The Many Faces of Jacob Zuma

I finally got around to reading the Sowetan interview with Jacob Zuma. It really is a most extraordinary piece of writing, one that I would strongly recommend to anyone with more than a passing interest in South African politics. Some of the highlights:

Zuma the gossip-columnist. Zuma has apparently internalised the old American tradition that, once you become notorious, you can make even more money by writing a tell-all book about your misdeeds. “He won’t say how many wives or children he has. Instead he says ‘wait for the book, it will all be in there’.”

Zuma the pop idol. Zuma is upset that the SABC won’t play his trademark song, uMshini wami: “They must play the song. People love the song.” (He also confuses “a song being banned” with a “song not being played on SABC”, a subtle but important distinction.)

Zuma the pick-up artist. “I am not a rapist – angisona isishimane mina – I don’t struggle to have liaisons with women.” Translation: don’t hate the playa baby, hate the game.

Zuma the consumate pol. “It’s not an issue of considering myself [for the presidency]… We don’t stand up there and tout ourselves. The ANC decides. It looks at its cadres and decides what it wants you to do.” The problem with this reasoning, of course, is that “the ANC” does not exist, at least not as the sentient decision-taking entity that Zuma makes it out to be. The ANC is made up of people, and Zuma is lobbying them as hard as he possibly can.

Zuma the shameless hyperbolist. “[Zuma adds] that at one of his appearances in the Durban court more than 400 relatives arrived to support him.” Four hundred? How many love children does the man have?

Zuma the tireless progenitor. “My family is growing all the way. We are now contributing to the growth – his own descendants – making it bigger and bigger.”

One is left with the overarching impression that Zuma, despite his various flaws as a politician, is not a very complicated person.