First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
When the chopper landed on the helipad at former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead two weeks ago, we, as a curious nation, wondered what could have necessitated the urgent meeting.
If the brief Twitter exchange between Zuma and his one-time protégé Julius Malema was anything to go by, the meeting seemed to have been organised in haste. Within a matter of two days, what many thought began on Twitter on a Wednesday led to an hour-long meeting between the two by the Friday.
It was a joyous reunion, by all accounts. Only we now know that the Twitter exchange was perhaps the coming-out party of the latest alliance of Zuma and Malema.
The “tea party” has been a long time coming.
Some had bought into the behind-the-scenes spin by the Malema team that he had been to Nkandla to try and convince Zuma to honour his appointment with the State Capture Commission of Inquiry. It is now history that Zuma stuck to his original guns and defiantly told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that he did not fear jail and that he was ready for censure by the Constitutional Court. Zuma failed to pitch for this five-day appointment where he was expected to respond to the evidence of more than 30 witnesses who implicated him in allegations of manipulating his position as president to further the interests of his family and close associates.
The irony of Malema landing at the homestead his party once famously dubbed “the monument of corruption” was not lost on many.
Until this week, there was speculation about the contents of the so-called tea meeting, which EFF spokesperson Vuyani Pambo has described as “nice, sweet and hot”. But listening to Malema during the debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s uninspiring State of the Nation Address revealed a lot.
Were it not for Malema’s distinct voice and forceful delivery, one could be forgiven for thinking it was Zuma speaking. Addressing Parliament on Tuesday afternoon – a day after Zuma fired off another night-time missive at Zondo – Malema directed his anger at the judiciary and the National Prosecuting Authority.
“If [judges] continue to think they are the law and not the interpreters of the law, then the people will rise against such few judges who have made themselves the law and are conspiring with politicians to deal with the opponents of the current establishment,” charged Malema, adding, without proof, that there were now “believable allegations that some [judges] are in the payroll of the white capitalist establishment”.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Zuma had led a similar charge.
“We sit with some judges who have assisted the incumbent president to hide from society what on the face of it seem to be bribes obtained in order to win an internal ANC election. We sit with some judges who sealed those [CR17 funding] records simply because such records may reveal that some of them, while presiding in our courts, have had their hands filled with the proverbial 30 pieces of silver,” Zuma wrote angrily.
Zuma accused some judges of being involved in political battles. Malema followed a similar line.
Zuma warned the judiciary not to abuse their positions and against tramping on his rights. Malema said: “The judiciary must know that they are not above the Constitution.”
Can you spot the difference? If anything, we can now see that the Nkandla meeting was about the fightback strategy against the judiciary and law-enforcement agencies.
The National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Shamila Batohi, did not escape Malema’s rebuke. He accused her of not having carried out any meaningful prosecutions besides dropping the charges against the associates of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
As with Zuma, Malema is anxious about his possible prosecution in the VBS-related scandal.
And, like the Ramaphosa he accuses of lacking a backbone, it seems that Malema belongs to the same amoeba species. His flip-flopping knows no bounds. No politician changes his mind quite like the EFF leader. While changing one’s mind every so often may not be a negative trait, consistency matters more.
Zuma and Malema may be united by circumstances in their fight against the judiciary, but it is Zuma who benefits from their dalliance.
Some of Malema’s supporters, including those within the EFF leadership, cannot stand Zuma and continue to hold him responsible for the economic ruin that we find our country in. Malema may well be on his way to alienating those backers.
For Zuma, who has never demonstrated an appetite for principles, any support from whatever quarter is added ammunition in his fightback arsenal.
As to how the Malema-Zuma alliance ultimately plays out, it can best be observed from the sidelines, with a cup of rooibos in hand. It won’t last. DM168
Sibusiso Ngalwa is politics editor of Newzroom Afrika and Sanef chair.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.
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