Opinionista Siya Khumalo 2 May 2017

Does Zuma signing the Fica Act signal winds of change – or that winter is coming?

President Jacob Zuma signing the Financial Intelligence Centre Act could mean one of three things. If the first, we owe him an apology; if the second, we can relax a little; if the third, we must brace ourselves because winter is coming and it’s cold outside the ANC.

I once read a book. It was a difficult experience for me — not because it was the only time I’d read a book, but because of the story it told.

A father was out with his young son. The kid wanted to run around and play. “Sure,” his father said, “but don’t run on the bank.” The kid nodded, excited, before he took off to frolic on the forbidden bank. His dad yelled, “No running on the bank!” The kid nodded, but kept at it. Eventually, his father dragged him off the grass and spanked him. “What part of, ‘No running on the bank!’ didn’t you understand?”

His teary baby eyes blinking up, he asked: “Daddy, what’s a bank?”

That’s how tragically wrong the conspiracy theories around President Jacob Zuma could turn out to be. He’s signed the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, after all.

The second possibility is that the conspiracy theories are true but he’s changing his ways. This would make sense, given the Western Cape High Court ruling on behalf of NGOs Earthlife Africa and the Southern Africa Faith-Communities’ Environmental Institute on the unconstitutionality of the run-up to the nuclear energy deal.

The third possibility is that, as in rhetoric where a debater would concede a point in order to strengthen his initial position, Jacob Gedliyehlekisa Zuma is living up to his names — supplanter, mocker and ambusher: conceding only to lure into a trap.

He’s neither an innocent kid being punished for a crime he doesn’t understand, nor a short-sighted ruler who, “going out to encounter another king in war” embarrasses himself by not first sitting down to “deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand”. Oh no! For if he’d realised the error of his ways he’d be asking for amnesty. His plan is not to shield the shady transactions that will be exposed to further-reaching investigations of FICA, but to threaten retaliation through said FICA.

When the State of Capture report emerged last year, the ANC Women’s League responded: “Any investigation which excludes white monopoly capital is an advancement of white supremacy and serves a racial political agenda that hinders the building of a non-racial society.” Once you deepen investigations into relationships between high-profile political persons and big money, who decides that banking transactions flagged only yesteryear should be looked into? Did something happen in, say, 1994, that expunged the sinfulness of all state-capital relationships until then? Gotcha! The moment the ANC stole bragging rights for our liberation, it became our saviour and then our lord. Jesus can’t come back to save us from the ANC because we’ve made the ANC into our Jesus, our golden calf.

Zuma is banking on the idea that once you turn on the lights on illicit state-capital relations, you stumble upon an explanation for the economic inequality the ANC promised to rescue the black electorate from in 1994. It would suddenly appear the apartheid state subsidised whiteness in a way that can only be rectified by the “radical economic transformation” President Zuma will whet his MPs to vote for in June, if not sooner. ZumaTradeOff: A bigger reshuffle is on the cards sought to explain why President Zuma wants to keep his finger close to that trigger. Therefore, he is not afraid of the FICA Bill and if he were, Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, could delay its gazetting.

While we’re on Minister Gigaba, someone should warn him that he’s starting to look and sound like Pontius Pilate. Until eternity’s last day, Pilate will boast an ecclesiastical honour known to no human save for Mother Mary: he’s one of the only two individuals named as having interacted with Jesus in the Christian Nicene Creed chanted by millions of the faithful weekly around the world. Unlike the Virgin, however, Gigaba and Pilate will be caught in history’s spotlight denuded of core, conviction and character. Both suffer from what Turkish historian Kenneth Weisbrode calls the “problems and pleasures of having it both ways”. Is Gigaba about “radical economic transformation” (which is dog-whistle politics for another thing altogether) or “inclusive economic growth” (that whistle is deafening)? Or will he not really know until he’s caught between a spear and a machine gun?

For he evades — look at the spin around the credit ratings downgrade. He equivocates — “The views expressed in [Professor Chris Malikane’s] opinion piece [on land expropriation without compensation] are not necessarily government policy.” He enables — guilty by association with the Gupta family. Already he buckles under the weight of making the call to choose between crucifying South Africa’s economic Barabbases and Jesuses.

Not knowing who or what he is, media and markets will squeeze him to see what comes out until, finally, he will be squeezed under the 32,000-pound bus Zuma will throw him under.

President Jacob Zuma, The Unburnt Chief of Nkandla’s Fire Pools, Maker of Chains, Father of Draconian state brutalities and Not-First of Unspeakable Names, signed FICA into law.

Those winds we’re hearing could be the winds of change but if we change nothing, they signal that winter is coming. DM

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