To eliminate dissent and inspire terror right from the beginning, the robbers pick a hefty Schwarzenegger lookalike for their first victim. The bloke is easily cowed and out of fear for his life, he pretends that he is not being robbed.
Vacillating between pretence and denial, the fellow continues to make small talk with fellow passengers, at the very moment when he is being relieved of his dignity, money, jewellery, a leather jacket and Florsheim shoes.
The rest of the passengers follow suit, each pretending that they are not being robbed even as they are being pick-pocketed. The thugs play along, pretending to be robbing no one, announcing instead that all they wish to do is to ‘borrow’ a few items.
And the most brutal robbery was carried out peacefully.
The events of the last three weeks seem to suggest that South Africa is under a similar kind of siege. For their first victim, South Africa’s robbers have chosen the ANC and the presidency.
Shall the rest of us join them in pretending that we are not being robbed? As Sipho Pityana said recently: “Sigutyungelwe ngamasela na barhwaphilizi!”
We had not yet recovered from the gloating of Serge Belamant of Cash Paymaster Services; the gross incompetence of Sassa and the court-defying antics of Minister Bathabile Dlamini, which almost put the lives of 17million poor compatriots in peril.
Then in the first hour of the last day of the month, Zuma delivered his coup de grâce - the capturing of the Treasury, disguised as a normal and noble cabinet reshuffle.
The one thing we should have gotten into our patriotic skulls by now is this: Zuma just doesn’t care. Not for the constitution. Not for the country. Not for governance. Not for the ANC and certainly not for the citizenry.
Unless we suspend the assumption that Zuma cares we may never be able either to make sense of his propensity for scandal or come to terms with the fact that he operates under a different set of values than those found in the constitution.
Oh yes, Zuma needs us to continue believing that he cares. Which is why his defenders are mounting a massive counter-strategy based on the twin ideas of “white monopoly capital” and “radical economic transformation”.
The first provides a fresh firepool of scapegoats while the second fools us into thinking that Zuma has our best interests at heart.
What more must Zuma do to persuade us that all he may care about is himself, his family and friends?
Many continue to hang their hopes on Zuma’s conscience, on the possibility of a successful parliamentary vote of no confidence and on a march on Luthuli House.These are tried and failed strategies.
Why is the recall strategy, which was used successfully against Mbeki, not being invoked against Zuma? It’s because Zuma has achieved what no ANC leader has managed before - to render ANC structures impotent and more divided than ever.
Only his faction retains power and unity, and only for use in defence of his person and his actions.
If anyone doubted the veracity of this shameful achievement of Zuma, they should read the ANC national working committee statement of April 5.
According to this statement, the ANC is now united in its acceptance of Zuma’s reasons for the reshuffle.
Mkhize, Ramaphosa and Mantashe were made to acknowledge “that their public dissonance on the matter was a mistake and should not be committed again”.
And Mantashe crawled and grovelled as he contradicted statements he had made only four days earlier.
Is there not a single leader left in the ANC? Is there no one left to stand up against the abuse?
While we wait sheepishly and helplessly for our next Zuma, we may carry on pretending that we are not being robbed, like the train passengers mentioned at the beginning of this article.
* Maluleke is a theology professor at the University of Pretoria. He writes this in his personal capacity.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
The Sunday Independent