The former president of South Africa is imprisoned and faces multiple corruption charges in a process that reflects the degradation of his political system three decades after the end of apartheid.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma has just entered a cell, charged with contempt for ignoring the order to appear
before the official commission that investigates his convulsive mandate between 2009 and 2018. His imprisonment is the greatest disgrace to the democratic regime of the southern power and reflects the degradation of its political system three decades after the end of apartheid. But the fact also shows the strength of its rule of law and of a judicial apparatus that relentlessly persecutes an elite bent on unbridled and unscrupulous enrichment.
The leader is not just another corrupt person. Actually,
the life of the old anti-segregationist fighter synthesizes the wild essence of his country. Throughout his existence, this veteran leader has run as the ‘springbok’, the jumping gazelle of the Cape, which is the emblem of the southern republic. As with the nervous herbivore,
Zuma’s public trajectory has been a constant flight from his predators. He has not changed his identity, only his pursuers vary, determined to capture him even after reaching the highest peak in the State.
As a young man and a member of the Communist Party, he was fleeing the apartheid regime. He was caught by the relentless police and, for ten years, he was sentenced to Robben Island jail, along with Nelson Mandela. Shortly after his release from prison he went into exile to become one of the leaders of the African National Congress (ANC).
The triumphant return of Madiba, the father of the country, monopolized the spotlight, but with it came the senior staff of his party, willing to assume the direction of the Administration and make profitable long years of secrecy.
Zuma participated in this process under advantageous conditions since, as the former head of the intelligence of the liberation movement, he had been in charge of squashing all internal opposition and rivalry.
The route was clear. In less than a decade, the skilled ex-guerrilla reached the vice-presidency of the country.
The 1999 Arms Agreement reflected the enormous voracity of the new ruling class. This ambitious program of the Ministry of Defense aimed at equipping itself with military equipment, from submarines to helicopters, generated multiple illegal operations and, of course, he was there.
Jacob Zuma was accused of receiving bribes to facilitate the inclusion of the French group Thales in a business of more than 5 billion dollars. The irregularities led to a process against those involved and the politician was indicted for the commission of 16 charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering. Justice became the new lion bent on catching the agile gazelle.
The defendant ran a frenzied flight forward, even to escape a further complaint for sexual abuse committed to the daughter of an old comrade.
The leader profited from his background as a militiaman and a man linked to his Zulu ethnic community. At his rallies, the powerful politician wore tribal garments and performed traditional dances to appeal to his roots. He was also one of them, another victim of white supremacy, an argument he has used until he has found the bars of his cell. In addition, the collusion of other individuals involved in the looting of public coffers and turned into the new oligarchy, the ‘black diamonds’, favored the climate of impunity. The opposition Democratic Alliance party was crying out in the Kalahari desert.
The persecuted man sought the head of state to get rid of his harassers. In 2005 he was removed from the vice-presidency on accusations of corruption, fraud and money laundering, but in 2007 he was chosen as a candidate for the presidential elections, which meant his safe choice. The Prosecutor’s Office withdrew the charges to avoid interference in the public sphere, although, after his subsequent dismissal, it confirmed the reopening of the case.
The worst was coming
In reality, the worst was yet to come. The case of the Gupta brothers is a whole Shakespearean drama in the middle of the savannah. The mystery of how some shoe sellers arrived at the veiled address of the continent’s leading power
It can only be revealed by Jacob Zuma and his son Duduzane, a business associate with the Indian family. The Ombudsman Thuli Mandosola published in 2016 ‘The Capture of the State’, a report in which she explained her meteoric rise thanks to the privileged access to public contracts. The investigation was launched. The Guptas, owners of a mining, telecommunications and computer services holding company, applauded the initiative because, in their opinion, it would prove their innocence. Then, they bought tickets for a flight to Dubai without stopovers or anticipation of return.
The public deterioration was notorious. The Zumagate scandal, generated by the use of public funds to improve their private residence, or ludicrous statements about the fight against HIV AIDS with showers after having sex, increased the mockery of the media. The president of a G30 member country only had a primary education and a notorious inability to face the problems of the State. In 2013, he was booed when he spoke at state funerals honoring the late Mandela.
The situation became untenable five years later. The rejection within the ANC outweighed the support of its unconditional supporters and Cyril Ramaphosa, a strong man of the party, called for his resignation. The comrades, those who used to dance next to him, let him fall to prevent him from dragging them into electoral disaster. The die was cast. The lion was finally going to pounce on the gazelle, old and exhausted.