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Gosebo Mathope
3 minute read
14 Dec 2017
11:10 am

Mid-Week Reflections: Lessons from Zuma tenure – a head of state can be a useful idiot

Gosebo Mathope

'Appoint the people on this list, and we shall bless you, my child,' the three arms of the state, Atul, Rajesh and Tony told our giggling Nkandla crooner.

Ajay Gupta one of the Gupta brothers who left South Africa for United Arab Emirates following allegations of corruption.

The constitution of the Republic of South Africa was quite evidently drafted with a leader such as the late Nelson Mandela in mind. The reality is that presidents can be unpredictable and may not emulate his leadership.

The revered constitution empowers the president with the appointments of ministers, deputy ministers, directors-general, the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) and with a much great say on the appointments of premiers.

Just this morning, we heard that President Jacob Zuma’s legal representatives would file papers to appeal the latest high court ruling that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa take over the task of appointing the new prosecutions boss after ruling that the appointment of Shaun Abrahams be set aside.

Their main argument is that two people can’t exercise presidential executive authority. Yes, that is really their argument. We know they will likely lose this one.

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Supplied/Moneyweb

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Supplied/Moneyweb

How did we find ourselves in this quagmire? You may ask. The answer is instinctive in nature as much as a legacy hangover. When judge Mogoeng Mogoeng said Zuma had defecated on his oath of office, he was not mincing his words. The tacit expectation society has on its Number One citizen is that he be a consistent patriot, beyond reproach and act in the best interest of the country without lining his pockets and that of his predatory cronies.

The genesis of state capture supports the hypothesis that this is where the Saxonwold Shebeen patrons spotted a gap. A president worth his stripes ought to have known you should not outsource that executive authority to third parties.

It is counterintuitive to rebut the theory that the unofficial number one family propped him in the proverbial ‘the Lord is my shepherd’ manner, he battered that power away for 30 silver coins.

“Jacob, you can not die a pauper when you have all this power which you can use to profit from the state. Appoint the people on this list, and we shall bless you, my child,” the three arms of the state, Atul, Rajesh and Tony, said.

Our giggling Nkandla crooner chortled, and they pressed on: “Don’t worry, when white monopoly capital media makes a racket, we will write the speech with the big words you can answer them with.” Thus emerged a classical useful idiot to the Guptas.

 Guptas family

Guptas family

Several members of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) have fired salvos at critics and debated that blame cannot be apportioned to one man and that the ‘narrative’ that their party president brought this country to its knees is exaggerated. Correct. You have been complicit. Between the 16th and 20th, you have the opportunity to address the elephant in the room.

We deserve much better. Amend the constitution to curb the abuse of state power.

WATCH: Ajay Gupta denies Van Rooyen visited him several times at Saxonwold

Comrades, find space in your extensive five-day programme to discuss constitutional amendments to the power of the state president. The Zuma presidency has left an indelible mark of corruption, financial maladministration and a feeding trough for unscrupulous legal advisers that left one high court judge asking: “Who advises the president?”

Mitigate future misapplication of powers by locating it within the judiciary, executive and parliament.

It’s not altogether a tall order. The constitutional court often directs parliament to make amendments to legislation found not to be in chorus with the constitution within 18 months, and you have diligently delivered.

If this resolution is announced at the end of the elective conference, you can use your majority in parliament to ensure the amendments are passed through and that whoever becomes president in 2019 can give us new headaches.

Of course, Zuma has also instilled in us an unwavering sense of circumspection about politicians. Hypothetically, if the amendments carry through you can bet your last South African rand future appointments will be intensely scrutinised.


Gosebo Mathope is a Senior Political Reporter for The Citizen Online. You can follow the author @Gosebo_Mathope or email

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