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Opinionista

Zuma and Trump will find that if you challenge democracy, it might just chew you up

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Marianne Thamm has toiled as a journalist / writer / satirist / editor / columnist / author for over 30 years. She has published widely both locally and internationally. It was journalism that chose her and not the other way around. Marianne would have preferred plumbing or upholstering.

Trump lies for a living, so does Jacob Zuma. Both move throughout the world like wounded victims asking what they have done wrong. Even when they are convicted of rape and sexual assault, these men have no moral centre.

Jacob Zuma and Donald Trump have both embarked on a war on democracy, breaking every law and attempting to destroy as many institutions along the way as possible.

The two big, small men understand democracy the same way Vladimir Putin does, and it is no coincidence that both have outsized fantasies about Putin, the King of Kleptocrats.

Puck journalist Julia Ioffe’s brilliant podcast About A Boy: The Story of Vladimir Putin sets out how vital the lore of the dvor or urban courtyards of post-war Moscow is to his mindset.

Writes Ioffe: “The West’s obsession with Vladimir Putin’s KGB past often misses the biographical detail that can be captured by a single word: dvor.”

To the Russian speaker, she explains, “it is evocative of a whole universe. It was the space where Putin, like so many Soviet kids of his generation, grew up and learned an unforgiving, often brutal social code.”

Putin’s own democracy has morphed steadily into a disfigured, scowling, angry, murderous regime, intolerant of any opposition or dissent, devoid of any free speech or independent media, with citizens fed on a diet of theatre, twisted truths and outright lies.

This blend of lawless revenge politics, populism, propaganda and violence is deeply appealing to the autocrats who thrive among us all over the globe.

Russia’s democracy is so great, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told a youth forum at Sochi in March, that “we will no longer tolerate criticism of our democracy. Our democracy is the best.”

See Donald and Jacob clapping wildly in agreement.

Putin’s playbook

Those who do not fundamentally understand democracy, its checks and balances and its institutions, and who go about with no impediment to enjoying the very freedoms democracy offers, are now attacking it, claiming it impedes freedom.

It takes time, but Zuma has felt the heat of the law for a long, long time, as has Trump. Putin has no idea of the deeper machinations of the law in a constitutional democracy and his proxies are in the same WhatsApp group.

The MK party has already called for the suspension of the very Constitution that has allowed Zuma and many of those implicated in State Capture and criminality to have several days in court, with even more to come.

And to be allowed to contest an election.

There is nothing MK can argue which suggests that South Africa is not free and this election was not fair. It was democracy that allowed all of this.

Trump might very well find himself jailed after being convicted on 34 counts of fraud. His infantile behaviour throughout the “hush money” trial sank him.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Trump warns of ‘breaking point’ for Americans if he’s jailed

Trump cannot think on his feet, never mind with his brain. He cannot think. Period. He can only grift and threaten and flatter. Scratch the surface and you will find more surface.

Had he been capable of testifying, he could have safely argued a plausible deniability setting out how, as president of the US, he was busy, maybe at a G20 meeting or in Korea, so when Michael Cohen signed off the money he did not know.

Instead, Trump chose to attack the witnesses and their credibility. His lawyer, Todd Blanche, was a veritable Dali Mpofu, and in the end they lost the case because they kicked so many own goals.

Trump doesn’t care about the law. Neither does Jacob Zuma. And that’s how you undermine democracy.

Putin’s bitches

Trump loves Putin so much that he mentioned the Russian president on at least 80 occasions during his 2016 presidential campaign.

The entire Zuma family are so far up Comrade Putin’s arse that sometimes when he speaks you might catch a glimpse of Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla at the back of his throat. Zuma is regularly a guest of Putin to leech medical care off the Russians.

Duduzile was an early adopter of the pitchfork brigade over on social media, much like the now convicted felon Trump, who is the best the Republican Party can do.

When the shit went down on 6 January 2021 when Trump’s zombies stormed the Capitol and threatened to murder Vice-President Mike Pence, Trump was nowhere to be seen.

During the July 2021 attempted coup after Zuma was sent to jail, his daughter posted “We see you”, encouraging those out to kill and plunder. But she herself was nowhere to be seen.

Putin has made no secret of his loathing of modern democracy. He views it as decadent, corrupt, too free and too much of a barrier for the world’s political grifters.

Trump lies for a living, so does Jacob Zuma. Both move throughout the world like wounded victims asking what they have done wrong. Even when they are convicted of rape and sexual assault, these men have no moral centre.

Inside the tent

So, the rule of law has caught up with Trump fast. He will go down bleating like a toddler. And there is much more to come. Trump is discovering that politics is not business and the US is not Russia.

When Zuma was called to account by the law he unleashed murder and mayhem in July 2021, but now he is no longer outside the tent.

The remarkable showing of MK in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere brings its members and representatives squarely into the ambit of the law and the Constitution. And that is where they will get their just desserts.

If Parliament is as exciting and lively as it is expected to be, MK and the EFF – the old, sad, tired disruptors, the dismantlers and the builders of society – are going to have a harder time. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R35.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Martin Smith says:

    Well this writer doesn’t like Zuma, Trump or Putin much does she? But what does this bad tempered and foul-mouthed piece add to what we already know? Perhaps she’d really be better off with plumbing.

  • Agf Agf says:

    As far as I am aware Trump has never been convicted, never mind accused, of “rape and sexual assault”. This really is a very poor piece of journalism. Shame on you Marianne.

    • Alan Watkins says:

      Trump was accused many times of assaults etc very close to rape, accused once of rape directly, but not charged on a technicality. However he lost related civil case, about $90m damages, in which he said that alleged rape victim was lying about t he rape. Technically, her rape claim was upheld.

    • Alan Watkins says:

      Come on agf agf, research this better if you cant remember. Just before 2016 election, about 14 women accused Trump of various acts of sexual assault

  • 2000 AD says:

    The problem with this article is not the characterization of the populist authoritarians she describes, which is accurate at least in general terms, but the implied assumption that there is a real democracy in contradistinction to them. Mostly there is a theatre of democracy by entrenches elites.

  • District Six says:

    100%

  • Vuyokazi Mbethe says:

    None of these men have been convicted of sexually related offences.

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