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Zuma’s number one iTune song: If loving you is wrong I don’t wanna be right


Sisonke Msimang is currently working on a book about belonging and identity. She tweets @sisonkemsimang.

It’s Friday, President Jacob Zuma’s not going to #PayBackTheMoney and parliament is paralysed because Thuli Madonsela’s a spy. South African politics is too silly to take seriously, so I’ve hacked into the President’s iTunes account and am listening to his beats.

There is a soul classic from the 1970s called ‘If Loving you is wrong I don’t wanna be right’. Everyone from Percy Sledge to Rod Stewart has covered it. It has a universal sort of appeal: you know that it’s irrational and morally wrong to do something but you do it anyway. You accept that you shouldn’t do it, but it feels so good that resisting it simply isn’t an option.

I have a sense that if you asked them to choose a theme song, the ANC parliamentarians who continue to defend Zuma would unanimously vote for this one. Their boss might concur. Or he might choose the legendary James Brown hit ‘I feel good’ as the first song on his iTunes.

In many ways, Zuma’s ascent has been characterised by his own dogged belief that he will do what feels good, even when he knows that it is wrong. What other explanation can we have for his conduct during the time he has held various positions of authority?

His friendship with Schabir Shaik was allegedly premised on principle of ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your’. We all know how good it feels when you have an itch that gets scratched. It feels so good that even if the hand that scratches it shouldn’t really be there because it’s so conflicted that it might be perceived as having a generally corrupt relationship with your back, you say, “Goodness that feels so good, I don’t wanna be right”.

Then there was the ‘relationship’ he conducted with the young woman who accused him of raping her. Using his own account of events he was simply doing what felt good at the time. He may have known that his conduct broke that pesky old ‘don’t sleep with the daughters of your dead comrade,’ rule, but ‘damn’, he must have said to himself, ‘if this is wrong, I don’t wanna be right’.

Then of course there was the baby that the President had in 2010 with the Sonono Khoza (his 20th child). In that instance, he was wise enough to own up to his mistakes, issuing a statement at the time that said, “I confirm that I have a relationship and a baby with Ms Sonono Khoza. I said during World Aids Day that we must all take personal responsibility for our actions. I have done so.” I have it on good authority that as he penned that statement, he was humming that poppy Brittney Spears tune, ‘Oops I did it again’.

It is common knowledge that the president enjoys a good dance party. And so it came as a surprise to the nation when he wasn’t able to attend the Bollywood extravaganza that was the Gupta wedding in 2011. As some of the members of his cabinet were there getting down to Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long,” apparently Zuma was fuming because all the media brouhaha meant that he it wouldn’t have looked good for him to go.

He had heard a nasty rumour that when the Gupta’s asked, ‘Can we use Waterkloof Air Force base to land our commercial sized plane for the private wedding of our kids?’, someone named Number One responded, ‘If that makes me wrong, it’s okay, because you know, if loving you is wrong I don’t even wanna be right’. It’s not clear who that guy was but the Gupta’s have been known to sing a mean rendition of that wonderful Stylistics tune, ‘Today I saw somebody who looked like you do, he walked just like you and talked like you do’.

Which brings us to the current state of mind in the Zuma household.

Apparently Zuma has been whistling Luther Vandross’ ‘This house is not a home’ when he visits Nkandla. Just before some people decided to sue his architect, he had been feeling blue and thought it might be a good idea to call Radio Metro to dedicate this very song to Makanya. Uncle Mac stopped him and said it might not be such a good idea.

Last Sunday, after all the ad hoc committee nonsense, Zuma called Mac again. ‘I was thinking maybe I could dedicate ‘This house is not a home’ to the opposition MPs!’ He giggled. They both had a good chuckle and then Maharaj said in a more serious voice, ‘Numero Uno, I do like the idea of dedicating a song to all the MetroFM listeners. Do you think there’s one that might be befitting of this political moment?’

The president pushed up his spectacles, which had slipped down his nose. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I’ve got just the song, one of my favourites. I’ve always loved Shaggy’s ‘It wasn’t me’.” Both men roared with laughter. Zuma put the phone down and walked to the kitchen singing, “Picture this we were both butt naked…” DM


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