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SA’s Mugabe moment

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The governing ANC has, after weeks of talks meant to give him a dignified exit, been forced to fire Zuma

President Jacob Zuma and First Lady Thobeka Madiba-Zuma

THE UTTERANCES by one of President Jacob Zuma’s four wives, Tobeka Madiba-Zuma, should have given us a taste of what’s to come.

That pillow talk Instagram post has come back to haunt the ANC and the country.

Like former Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe before her, Tobeka predicted in the post that all hell would break loose before Zuma quits. She also threatened and insulted ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, just the way Grace tackled Emmerson Mnangagwa, then Mugabe’s vice-president in both the government and the ruling Zanu-PF party. Just like Ramaphosa, Mnangagwa now leads the governing party and will soon be the country’s president.

Things ended in tears for Grace, as they will for Tobeka and her husband.

So arrogant were the Mugabes that when the winds of change began to blow in Zimbabwe last November, with army tanks rolling into town, they didn’t see it coming. So power-drunk was dictator Robert Mugabe, 93, that he continued to behave as if nothing was happening. He thought he was untouchable and would govern Zimbabwe until Jesus returns (words also made famous by Zuma).

In Zimbabwe, even with the barrel of the gun up his backside, Mugabe remained defiant, refusing to go even when his party had fired him as its leader. Until he called a cabinet meeting one morning and only a handful sympathisers pitched, the ageing dictator was still in denial. He only resigned midway through an impeachment process led by his party in a joint seating of the National Assembly.

South Africa, in many ways, is having its own Zimbabwe moment. The governing ANC has, after weeks of talks meant to give him a dignified exit, been forced to fire Zuma. But like Mugabe, Zuma is defiant and won’t go down without a fight.

Like Mugabe, Zuma has run out of options and faces the same dilemma the world’s oldest leader faced: an embarrassing vote of no confidence in Parliament, led by his own comrades.

The contradiction here is that it is the same Zuma who previously said that if his party, the ANC doesn’t want him anymore, he will go. The same Zuma also said the two centres of power were not ideal for the party when it was Thabo Mbeki who was at the receiving end of the stick.

It is the same Zuma who told us the party, not the country, comes first. But with so much to lose, the outcomes of the ANC’s elective conference in December put a spanner in Zuma’s footworks and left him exposed to possible corruption and state capture charges. This has made him paranoid and unreasonable so much as to defy his party, who deployed him to government. The 783 counts of corruption, fraud and money laundering are too much of a risk for Zuma to resign.

Had things gone his way and his faction won the ANC battle in December, things wouldn’t have turned this bad for the scandal-riddled leader.

Yet Zuma should have long gone. But because this beast was the creation of the ANC, who watched and cheered as he wrecked the party and the country, it had to come to this bitter end.

Zuma, who survived eight no confidence votes in Parliament in his nine years of office, is now not only a problem for the opposition and South Africans – he is the ANC’s biggest nightmare. The ANC created this monster and they are the only ones who can destroy it.

Even the once invincible Mugabe finally came to his senses.

Sadly, like Zuma, it came too late.