ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa sounded in a rather mean, uncompromising mood as he laid into the party’s former chairperson of the the portfolio committee on public service and administration.
“If you are a loyal member of the ANC, you would raise some of your concerns internally in the organisation. You can’t behave like a runaway fire,” he said.
You see, a person of Kodwa’s calibre would have known that he wasn’t using the phrase “runaway fire” in a literal sense.
He knew its eerie connotations, in his political rhetoric, that the phrase evokes an inexorable force that can be quite devastating.
Veld fire, when uncontrollable as it rages on, leaves in its deadly wake a trail of destruction and despair.
Now, Kodwa and the ANC he speaks for should have paused first and compared who between Zuma and Khoza has been behaving like the runaway fire he refers to.
A person of Kodwa’s standing doesn’t need any second thought to see that he was merely resorting to cheap rhetoric in his defence of the indefensible. To try and pull the proverbial wool over the public’s eyes is self-defeating in matters like this, to say the least.
If in any doubt, Zuma’s cabinet reshuffles - largely executed on a whim and with the mastery of a conniving and unscrupulous president in a mafia state - is an indication of who is really behaving like an out-of-control leader.
If the latest changes to the cabinet on Tuesday - a staggering 12th reshuffle since Zuma ascended the throne in May 2009 and the second in just six months - is not yet another proof of who the real loose canon ravaging the ANC and indeed South Africans is, then shame on us all.
Just as in the previous reshuffle, when the president unceremoniously axed Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, from the Treasury, the changes were largely motivated by vindictiveness and unbridled greed.
It is common cause that strengthening the executive and improving governance was never the intention.
How does he explain the fact that the worst-performing ministers, such as Bathabile Dlamini, Faith Muthambi, Nomvula Mokonyane and Mosebenzi Zwane, to mention but a few, have been retained in his cabinet, despite their glaring failures and the monumental scandals associated with their administration.
But the president himself has become an embodiment of this spectacular collapse of governance and the concomitant blunders. To say that state capture is not synonymous with him is to be a denialist.
Despotic and rapacious leaders of Zuma’s kind can be devastating in their haste to entrench oligarchy and patronage.
Duplicity, delinquency, degradation and subversion of all things good seem to be their time-honoured tradition. They will stop at nothing, moving anything that stops them on their way, as SACP boss Blade Nzimande found out this week.
It was indeed a rude awakening for Nzimande and many of his comrades in the SACP, Cosatu and elsewhere who, until recently, have been steadfast in their defence of the incumbent. Nzimande, often chirping like a sparrow on steroids, was unrelenting as he bawled out anybody who dared criticise “Msholozi”.
Lest we forget: in 2014, Nzimande, during one of his statements in defence of Zuma, said stories about Zuma’s megamillion-rand home in Nkandla were “white people’s lies”.
He dismissed reports about the splurge as “lies perpetuated by white people”.
In this regard, one is reminded of these words from Ken Peters, a professor of economics in the Czech Republic, while commenting on South Africa’s ailing body politic:
“The danger to South Africa is not Jacob Zuma but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the presidency The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr Zuma, who is a mere symptom of what ails South Africa.
“Blaming the prince of the fools should not not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made their prince.”
At least the likes of Nzimande, Julius Malema and former Cosatu leader Zwelinzima Viva now know that white devils, ever so cunning and unscrupulous, can be deadly once they churn out their unbridled desires.
The real tragedy about such devious actions, though, is that it is ultimately ordinary citizens, and especially the poor, who bear the brunt of a resultant failing state.
As James Hamill, a lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of Leicester, rightly observed: “It is now a matter of record rather than an issue for serious debate that the presidency of Jacob Zuma has been an unmitigated disaster for South Africa”.
But the ANC does not need to look beyond Khoza’s assessment of the tragedy of Zuma’s presidency. She remarked while commenting on her ANC branch in KwaZulu-Natal preferring charges against her:
“I fought apartheid and I will fight corruption because both are enemies of my people.
“They are equally responsible for unemployment, poverty and destruction of moral fibre and are the root cause of the pain and suffering of my people.”
In Zuma’s case, we are reminded of the harsh reality that dictators work by dividing organisations.
In him, we have a leader who seems intent on thriving by sowing the seeds of tribalism, regardless of the dangers it poses in ravaging a nation.
How many times have we seen, when he suffered a legal and political setback, that Zuma was quick to retreat to his home province of KwaZulu-Natal to rally his forces?
But then if the midnight cabinet reshuffle in April and the one before, when Des Van Rooyen was briefly installed at the Treasury, proved catastrophic in plunging the economy into further crisis, the latest one is also ominous.
It’s a glimpse of the murky days ahead, before Zuma’s calamitous two terms end in 2019. We should, perhaps, brace ourselves for a more sustained, intense period of pillaging and ravaging the state by a runaway leader.
It’s high time that South Africans remembered that democracy is by the people for the people, who will get their chance in 2019.
In the meantime, the ANC needs to be aware of the risk it is facing if it fails to put its house in order.