Opinionista Professor Balthazar 7 July 2011

Presidency pins its hopes on Mac’s muti

So the presidency has launched Operation Vula II under the stewardship of the geriatric but smart Mac Maharaj. After masterminding Vula I to help the ANC back into South Africa in the 1980s, who better to try to drag embattled Jacob Zuma out of the twilight zone?

About time someone with half a brain graced the echoing corridors of the Union Buildings. Since Thabo Mbeki left, Zuma has been surrounded by a gaggle of clucking hens and it’s really difficult to tell his ill-managed household from his chaotic office.

The presidency has also been busier that Park Station with people drifting in and getting booted out. Nobody seems to be able to stand Zuma and his chief cook and bottle-washer Lakela Kaunda long enough to be able to do a decent job so they get “redeployed” into the big bad government machine never to be seen or heard of again.

Zizi Kodwa was a lovely chap – mysterious private life notwithstanding – but he was unfortunately not strong enough to stand up to the Gestapo and was smothered into insignificance. There was also the small matter of his friendship with Julius Malema, Zuma’s nemesis.

The thing about Mac though is that he’s his own man and hates stupid people. When you behave idiotically, he says so – no holds barred. That should make his stay at the presidency very interesting.

It would be fascinating to hear the backstory to this appointment. Firstly, contrary to what most people believe, Maharaj has not been Zuma’s biggest fan. In fact, Mac believed JZ was a downright coward for forcing others to carry the can during the Hefer Commission and behaving as if it was a matter of supreme indifference to him. Secondly, Maharaj was so wounded in the aftermath to Hefer, he could not have cared less about Zuma and his trials. In fact, he wanted no part of Operation Keep JZ Out Of Jail.

So, all the stories about them being bosom buddies and trusted confidantes are rubbish. What is obvious though is that Zuma is so under siege and so worried about his political future that he had to resort to drawing on the brain of one of the liberation struggle’s most tactical minds to help him out of the unmitigated mess he’s in.

After being outplayed by the colourful Malema at the ANC Youth League conference and failing to crack even a smile from the delegates at the Cosatu central committee, it has perhaps finally dawned on Zuma that he no longer has a support block in the ANC. Not even Mshini Wam could work its magic and it is clear that everyone is fed up with his game of dodge-ball.

Zuma has also probably realised that he has no sage advisors who can counsel him on what to do next. Gwede Mantashe is himself fighting for his political life. Kgalema Motlanthe is more difficult to read than a State of the Nation speech. Even Zweli Mkhize, who used to go around bailing him out every time he knocked someone up, seems to have migrated to another camp. Blade Nzimande, even when sober, is as valuable as a punctured retread. Everyone else wants a pound of flesh.

Zuma is in deep, deep trouble. It’s really tough not being a victim. He now has to come up with something meaningful to say or tangible to do until his term ends, or the horde that stormed the Bastille is bound to come knocking.

There are not many people who can and will work for Zuma. Firstly, his vibrant and unpredictable personal life is almost always in the mix. Who in their right mind wants to attempt that juggling act of explaining the wives, the queuing fiancés, the baby-spotting, the gluttonous nephew, the dodgy friends and so on.

Then there’s the fact that Zuma has a warped idea of the role of the media. In Zuma’s perfect world, newspapers would come out occasionally, when the ANC or government had something to say – something like a print edition of SABC News at 7. He doesn’t understand the concept of news or why he, his family and some crooked comrades are in it all the time. And he thinks the best way to deal with bad publicity is to ignore it.

To win some favour in disenchanted ANC structures, he had to opt for someone with unquestionable struggle pedigree – as opposed to the relative nobodies who have turned his presidency into a comedy skit. So Zuma turned to the fast dissipating “Council of the Wise” for help.

Mac’s appointment as a presidential spokesman does not make much sense. As special advisor, yes. But having to congratulate the netball team and announce periodically that Zuma is taking the weekend off is an abuse of the old warrior’s stature and credentials.

But Mac is no fool. Neither does he suffer any. So from one seasoned bastard to another: “Strength to you old chap, you are going to need it”. DM


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