of the ANC 10. No party shall be allowed to govern other than the ANC
1. Thou shalt believe in God and the ANC alone
“Believe in two things: God and the ANC” Zuma told an ANC rally in the Eastern Cape town of Graaff-Reinet on 9 April 2011, in the run-up to the local government elections, perhaps the definitive Zuma statement on the ANC and religion. Short and to the point it merges seamlessly best democratic practice – that a political party should stand or fall in elections by the principles and values it upholds – with religious doctrine – that divine right, not free choice, determines such things. There is a reason why any healthy democracy separates church and state: the moment you rob people of choice and put political decision-making in the hands of the Gods, there is no need for political parties or politicians to account for performance, indeed, to perform at all; for democracy becomes nothing more than the mere extension of God’s will.
2. The gates of heaven shall be opened only unto ANC supporters
In many different ways and on numerous different occasions Zuma has stated those who vote for the ANC will be “blessed on earth and [in] heaven,” as he told ANC supporters in the Eastern Cape in February 2011, promising them that only an ANC membership card would guarantee them an automatic pass to heaven: “When you are carrying an ANC membership card, you are blessed. When you get up there, there are different cards used but when you have an ANC card, you will be let through to go to heaven.” It was a comment met by much outrage. Eddie Makue, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, described the remark as dangerous, arguing that “not even a priest could provide this type of guarantee”. Of course, if ANC support is a guarantee into heaven, the implicit suggestion is that the ANC alone enjoys God’s good graces, as the next commandment makes explicit.
3. Blessed shall be the ANC
It’s not just support for the ANC that will get you into heaven, according to Zuma, the organisation itself is sacred: “When you vote for the ANC you are voting for Qamata (God), Qamata is the midst of the ANC. We are the mother of democracy, no other party deserves to be voted for other than the ANC. There’s always the presence of God where we are. When you vote for the ANC even your hand gets blessed.” That’s how he put it to a crowd, again the Eastern Cape. But he has gone further still, saying that the ANC is the only organisation “that can claim it was baptised when it was born” and that it is “a child of the church”. Just as the suggestion that political support is subject to divine blessing is profoundly problematic, so the idea that one party is divine is equally fraught. One might well ask what a party actually is, outside of those people that comprise it? Nothing more than an abstraction. To suggest an idea alone enjoys supernatural support is therefore to denude principles and values of their purpose: because rationality is no longer the means by which decisions are made, merely some greater, unknown force, working in mysterious ways. If the ANC is divine by what standard do people judge its nature or the conduct of its representatives?
4. Jesus shall return only when the ANC falls
Perhaps Zuma’s most infamous religious statement: “The ANC will rule South Africa until Jesus comes back”. When he first said this, on 15 March 2004 to a Gauteng ANC special council, ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama tried to explain away the outrage that followed by arguing, “the expression the Deputy President used was a manner of speech which is used in a number of ways in a number of different languages.” But Zuma soon put pay to any pretence it wasn’t deliberate, stating again in a tribute to Oliver Tambo in Kimberly, on 24 March 2006, “that is why we believe [the ANC] will be in power forever until the son of man comes back”; and, again, to supporters in Mpumalanga on 11 March 2009, saying “We believers know that Jesus will come back, we say the ANC will rule until he comes back”. Most recently Zuma repeated the refrain at the ANC’s centenary celebrations, saying the ANC will be in power “until Jesus comes”. So make no mistake, it’s entirely purposeful.
The sentiment has been repeated by the Zuma faithful. Party chief whip Mathole Motshekga told the Limpopo ANC’s elective conference in Polokwane, in December 2007, that “the organisation has a responsibility to rule until Jesus pays us another visit”. Likewise on the campaign trail, this extract from Bushbuckridge’s mayor Milton Morema’s 2004 election speech (straight after Zuma spoke) being perhaps the quintessential example: “The ANC follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. When Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem he identified with the poor. That is what the ANC does. Jesus Christ suffered because he wanted to see people sheltered. The ANC provides Bushbuckridge with houses. Jesus Christ would have loved to see people living in healthy situations. The ANC provides clinics and food parcels. Jesus fought poverty and suffering in his preaching. The ANC provides grants to stop people from suffering. Like the Pharoahs, God did not support the Apartheid government. That is why they did not last. But God supports this government. It does what Jesus does. It will rule till Jesus comes back.”
5. Those who oppose the ANC shall be damned
It might be undemocratic, but there is a certain logic to Zuma’s various religious utterances. If the ANC is divinely endorsed and its supporters the chosen people then, by default, those that oppose it must face divine retribution. Sure enough, on 5 February 2011, Zuma told supporters in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, opposition to the ANC was innately evil, akin to supporting the Devil himself, and eternal damnation would inevitably follow: “When you vote for the ANC, you are also choosing to go to heaven. When you don’t vote for the ANC you should know that you are choosing that man who carries a fork … who cooks people.” He continued: “When you are carrying an ANC membership card, you are blessed. When you get up there, there are different cards used but when you have an ANC card, you will be let through to go to heaven,” he said to applause, “when (Jesus) fetches us we will find (those in the beyond) wearing black, green and gold. The holy ones belong to the ANC.”
6. Thy constitutional democracy shall be based on the word of God
Zuma’s recent comment, not religious but no less problematic, that “You have more rights because you’re a majority; you have less rights because you’re a minority. That’s how democracy works” was indicative of his attitude to the constitution, which he regards as ‘nice to have’ rather than an authorative set of principles or values. Remember, this is the same person who has argued the constitution exists only “to regulate matters” and that the ANC is “more important” than the constitution. It makes sense, then, that if the ANC is endorsed and sanctioned by God, “No-one can argue South Africa is not based on the principles of God,” as Zuma told supporters in Gauteng on 27 November 2008 – as opposed to human rights or best democratic practice. For Zuma such things are secondary considerations. The ANC is primary. The ANC rules by God’s grace, therefore the majority rules by God’s grace, therefore the constitution is merely an extension of the ANC’s and God’s will, and minorities the poorer for it.
7. The Church and God shall guide ANC government policy
If you believe South Africa’s democracy is an extension of holy design then, logically, you would advocate the Church be able to guide government policy. On several occasions Zuma has assured the Church, if the ANC government strays from God’s will, they should be able to intervene. “Church leaders should be able to tell government leaders if they are straying and their laws clash with the teachings of the Lord,” Zuma told congregants of the Ethiopian Holy Baptist Church in Zion in Soweto, on 8 March 2007. In November 2008, he would again repeat the statement in Gauteng, saying the church “must advise and criticise if there are things we do that are not in keeping with the principles of God”. In return for this, Zuma has argued, God will guide government. On 20 November 2011 Zuma would tell villagers in Qumbu in the Eastern Cape, “God helps those who help themselves. He softens the hearts of government and of business owners”. Keep South African policy Christian, in other words, and the Christian God will imbue government and business leaders with empathy, sympathy and compassion.
8. Like Jesus, Jacob Zuma shall be persecuted
Zuma has compared himself to Jesus. In an interview with the Sowetan in March 2006, Zuma states he is “like Christ”, that the media and his detractors wanted to nail him to the cross like Jesus, and that certain newspapers had sought to “crucify him”. It was an analogy that resonated deeply with his supporters and, since then, has been often repeated. “Jesus was persecuted. He was called names and betrayed. It’s the same kind of suffering Mr Zuma has had to bear recently, but he’s still standing strong” Free State ANC leader Ace Magashule told Volksblad in December 2008. At Zuma rallies his supporters have carried placards which read “Zuma is Jesus”, “Zuma is black Jesus” and asking “Why are you crucifying Zuma?” Once a supporter went so far as to carry a wooden, home-made crucifix bearing a picture of Zuma with outstretched arms. But Magashule has been the defining example of the problem. In January 2009 he told supporters: “In church they sing that they will follow Jesus wherever he goes. That’s how we should be about Jacob Zuma.”
The comparison is, of course, deeply problematic. Apart from being profoundly egotistical, the implicit suggestion is that Zuma himself enjoys God’s support (which makes sense in Zuma’s world– if the ANC is God’s chosen political party, its leader must be God’s anointed representative), which is to remove from him any responsibility for his actions. Likewise, the implication that Zuma’s trials and tribulations are divinely constructed is to strip democratic accountability of its value; for what is the point of oversight or criticism if Zuma is nothing more than the victim of some unjust and unholy plot? Were this so, there would be no point in questioning his actions, certainly he would not be to blame for any ostensible indiscretion.
9. No man shall stand in the way of the ANC
In various different ways, implicitly and explicitly, Zuma has suggested that to oppose the ANC is to oppose God’s will. But he has also made the claim that any such opposition would be futile regardless, because who can stand in the way of God himself? The fact that that the ANC enjoys a large majority is therefore, for Zuma, an illustration of God’s approval: “It is an unequivocal biblical declaration that if God is for us, who can be against us?” Who indeed? In fact, why have elections at all?
10. No party shall be allowed to govern other than the ANC
And when the ANC doesn’t secure a majority? Like in the City of Cape Town or the Western Cape? Well that must be unholy. Not only is power the ANC’s by divine right but, if you believe Jacob Zuma,South Africa’s cities and provinces must actually belong to the ANC. They are ANC’s by right. Hence the following statement, made on 5 May 2008 to an ANC rally in Khayelitsha: “God expects us to rule this country because we are the only organisation which was blessed by pastors when it was formed. It is even blessed in Heaven. That is why we will rule until Jesus comes back. We should not allow anyone to govern our city (Cape Town) when we are ruling the country.” Perhaps the most frightening of all his religious statements for its sheer anti-democratic sentiment, it brings together many of the other ideas Zuma has expressed in one powerful, autocratic impulse.
Consider this quote, from another demagogue, who believes his power and that of his party comes directly from God:
“[They] will never be allowed to rule this country – never ever. Only God, who appointed me, will remove me… Only God will remove me!”
That was Robert Mugabe. But tyrants and dictators throughout history have evoked God. Even Hitler declared “…My conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator”. Jacob Zuma is not Hitler, but the problem inherent in his various supernatural claims is the same: a profoundly undemocratic spirit that reduces human agency to nothing more than a whim, inconsequential in the light of God’s all-knowing plan. If that were true, democracy, civil liberties, elections, choice and free will would be of no consequence because every action is predetermined, every decision a pretence.
Zuma will no doubt claim much of what he has said allegorical but he can only do that in retrospect, never once has he suggested as much at the time. Even if he did, it changes nothing about the implications of his words. Allegory or not, the sentiment is problematic. And ask yourself this: when have you ever read a statement from Zuma distancing himself from the anti-democratic nature of his statements? Not once. He believes them to be true. In the quiet of his own conscious he truly believes he serves a holy cause, divinely inspired and endorsed; that its purpose is God’s will and its opponents, God’s enemies. And that tells you everything you need to know about the man.
SECTION 23(2) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act states that a "medical certificate must be issued and signed by a medial practitioner or any other person who is certified to diagnose and treat patients and who is registered with a professional council established by an Act of Parliament".
In a matter that came before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), the commissioner was called upon to determine whether a certificate issued by a traditional healer/sangoma to be handed to an employer by an employee, verifying that the employee suffered from "premonitions of ancestors" and needed to attend a month-long ceremony or she would collapse and no one would be able to help her, complies with the provisions of Section 23(2) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
The employer refused the employee's request for leave to attend the ceremony and instead offered one week's unpaid leave.
The employee declined the employer's offer and absented herself from work for a month to attend the ceremony.
The CCMA found that the employee's conduct was justified because she believed that she had to choose a course that would save her life.
The employer took the CCMA's decision on review to the Labour Court. The Labour Court dismissed the review application. The employer then appealed to the Labour Appeal Court.
The Labour Appeal Court held that the Constitution recognises traditional beliefs and practices and some of them are strongly held by those who subscribe to them and regard them as part of their lives.
Those who do not subscribe to others' cultural beliefs should not trivialise them.
What is required is reasonable accommodation of each other to ensure harmony and to achieve a united society.
Furthermore it would be disingenuous of anybody to deny that our society is characterised by a diversity of cultures, traditions and beliefs.
That being the case, there will always be instances where these diverse cultural and traditional beliefs and practices create challenges within our society, the workplace being no exception.
The Labour Appeal Court also rejected the employer's argument that the commissioner's findings will open the floodgates to malpractices in the workplace because each case has to be decided on its own facts.
The lesson to be learned from this case is that employers have to be sensitive to the religious and cultural beliefs of their employees.
Employees' cultural and religious beliefs should not be trivialised merely because employers do not subscribe to them.
Employees also need to be sensitive that the primary objective of any business is to make a profit and therefore employees and employers must strive to reach a compromise in order to achieve and maintain peace in the workplace.
Modise is the chairman and Khoza is a second-year candidate attorney at Routledge Modise