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How do you tell a president to get lost?

Former President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Former President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Feb 19, 2021


The world is facing new problems all the time. We were just beginning to take climate change and global warming seriously when along came the dreaded coronavirus to test our resilience.

And lately, a brand new problem has raised its head — what to do about state presidents who won’t go away when we’ve finished with them. We share this problem with several countries, America being one of them.

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In America, the Donald seems to believe his election was stolen from him and here we have JZ who refuses to testify before the Zondo Commission because he swears he has “done nothing wrong” and therefore has nothing to explain. Mention this to any of my acquaintances and they say it’s a simple matter.

“Chuck ‘em in prison,” they say with a dismissive wave of the hand. “If they’ve broken the law they must go to jail.” That’s easier said than done. If you want to chuck somebody in prison, somebody has to do the actual chucking. Any volunteers? No matter how democratically any country is run the head of state wields a lot of power.

Besides, there are always those smooth folks who like to be known as the boss’s pals. And when there are influential positions to be filled or lucrative contracts to be awarded, naturally the boss will nudge the people he likes and trusts to the head of the queue; it’s not really corrupt, it’s the way the world works.

You scratch my back, I scratch yours.

So when the president steps down there are a whole lot of people out there owing him favours and loyalty. If the boss says “I was robbed”, they take up the chant: “He was robbed.” If the boss says, “I did nothing wrong”, his pals echo: ”He did nothing wrong.”

If you send a policeman into the boss’s stronghold — Nkandla or Mar-a-Lago or wherever — he’s going to face an army of well-armed security guards, gate-keepers and doormen, all of whom owe loyalty to their former boss.

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Try to clip hand-cuffs on the man and the only thing you’re likely to achieve is a broken skull. Yours. I don’t claim to have a solution to the problem. Maybe the United Nations should set up a retirement home for former heads of state.

Convert a small island somewhere (Robben Island?) into a mini-kingdom of incredible luxury: fill it with the finest single malt whiskies, endless entertainment, beautiful women, world-class chefs, skilled tailors, you name it, but no contact with the outside world. There the former presidents can rule in splendour, make speeches, pass new laws, bribe each other and generally be powerful rulers without upsetting anybody else. Just an idea.

Last Laugh

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Little Jimmy came home after his first day at school. “And what did you learn today?” asked his father. “Obviously not enough,” said Jimmy sadly. “They want me back again tomorrow.”

* "Tavern of the Seas" is a column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs. Biggs can be contacted at [email protected]

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

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Cape Argus

Related Topics:

Jacob ZumaDonald Trump