[OPINION] All the things Zuma did wrong: Let’s count (some of) the ways
Earlier this week President Jacob Zuma suffered a bit of a memory lapse. It seemed he could not understand why it was necessary for him to resign because he was unwilling to admit that he had done anything wrong during his tenure as president.
At a meeting with the ANC’s top six, the president announced that the “people still love him”. The meeting with the party’s national working committee (NWC) lasted two hours. Deliberations were held with Zuma and he was asked to resign.
Obviously, Zuma refused to step down. He told the party’s leadership that he had done “nothing wrong”.
Well, let’s jog the president’s memory by reminding him of just a few of his misdemeanours. Some light, some, not so light.
Jacob Zuma faces 783 charges of corruption, including fraud, racketeering and money laundering in a court of law. He denies all of them. Just an FYI Mr President, just because you deny something, does not mean it did not happen… 783 times. Among the allegations contained in the report from the previous Public Protector, one Ms Thuli Madonsela, are that Zuma and the Guptas orchestrated state capture.
Let’s continue in the vein of cronyism and mismanagement of the Zuma administration, shall we? During Zuma’s presidency, South Africa was dunked headfirst into a recession. Its debt was downgraded to junk status. I won’t necessarily say he’s been a junk president, but…
The unemployment rate is pretty junk as well. As it stands, 28% of the population remains jobless and a further 8% have given up looking for jobs altogether. Zuma, of course, has never had to worry about this sort of thing, because his job (until recently) has remained pretty stable.
If dodging bullets were an Olympic sport, Zuma would be a gold medalist. He has managed to get away with ignoring several court orders, mismanaging public funds and he has also willy-nilly taken it upon himself to fire shots and get rid of several of the country's most competent ministers.
More on the ministers… Zuma managed to change his Finance Minister twice within a week. Unprecedented. Or shall we say unpresidented? This Finance Minister game of chess rattled investors and understandably so. Which foreign market wants to trust a president whose behaviour impacts largely on Africa’s biggest economy? Answer: None. And it’s because of this that the JSE All Share Index lost nearly $11 billion in value following the news of the changes.
Let’s move from billions to a few lighter millions. Who can forget the controversy surrounding NkandlaGate? Zuma can, in spite of the fact that in late 2016, he actually ended up paying back some of the money. R7.6 million to be exact. A tiny dent when you consider that the total amount of public funds he used for renovations and 'security improvements' on his homestead totalled R246 million. But who’s counting right? Not Zuma.
He’s not counting because apparently, he can’t. On several occasions, the president has got his numbers incredibly wrong. He once pronounced R939,360,000 as 939 million 3,000 and 60,000. And another time, during an ANC national general council meeting, the president fumbled over another number. He was talking about the party’s previous membership numbers which stood at 1,220,057, but when reading out the figure he said there were 1 hundred point 2 million members. Just to put this into perspective… there are only 55.9 million people in the whole of South Africa. Maybe that’s why he couldn’t understand why there was a problem with the vast amount of money he spent on Nkandla. To President Zuma, R246 million is actually only R24.60, the price of a 2-litre carton of milk really.
And while we’re on the subject of things the president says, let’s refresh our memories with these gems:
Jacob Zuma once declared dogs to be a white thing. He said having a dog as a pet is un-African and that black South Africans who bought dogs were only trying to 'copy white culture'. Especially when they take their dogs for walks and to vets.
During the launch of e-tolls and Jo’burg's new freeways, Zuma explained that the tolls were because money needed to be paid back for the loans taken out during construction. “The principle of user pay has to apply to complement the costs incurred by government. This is what all the economies in the world do,” he said. But he was not finished. Zuma also famously added: “We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally. [Laughter] We are in Johannesburg. This is Johannesburg. It is not some national road in Malawi. [Laughter] No.”
Then there was that Jesus line, which he quoted over and over again: “people needed (sic) to accept that the ANC would rule until Jesus Christ came back”. "I hear people complaining when we say the ANC will rule fully until Jesus comes back but we have been blessed. Pastors have prayed for us," he said.
On paying back the money, Zuma said: “Why do you say I should pay back the money? You don’t even know how much.” Well, we do know how much Mr President. I think we have clarified that it is, in fact, you who cannot count.
Zuma on women: “People today think being single is nice. It’s actually not right. That’s a distortion. You’ve got to have kids. Kids are important to a woman because they give extra training to a woman, to be a mother.” Zuma should know. He himself has done such a great job raising model citizens.
And finally, and this one takes the corruption cake: “Me? Well, I don’t know, I must go to a dictionary and learn what a crook is. I’ve never been a crook.”
It’s hard to mention all the president’s transgressions. These are just a handful really. But I’m pretty sure there’s a journalist out there who is currently working on an alphabetical encyclopedia that mentions all of the president’s wrongdoings.
Dear Jacob Zuma, consider your memory officially jogged.
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment. Follow her on Twitter.