Not entirely omniscient
23 July 2017 22:42 (South Africa)
Opinionista Professor Balthazar

SA's secret real president

  • Professor Balthazar
    balthazar
    Professor Balthazar

    After much persuasion and a case of Tullamore Dew, the Daily Maverick is proud to welcome renowned academic and all-round intellectual good guy, Professor Balthazar, whose erudite insights will take us past headlines, deadlines and old pick-up lines.

And how does Daily Maverick know South Africa has a “secret” president? Well, the ANC Youth League told us, of course. And who is our real president? Why, it’s Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe, silly! What concerns us a little though is whether Our Man in Mahlamba Ndlopfu actually knows this or not?

Do you think maybe the ANC Youth League is trying to tell us something? In wishing the inscrutable Kgalema Motlanthe happy birthday, the silver-tongued Floyd Shivambu extolled the deputy president’s virtues as such: “Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe is one of the most outstanding leaders of the ANC amongst his generation and has always brought forth creative and innovative solutions to South Africa's socio-economic problems... As Secretary General of the ANC, Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe held the ANC together amidst massive difficulties of intolerance and purging of leaders of the ANC who were seen as opposed to the forces that be.”

In case you missed who they comparing him to: “As a progressive internationalist, Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe has never agreed to make unsustainable and unnecessary assurances to imperialist masters, even when he addresses them in their countries.”

And then the winning line: “Comrade Kgalema is not a compromised leader and can at all times provide leadership to all sections of society and the ANC.” 

To round off the hagiography: “Happy Birthday Comrade President!”

So I think we can safely summarise that what they mean to say is: Can the other guy just bugger off already! Well, Floyd would probably phrase that slightly differently.

The problem with Jacob Zuma though – well, fine, it’s not the only problem – is that he just slinks around quietly hoping things will eventually sort themselves out. This strategy worked wonderfully when Thabo Mbeki tried his damndest to deploy him to the ANC branch at the Westville Correctional Facility. All he had to do then was show up in public occasionally and rattle off that song ANC combatants would sing in the bush when they forgot their AK47s back at camp.

His role as victim was worthy of an Oscar and the masses fell for it, forgiving his bedroom trysts and sponsored car washes.

Behind the scenes, people in the state security machinery would smuggle information to him about what Mbeki was up to. Then he would round up his militants in the ANC and the alliance in the dead of night and point them in Mbeki’s direction. It was how he kept his frontline forces angry, loyal and ready to charge.

Well, now they’re all pretty darn cross with him. And if there’s anyone they’re ready to charge at, it’s JZ himself.

While top secret information would leak out of the security apparatus to him like water through a sieve, it now looks like he can hardly rustle up a security briefing. He went through half of Monday, giggling with the British Prime Minister and addressing public meetings without knowing that former apartheid henchman Magnus Malan had left for the big killing field in the sky. So if for example Malan had pressed a big red button as he checked out, activating his well-trained forces and setting off limpet mines, we could all have been blown to smithereens while our President guffawed in David Cameron’s face.

Security briefings have splendid benefits for most heads of state – except perhaps for Muammar Gaddafi who still seems to think the NATO strikes are just pesky infidels throwing grenades over his fence. The infidels would probably have better aim anyway.

But back to Zuma, one would hope he has had a proper security briefing on the Menzi Simelane-Willie Hofmeyr’s face-off to prevent yet another fight to the death between state security agencies. Hofmeyr’s recent spot of trouble is seemingly not unrelated to a certain file on his desk at the Special Investigations Unit filled with copious details of a certain police general’s efforts to make the Forbes 100 wealthiest list.

Not that Zuma is oblivious to the numerous allegations against his chief of police, including Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Christmas wish list. That wouldn’t bother him. What will bother him is another battle raging in the security cluster while he is trying to hold on to his job. He will have even less people to sneak him information about his enemies or to meet him in the dead of night.

What he also does not know is that with all the turning of the tables, whether the unfathomable Motlanthe is now the happy recipient of information from disgruntled spooks and whether he is now the convenor of midnight rendezvous.

Information, as we know, is power. Zuma is losing grip of both. He knows that the flow of information to ANC structures is crucial to him retaining the presidency. Zuma was the beneficiary of the battle of the security agencies which chewed up the Mbeki presidency. If he doesn’t figure out what to do to prevent another showdown, he may as well call Julius and Floyd to help him pack his bags.
All this would help us better understand the tweet from @SAPresident this week: “Happy birthday to my friend, colleague, brother and comrade, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe! Have many many more!”

The tweet was accompanied by a sweet picture of Zuma and Motlanthe together. It was not accompanied by the disclaimer “Have many many more – preferably not while doing my job”.

Motlanthe does not have a twitter account. If he did, I’m guessing his response would be “;)”. DM

  • Professor Balthazar
    balthazar
    Professor Balthazar

    After much persuasion and a case of Tullamore Dew, the Daily Maverick is proud to welcome renowned academic and all-round intellectual good guy, Professor Balthazar, whose erudite insights will take us past headlines, deadlines and old pick-up lines.

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