The time for Jacob Zuma to face his Arms Deal rap draws nigh – and other stories of hope

The time for Jacob Zuma to face his Arms Deal rap draws nigh – and other stories of hope
Former SA president Jacob Zuma at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on 22 March 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

WARNING: If you are looking for the latest breaking bad news, this is not it. 

Dear DM168 readers,

I have always lived in hope. My disposition is stupid and silly for some. Like Mr Cheeky nailed on the cross in Monty Python’s hilarious spoof on religion Life of Brian, I have an inordinate tendency to “always look on the bright side of life”, no matter how bad it gets, even if all the chips are down and horrible, devastating things have happened to me and/or my loved ones, my city, country or world. 

I take the very long view on life. We humans have been here a while, swinging up and down, back and forth on the pendulum of evolution started by our pre-human ancestors around 6-7 million years ago. We are spring chickens, modern humans are around 200,000 years old.

Our human history has seen the rise and fall of civilisations, empires, kingdoms and cultures through wars, famine, droughts, volcanic eruptions and massive climate change. 

Many of our ancestors put foot and left our common African home between 60,000 and 90,000 years ago, some scientists say to escape a drying climate. They went on to populate the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Euroasia and, finally, the Americas; learning, inventing and creating as they roamed the entire planet.

There are three reasons these scientific facts give me hope:

  1. The race laws of apartheid that defined and confined my childhood, and caused immense pain and damage to so many in our country, are exactly what my mother said they were. Nonsense. As she said. “No matter what colour your skin is, you are not inferior or superior to anyone.” Palaeontology teaches us that there is no black, white or yellow race. There is one race. Homo Sapiens. Us Humans.
  2. The long lens of history also teaches us that we are a creative, adaptive, resilient species. We have survived and thrived through learning from our environment and each other, through cooperation, sharing and trade, problem-solving and exploration.
  3. We humans have nowhere left to roam on our planet unless we’re stupidly rich and elite enough to board Elon Musk’s multibillion-dollar escape plan to Mars. (And most of us are not.) Since the mass migration out of Africa, we have populated every corner of Earth. If we learn from our past, we will know it is up to us to find a way of making what we have, where we live, work.

History and, sadly, often news churned out by my tribe, journalists, mostly record our evolution as a catalogue of crime and conquer. The hidden hands of those who have birthed, cared for and raised new generations, who have grown crops, domesticated and herded animals, loved, sang, drawn, made poems, sheltered, taught and healed are not as visible as are the criminals, conquerors and warriors. 

We tend to magnify the times when we sacrifice our better selves and go to war, enslave, annihilate, exterminate, steal, rob and plunder. We don’t remember, write about and record for posterity the trillions of little things that most of us do every day to make life as humans worth living. 

Without these little things —labours of love, kindness, care, cooking, talking, listening, picking up litter, apologising, forgiving, crying, laughing, being there for each other, looking after our children, turning up to do the work we need to or are paid to do — hope is a pipedream. A mirage on a potholed highway to nowhere special. 

Hope does not need a hero. It does not need another messiah, a Jesus, a Prophet Muhammad, a Buddha or even another Nelson Mandela to save us or our country. Hope needs us. Each and every one of us. Doing the little things that make us get through another day. With integrity. Commitment. Competence. And if we fail, with the resilience to get up and try again. Differently.

In this week’s DM168, our team of journalists has smidgeons of hope lined up for you to soak up and reflect on. 

Firstly, in our lead story, legal journalist Dianne Hawker explains how Jacob Zuma is one step closer to facing his Arms Deal rap after 19 years of legal loopholes. The court case Zuma lost this week was also very good news for journalists and whistle-blowers who people like Zuma and his ilk try to bully into silence. The judges found that Zuma’s private prosecution of Karyn Maughan “infringes on her right to freedom of expression, specifically, press freedom and the public’s right to receive such information. It has the effect of intimidating, harassing and silencing her as its ulterior motive…”

You will find another sliver of hope of sorts in our Business Maverick lead by Ray Mahlaka, which details how business leaders are going to step in and help the government tackle crime, the economic crisis and rolling blackouts. This week of slightly fewer rolling blackouts shows there is already some light at the end of this tunnel.  

Then there is our regular series that shares solutions to youth unemployment. This week, Estelle Ellis spoke to a young Eastern Cape man who was despondent when he learnt he could not follow his dream of forensics because his matric marks were not good enough. We have to love his feisty grandmother who inspired him to try out agriculture. He now cultivates and sells more than 80,000 cabbages a year. 

Both Estelle and I are avid backyard cabbage growers, so this story really warmed our hearts. 

I hope our stories warm your hearts with hope too. Please share your thoughts with me at [email protected]

Yours in defence of truth,


This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • isiThulele Mageba says:

    Thank you so much, Heather. I have always held on to hope. But recently almost lost hope. Your editorial is very timely. So lets all hope for prosecutions of corrupt looters, hope for appointments based on merit, rather than the current policy of national racism. Hope for job creation in unfettered by the central bureauCRAZY under the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution.

  • Nic Tsangarakis says:

    Love it Heather. Without poo-pooing our very real problems, we must live in hope. And there are many remarkable South Africans that do amazing and selfless deeds every day that makes a difference. I always look forward to your weekly articles!

  • Bill Gild says:

    Zuma will never see the conclusion of his arms trial. To believe otherwise is to believe in fairy tales….

  • Julie Beer says:

    What a wonderful news item on a Sunday morning! Thank you!
    Yes … it’s do important to look at history through a long lens – it gives each generation a sense of both continuity of humankind and the fleeting lifespan of each individual! Gives us perspective on the importance of those everyday, special acts you speak of and on the necessity of acting alongside one another to carry the torch of hope!

  • Glenda McCleary says:

    Thank you Heather. Really hit home with me for a self correct ment to appreciate the little things, the important things, in keeping hope alive, in spite of all the darkness (‘scuse the pun)in our country. It’s been so easy to fall into the desperation and negativity of a country that has failed all of us

  • Shauneen Procter says:

    Ah Heather, thank you for being a pied piper of hope, and for this profound call: “Hope needs us. Each and every one of us. Doing the little things that make us get through another day. With integrity. Commitment. Competence. And if we fail, with the resilience to get up and try again. Differently.”

  • Davis Kate says:

    Thanks Heather, really nice point of view for a change… and all of it so true.

  • Rae Earl says:

    You uplift us Heather which is always welcome. My problem is I’m an incurable sceptic and I can’t see that Zuma will actually get his comeuppance. He and his supporters have entrenched a critical weapon in their arsenal. Our legal profession’s apparent inability to take a strong line and set precedents. They continually fall into the traps of engaging in obscure legal technicalities with inept lawyers like Dali Mpofu and getting side tracked. It’s happening right now with Mkhwebane and her PP trial. She has launched an attack of bribery accusations against members of the impeachment hearing in parliament. This has absolutely nothing to do with her probably being being impeached. If her bribery accusations are true, that is another matter altogether and it should be set aside for investigation after her hearing is finalised and she is impeached. The same goes for her ongoing stalling tactics now that Mpofu is out in the sticks. The merits of the charges against her are public record. The committee must now finalise this matter and stop entertaining this woman’s endless sidetracking and nitty gritty legal stalling tactics. Zuma and Dali Mpofu are no whizz kids. And yet they run rings around the legal profession because it falls into the trap of ensuring a “Fair Trial” at any cost instead of setting precedents to kick vague technical loopholes out the door.

  • robertashton22 says:

    Each time I read that Zuma will face his alleged crimes, I feel that there is hope for South Africa. A great pity it never happens, and South Africa keeps sliding deeper into the mire. Come on South Africa, seize the day.

  • Peter Doble says:

    Hope springs eternal and the definition of optimism is that this is the best world we have. But the true facts are that: a) this, and most countries, are still led by self interested politicians b) the world is overpopulated c) pollution in all forms is destroying the planet d) competitive media thrives on the negative. There are many individuals achieving great success and performing good deeds. But are they the majority? We can only hope for the best; plan for the worst.

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