First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

Shame on you, superspreader Jacob Zuma

Maverick Citizen

Maverick Citizen: Tuesday Editorial

Shame on you, superspreader Jacob Zuma

Pietermaritzburg high court judge Jerome Mnguni has dismissed former president Jacob Zuma's (pictured) application for a stay of arrest and committal. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Former President Jacob Zuma and other disgraced ANC leaders should be arrested and join the other 465,098 people arrested for breaking lockdown regulations.

Shame on Jacob Zuma.

In the past few days, by demonstration and by word, he has acted as a superspreader of Covid-19. His actions may well have caused thousands of infections and possibly lead to hundreds of deaths. 

Jacob Zuma acted as a superspreader by:

Encouraging hundreds of people to convene upon his homestead in Nkandla, many of them not wearing masks. Many travelled by poorly ventilated taxis and buses and brought with them the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 from all over South Africa; in Nkandla they spread it among themselves as they sang and toyi-toyied and then took it back to spread further to the families and communities they came from. When asked about this Zuma made light of it and declined the opportunity to call on his followers to wear masks. 

In days ahead many of the Nkandla-acquired infections will turn into illnesses, further testing our overstretched, underpaid nurses and doctors, further straining hospitals and precious resources such as ventilators and oxygen. Zuma and his cronies will be nowhere to be seen when people lie gasping for oxygen, begging for hospital beds, dying in their homes, devastating families.

Jacob Zuma acted as a superspreader by:

Choosing not to wear one of the few protections we have against Covid-19 – a mask – and then allowing Mzwanele Manyi to get away with a dangerous falsity that he has a medical condition that contraindicates wearing a mask. By doing so he encouraged other people to do the same. This is no better than his ludicrous claim that to protect himself from HIV, rather than using a condom, he had a shower after unprotected unconsensual sex with “Khwezi” – something she insisted was rape until her dying day, despite  Zuma’s acquittal.

Jacob Zuma acted as a superspreader by: 

Telling the country he has not been vaccinated for Covid-19 even though safe and efficacious vaccinations have been available and recommended for people over 60 since 17 May. Zuma’s admission to not having been vaccinated is irresponsible for someone who claims to be a leader. It will fuel vaccine hesitancy. It also makes a mockery of his claim that he has comorbidities that would make his imprisonment a “death sentence”.

Jacob Zuma has acted as a superspreader by: 

Self-serving theatrics that distracted the nation at a time when we are going through the worst moment of our Covid crisis since the pandemic began. Over the weekend of his Nkandla self-indulgence more than 40,000 new infections were reported and 508 deaths. The graphs look like this:

Yet all he could do is make a mockery of the Covid crisis, and the soul-breaking efforts of many to contain it, with the Trumpian claim that the Level 4 lockdown (flawed as it is) is akin to the apartheid state of emergency.

Shame on you, Jacob Zuma.

Finally, Jacob Zuma and his followers did not only mock the rule of law, they also broke it. According to the Disaster Management Act it is not just the convenor of a gathering who contravenes the regulations who commits an offence, but “any person who attends a faith-based, religious, social, political or cultural gathering and who knows or who ought reasonably to have known or suspected that it is prohibited”. 

For this, Jacob Zuma and other disgraced ANC leaders should be arrested and join the other 465,098 people arrested for breaking lockdown regulations.

One of the few legacies Jacob Zuma can possibly lay claim to is playing a role in making the political space for the roll-out of ARVs after the AIDS denialism of former president Thabo Mbeki. ARVs prevented five million deaths between 2009 and 2021. However, muddying even this legacy, many of Zuma’s followers now entertain and promote similar conspiracies; and his behaviour in relation to Covid-19 suggests that this was just political expediency, a way of differentiating himself from his predecessor in his quest to capture the Presidency. It was not about saving lives.

His actions since then and now show a man concerned only with self-preservation, often using the poor and unemployed as his human shield. A man who acts with rampant and arrogant impunity, respecting no state institution, from Parliament to C 9 institutions to the courts, and never mind the Constitution. 

His allegiance is only to himself.

As with so many other aspects of State Capture and corruption it will be the poor who will pay the price for Jacob Zuma’s shenanigans. But it remains to the rest of us to pick up the pieces. 

Over the coming days, as Jacob Zuma has his day(s) in court once more, let us not be distracted from the real challenges of this moment. Each one of us needs to do everything we can to speed up and support the vaccine roll-out; get in your car, go and find people who need to be vaccinated and drive them to a vaccine site; help get as many people vaccinated as humanly possible. We need to ensure care for our care workers; we need to ensure food for the hungry; we need to defeat Covid-19 and the social crisis it is feeding. We need to come together in defiance of those who would drive us apart. DM/MC

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted