Anti-apartheid veteran Zuma casts a shadow over South Africa
JOHANNESBURG, June 29 (Reuters) – When Jacob Zuma finally bowed to pressure to resign as South African president in 2018, he fumed for an hour in front of the state broadcaster over the ill-treatment that he had suffered from the party he had served since his teenage years.
Zuma, besieged by bribery and bribery scandals throughout his years in power from 2009 to 2018, said it was “unfair” that the African National Congress (ANC) told him to step down, mainly because his comrades had not followed the proper party procedure.
For the South Africans who suffered from economic stagnation and national embarrassment under Zuma, it was yet further evidence of a leader unable to look beyond the Byzantine cogs of the oldest liberation movement in the world. Africa to consider the greater good of the “Rainbow Nation” of Nelson Mandela.
South Africa’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday sentenced Zuma to 15 months in prison for contempt of court after he failed to appear in a corruption probe earlier this year. Read more
The investigation examines allegations of high-level corruption during Zuma’s presidency. Zuma denies any wrongdoing and has so far not cooperated, but his legal options appear to have run out.
Zuma is on trial on separate corruption charges related to a $ 2 billion arms deal with French defense firm Thales in 1999, when he was vice president.
Charges were reinstated in March 2018, a month after the ANC removed him from office after a presidency marked by allegations of corruption and downgrades to sovereign credit ratings.
The former leader dismisses all allegations as a politically motivated witch hunt. But the case is a rare example of an African justice system seeking to prosecute a former leader for mischief.
Zuma, a veteran anti-apartheid and Zulu traditionalist, was South Africa’s most controversial leader since the end of the white minority regime in 1994.
It was Zuma’s mastery of the internal dynamics of the ANC that allowed him to survive for so long, but his political influence had waned since Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa replaced him as head of the ruling party. in December 2017.
“We are the ones who put South Africa in this mess by electing Zuma as president,” Jackson Mthembu, former chief whip of the ANC, once said. “We should have taken a close look at the man. Looking back, we made a terrible error in judgment.”
Declining electoral support for the ANC and public anger at the almost daily revelations of corruption have encouraged the ANC to pressure Zuma to resign well before the end of his second term in mid-2019 .
Zuma, whose Zulu middle name Gedleyihlekisa means “one who smiles while hurting you”, has cast a shadow over South African politics for the past decade.
He was booed in front of foreign dignitaries at the memorial service for liberation hero Nelson Mandela in 2013, mocked in the media and criticized for overseeing years of economic decline.
But Zuma, a teetotaler, and his modest upbringing have always maintained a loyal following, especially in rural areas.
During the apartheid era, Zuma was jailed for 10 years with Mandela on Robben Island. He later went into exile, before returning to the end of white rule.
Commentators had rejected Zuma’s political career on several occasions, but he proved them wrong time and time again, earning himself the nickname “Great Survivor.”
Ronnie Kasrils, a former intelligence minister and anti-apartheid veteran who spent years underground in the ANC, said Zuma was not the “simple man” he presented himself.
“Clever and engaging from the early days along the way, Zuma became motivated by a thirst for wealth and power,” Kasrils wrote in “A Simple Man,” his Zuma biography.
Using honed skills as ANC intelligence chief during apartheid, Zuma silenced dissenting voices by promoting little-known officials who made his offer to powerful positions in security and intelligence portfolios. .
Zuma also ensured that the ANC’s senior leadership was always controlled by loyalists who could, if necessary, thwart attempts to overthrow him.
“The patronage policy supported Zuma,” said Bantu Holomisa, an opposition leader and former ANC member. “Anyone who questioned him was rewarded with ministerial posts and foreign ambassadors. Those deemed undesirable were flushed out of the ANC.”
But Tuesday’s decision appears to have left Zuma without legal recourse.
“He has exhausted all of his (legal) options because there is no higher court to appeal to. The Constitutional Court is normally the last judgment,” said Amanda Gouws, professor of political science at the University of Stellenbosch.
“They finally said ‘enough is enough’.”
Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf Editing by Nick Macfie
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