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Jacob Zuma must do the walk of shame


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

Jacob Zuma sits at his Nkandla homestead, reflect­ing, resenting, collecting his thoughts and his anger, so as to spin a narrative that he is the victim and all of us are out to get him. How pathetic.

He is no Messiah that’s for sure, but the “sorrowful way” must be traversed by former president Jacob Zuma. He won’t spend a single day in jail of that I’m certain, but he must subject himself to the walk of shame.

We, South Africans, have to mock him and remind him of his vile deeds between 2009 and 2018. This we must be allowed to do, not because we hate Zuma, no, it’s because it will be good for our collective psyche as a people. If a former head of state attempts to undermine our hard-fought, hard-earned democracy, trample on our Constitution and spit in the face of our judiciary, then we must make an example of him and his cohorts. And if Zuma feels he is being left out to dry by his comrades, well, he brought this upon himself.

He became drunk with executive power. Making sure he appointed the most incompetent of individuals in very senior positions in the state. These are not my sentiments but the ruling of our courts in respect of Tom Moyane, Dudu Myeni, Shaun Abrahams, Nomgcobo Jiba, Lawrence Mrwebi and many others.

Allowing a single family to run our country from their home in Saxonwold, determining who should or should not be in the executive branch of our government. Allowing them to violate protocols and land a passenger aeroplane at a military base. Ruining our economy further and, just for good measure, slapping us with a “free higher education” expense, literally giving us the middle finger in the process. Today, we suffer the consequences of this illogical decision, which we simply cannot afford.

Then he sits at his Nkandla homestead, reflect­ing, resenting, collecting his thoughts and his anger, so as to spin a narrative that he is the victim and all of us are out to get him.

How pathetic.

He must be shown that no one is above the law, no one, and we simply must hold him accountable for allowing State Capture under his stewardship of the country. Zuma might want to deny the existence of State Capture, he might even want to miraculously suggest that his family and he have not benefited from corrupt practices, but the fact of the matter is the country is in a far worse state after his tenure at the helm, as the Zondo Commission lays bare daily.

The most likely ruling from our Constitutional Court in the matter of Zuma v ConCourt is indeed a suspended sentence with a fine and perhaps a slap on the wrist stating, “don’t do it again”. And if the court should rule that Zuma must spend some time in jail, President Cyril Ramaphosa will almost immediately issue him with a presidential pardon, as he should. This way the former president can save face as he walks the path of shame.

I know that’s not what many of you want to hear but alas, as a former president of the Republic and of the governing ANC, I do think we must read the mood of the majority in our country on this one. The chattering classes might want to see Zuma in prison, but people on the ground have always identified with him as a victim. We saw this after Thabo Mbeki released Zuma from his duties back in 2005, we saw it again when Zuma was accused of rape and countless other times. They agree with some measure of sanction of course, but prison: no.

When I engage some they will remind me of PW Botha and how he did not go to jail for his transgressions. They talk of the many apartheid ministers that simply walked free after heinous crimes against our people. Unfair I hear you say, but this is the sentiment of some people. We might not agree with them but this is what they are saying.

I remember a time when I objected to the building of Nkandla and many people asked me, where do you want the president to live, in a tin zinc house, while many wealthy white people live in mansions? I admit at the time I was shocked by this logic and argument but alas, this is what our people thought.

Even when Zuma doesn’t want to admit wrongdoing, or doesn’t want to apologise to us as citizens he must experience this catharsis of shaming for his own sake too. And to put a final nail in the coffin so to speak, we might also agree not to give him a full state funeral as a former president of South Africa. That would complete the shame.

Why, you might ask, are we so hellbent on punishing him? Well, it’s as I’ve stated above, an example must be made. This sort of thing must never be allowed to happen again and especially not from the highest office in the land. We have had many honourable presidents of the ANC and of the country. They may not have been perfect individuals, but they remained true to their calling of wanting to free all South Africans from the bondage of apartheid and to better the lives of all South Africans. Not one of them ever enriched themselves or their families at the expense of our people, not in the manner Zuma has done. That’s why he must be subjected to the walk of shame. We will however not send you to prison.

I think it’s also only fair to say that we are not doing this because of stupid empty threats of war coming from the shores of Dubai, no sir. I’m sure Duduzane can be forgiven for not having a full appreciation of the trauma, killings and murders suffered by so many of our countrymen and women during the dark days of apartheid. Duduzane would have no clue about the so-called black-on-black violence we all had to endure on a daily basis. Women and children all experiencing a daily hell of bullets flying overhead, lying on the floor of their houses praying one does not ricochet and kill one of them. You would have no idea of any of this and yet you make empty threats of war.

Be a little more circumspect, young man.

It has been a long walk for Zuma, fighting to stay out of our courts for more than a decade almost. It is time this sordid affair goes away once and for all, I think. Your shame will not end with a crucifixion, as many want, but it must be recorded in the annals of history that your walk down the Via Dolorosa was necessary for us all.

It is preoccupying us when we have far more critical and important matters at hand, like fixing our economy and tackling the triple challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty.

Take the walk of shame and get it over with, Mr Zuma. Have your Gethsemane moment, so we may all heal going forward. DM


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All Comments 21

  • Wrong Mr van Heerden, the graft will continue until law and order is restored. Criminals are allowed to walk free here in South Africa. Why should people stop stealing if they can get away with it? If people can steal billions and walk free while others starve, what justice is there? None.

  • You are of course totally entitled to your opinion Mr van Heerden, but to bring Zuma’s dark past into connection with the death of Christ is totally offensive. Metaphors like this are not helpful and will turn Zuma for his followers into a martyr which he most certainly is not.

  • Since when does public opinion carry more weight than justice as executed in a court of law? Mr Van Heerden condones criminal behaviour. He also ridicules the views of the chattering classes who whish to see a better SA for all. Quite pathetic.

  • I think you are on the money with this, Oscar. We all need healing, and pushing for punishment will not achieve this. It may trigger more aggressive/defensive responses and distract us from the real goal. We need the discipline and humility to focus only on that which leads to future health.

  • Mr van Heerden, it is time that this ANC government show the people of this country that they are serious about punishing people for their corrupt activities, irrespective of WHO they are. We hear “without fear or favour” time and again – empty words. Zuma must pay the price for what he has done.

  • If he’s not sent to jail it’s a slap in the face to all honest tax paying citizens & total disrespect to the Commission on State Capture.
    The ConCourt Judges are mandated to protect & uphold the Constitution as its ultimate guardians.
    I urge them to fulfil their mandate & do the right thing.

  • I hope that JZ will be punished with a jail sentence and CR grants him a presidential pardon. This would prove that for ANC incl. CR all are equal before the law, only the ANC is a bit more equal.

  • You can not say nobody is above the law, then say he should not go to prison because he was the President. What if he had murdered one of his many wives? Would you still argue that he should be ‘pardoned’?

  • This man will never do the walk of shame. He will dance down the corridor telling everyone how great a leader and supporter of the people he is.

  • How can you save face as you walk the path of shame? Oscar, I am appalled. This man has caused more damage than anyone in the history of the country, even countless indirect deaths. Justice is meant as a deterrent, and jail time is a signal to future leaders – also in Africa. Victim? A conman.

  • Depressing reading. We’re making Third World Countries look like bastions of the rule of law and democracy. Fourth (?) World here we come. The only light at the end of the tunnel is that Mr Van H could be wrong in his assessment.


  • Seeing as you brought up PW Botha: Upon retiring the former president moved back to his personal retirement residence, “Die Anker”, in Wilderness. At the time he was still paying off a Saambou Bank bond on the property out of his monthly pension.

    To my knowledge nobody condemned JZ to a tin shack.

  • I have so much sympathy for the Zulu Nation and Royal Family at the loss of their King and Queen, while at the same time dealing with the embarrassment of the dishonourable Zuma. At least the late King’s Impi told him to get lost!

  • My earlier comment – ‘save face and walk of shame’. I realised that it is a Freudian slip. Oscar is advocating this because it is better for the ANC.

  • Oscar. You probably did not kose 36% of your RA because of the actions of Zuma. I am in no mood to forgive the originator of the Zumavirus in SA,despite your blasphemous analogy of Christ,s suffering. Duduzane is a pathetic wimp who should remember what happened to his mother.

  • What exactly will a “walk of shame entail”? I would agree with you, except that this is a man without shame. He has no conscience at all.

  • This is the same Oscar who used to pen articles week in week out supporting Zuma when he was in power! This sycophant has been the enabler of ANC corruption as long as he gets his paycheck. Lots of words but no courage!

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