Zuma: In His Own Words

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I wish I had a transcript of Jacob Zuma’s big press conference today. Apart from Zuma’s weird habit of calling the female reporters “my dear” (perhaps not the best demeanour to adopt, given all the recent unpleasantness), the event was notable mainly for the sheer disingenuousness he displayed. When questioned on the “shower” comments, for example, Zuma ducked and weaved like a pro, interrupting the reporter at will and refusing to be pinned down to single position. Yes he took a shower after sex, don’t you? Showering is just another way to purify your body. The media are at fault for misreporting him. He strongly recommends that all South Africans should shower on a regular basis. It’s good hygiene. Next question.

Zuma might have taken the opportunity to put to rest, once and for all, the ridiculous notion that showering can “purify” someone of recently-transmitted HIV. That’s what grown-ups do: take responsibility for their actions and, hopefully, try to correct their mistakes. But Zuma is trying to revive his political career, and doesn’t want to show any signs of weakness. Jonty Fisher has some good insights on where all this is headed:

During the recent rape trial, the focus of the mob’s hate was an individual, but during the graft trial, that focus will lie squarely on the Mbeki cabal and the alleged “conspiracy” to oust Zuma. This could prove to be a very, very difficult time for the current ANC leadership, and threatens to further enunciate the split within the ANC. Moreover, it will further extend Zuma’s legend within his populist support, and should he be found not guilty, it will undoubtedly push him on a wave of sentiment at a presidential attempt.

Indeed. If there’s one thing this process has taught us, it’s to not discount Zuma. The depth of his support is quite extraordinary: for the hardcore faithful, it seems more akin to a religious cult than a political movement. What we don’t know – and won’t know, until a polling company does some proper research – is the breadth of his support, and more importantly, the degree to which that support extends into the voting ranks of the ANC bureaucracy. I can only hope the answer is “not much”.