The new politics of woundedness

MK Party leader Jacob Zuma at the National Results Operation Centre. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

MK Party leader Jacob Zuma at the National Results Operation Centre. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 3, 2024


This grave was dug a long time ago.

It was dug when Thabo Mbeki wounded Jacob Zuma in their spear fight on June 14, 2005. It was dug when Jacob Zuma was wounded a second time, when Julius Malema campaigned for Zuma to be removed from ANC leadership ahead of the December 2012 ANC National Conference in Mangaung.

Jacob Zuma was wounded a third time, by Cyril Ramaphosa, when he was asked to vacate the Presidency on March 14, 2018 on instruction from the ANC leadership.

A thrice-wounded Jacob Zuma became a most dangerous man. His mission to bury Mbeki and Ramaphosa’s ANC became his life mission. He would bury it spectacularly, not through a political coup, but in a free and fair election.

And only he now has the power to resurrect it from the dead.

The ANC is in a most precarious position today.

It could become the darling servant of the neo-liberal and neo-colonial project by going into a coalition with the DA and its paymasters. Or it could open its arms to its thrice-wounded erstwhile leader and put their hands on his wounds, to save it from obliteration in 2026.

The loss of ANC votes speak volumes: the ANC did not lose votes to the neo-liberal and neo-colonial parties. It lost votes to Zuma’s MK Party. The rise of collective black woundedness as a political message is the new currency in SA politics.

There is nothing as powerful in South African politics as a messianic, wounded underdog who speaks for the people. Dismiss it as much as you may, but millions feel that woundedness along with Zuma. While the media reminds the public of the rule of law, Zuma reminds the people of justice.

And as confusing as those two issues are to the poor and unemployed, they will lean towards the voice beckoning for justice more than the voice calling for the rule of law. If you don’t understand the power of the politics of woundedness in South Africa, you won’t understand this.

Like the Nats of 2005, the ANC is facing a potential grave, where it will be buried alongside the Nats. The DA is ready to cannibalise a weakened ANC, as it had done to many others.

The ANC of 2024 does not have the stature, intellectual depth and negotiating prowess of the ANC of 1994. I’m not sure what the biblical equivalent is, whether it's David and Goliath or Jonah and the whale, but the ANC, in wounding a man three times, is at its weakest.

To its ultimate embarrassment and humiliation, it may well be obliterated by the very forces of apartheid-past and triumphalist present neo-liberal and neo-colonial configurations should it go into a coalition with the DA.

Given the corruption that surrounded Jacob Zuma during his political life, and which should have shoved him off into the dustbin of history, the ANC was provided with an opportunity in 2018 to give South Africa a better future.

But one wonders today whether all of us, in our blind rage to get rid of Jacob Zuma, were equally blind to the deficiencies of Cyril Ramaphosa. As far as public leadership goes, he has been, without doubt, the weakest South African president of the democratic era.

He lacked decisiveness, follow-through and awareness. He said much but did very little.

The cynic in me says that MK was an ANC and Jacob Zuma underground project by those who saw the 2021 local government election results. They saw the liability Ramaphosa had become.

Their fortunes could only be changed by the most popular ANC member. Zuma the Corrupted and Zuma the Wounded produced a baby called Zuma the Saviour. I guess when Zuma said the ANC would rule till Jesus came back, he was smiling to himself. About himself.

Jacob Zuma is an ardent chess player. This is his checkmate to the ANC.

* Lorenzo A. Davids.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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