JZ doing his song and dance outside the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein in this 2008 file photo. He was bent on circumventing the law, the writer says.Picture: Antoine de Ras/African News Agency Archives (ANA)
Around September 2014, as the ANC came under intense pressure to recall Jacob Zuma as the state president, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane took her devotion to him to new heights when she vowed to defend him with her bum.

“The attack is not on Zuma, but it is on the ANC. Re tlo thiba ka dibono (We will defend with our buttocks),” Mokonyane told a crowd at the launch of a water project in Marite, Mpumalanga.

“Like it or not, Zuma is ours. He will finish the term," she added.

Zuma will also go down in history as the ANC president in whose defence some prominent leaders said they were prepared to kill.

His defendants aside, Zuma came across as a cunning, but delusional, leader too. Who can forget how, at the slightest provocation, he kept insisting the ANC would rule until Jesus comes, as if he and Jesus belonged to the same stokvel group?

How did he get the ANC leadership to believe a swimming pool was a fire-pool? Oh, how he shuffled and reshuffled his cabinet, again and again - with more than a little help from his friends. And how he laughed and laughed, often at us.

For a week now, I have been deep in the American Midwest, in a neighbourhood almost totally buried under a thick blanket of snow. From here, I have fanatically followed the events surrounding the changing political fortunes of Jacob Zuma in my beloved South Africa.

Together with millions of fellow South Africans, at home and abroad, I was glued to the small screen on Valentine’s Day, when the break-up between Zuma and the country he led for nearly a decade, was formalised. What a day on which to end a love affair between a liberation movement and one of its blue-eyed heroes.

He, who counts among his mentors ANC stalwarts the likes of Harry Gwala, Albert Luthuli, Moses Mabhida, Stephen Dlamini and John Nkadimeng. He, whom they praised so lavishly, and of whom they sang so lovingly. Msholozi! Phunyuka bam’phethe! Nxamalala! O ba nga zange bam’bone! (Loosely translated a Teflon man who was never seen).

Eight times his party defended him successfully from the "hostile hordes", who launched wave after wave of parliamentary votes-of-no-confidence. How come he, who for nearly 10 years successfully danced from around, behind, in front and above the long arm of the law, was finally caught flat-footed?

Maybe the early morning raids by the Hawks at the Gupta compound in Saxonwold on D-Day assisted Zuma to decide to make up his mind. After all, his own flesh and blood are partners to the Guptas.

The truth is that when Zuma resigned, a nine-year national nightmare ended, and a loud sigh of relief was heard from Cape Point to Punda Maria. Even I gathered my small group of friends and fellow Africans and went to a local pub to celebrate.

Earlier in the day, Zuma had delivered an incoherent soliloquy to the nation, courtesy of the SABC. The interview was supposed to be the scoop of scoops. Instead, it turned out to be a damp squib during which a hurting Zuma played victim and lashed out at his party and his comrades for treating him unfairly.

When he finally read his farewell message late in the night, it was pretentious, verbose and disjointed. Full of empty threats and a hitherto unknown sense of reverence for and devotion to the constitution of the land; Zuma’s rambling statement was littered with nuggets of false humility and counterfeit magnanimity.

One could be pardoned for wondering aloud whether the original speech was not in fact intended to tell the ANC where to get lost.

It seems the resignation speech started with the last paragraph of the isiZulu section. Up to that point, the speech was combative and defiant, insisting that the ANC should furnish him with reasons for the recall, denouncing the perks that come with the position and asserting the primacy of Parliament over the party.

But it seems the speech was later revised, so that the final product was a patchwork of two, or even three, speeches hurriedly sewn together. The tensions, demands and questions raised in the first half were left unresolved in the entire speech. Almost out of the blue, the resignation sentence - which is what we all were dying to hear - was sprung on the unsuspecting and confused audience.

In the end, his farewell speech was presented in bitter and biting idiom, so that even the words intended for gratitude and statesmanship, failed to land. Instead, these words hung in the air and filled the room with the foul smell of rancour.

The earlier announcement of Paul Mashatile and Jackson Mthembu that the ANC had resolved to proceed with a vote-of-no-confidence, in cahoots with the EFF nogal, appears to have successfully wrested the initiative from Zuma, taking the wind out of his sails, and leaving him boxing shadows in the dead of night.

In fact, ever since the State of the Nation Address (Sona) was postponed, he has been boxing tikoloshes and ghosts. Since then, his phone has stopped ringing, his diary ran empty, and he has been spending most of his time walking up and down in pyjamas and slippers around Mahlamba Ndlopfu, I suspect.

Suddenly, his trusted lieutenants could no longer look him in the eye, his cabinet ministers appeared to be taking their instructions from elsewhere and his protégés were deserting him one by one.

With Zuma now gone, we have to shift our attention to the new sheriff, namely Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, and the ANC as a whole.

Often in the expression "speaking truth to power", it is assumed that the speaker of the truth will be different from the wielder of the power.

But what if the holder of power is the same person who must also speak the truth? This is precisely what the ANC has been called upon to do over the past 10 to 15 years. It is something they have not succeeded very well in doing.

The ANC appears to have lost the ability to speak truth to its own power. While the decay predates the Zuma years, few ANC leaders have "exposed" the ANC as badly.

Recent illustrations are too many to mention in full.

Earlier in the week, at the media briefing announcing the party’s decision to recall Zuma, the ANC, represented by its secretary-general Ace Magashule, insisted on telling at least two half-truths - namely that Zuma had done no wrong (and therefore he was being recalled for no reason?) and that the ANC had given Zuma no deadline. Yet, Magashule divulged that he knew for sure when Zuma would respond. One has to wonder why Magashule needed to tell these two half-truths.

Similarly, after the Zuma resignation statement, the ANC lavished praise on Zuma, saying “while we acknowledge errors and mistakes that were committed, President Zuma leaves a legacy of delivery in many critical areas”.

Since the statement is completely silent on the "errors and mistakes", one may be justified to wonder what those might be?

Could they include state capture, giving the Guptas power to appoint cabinet ministers, corruption, self-enrichment, cronyism, destabilisation of the state-owned enterprises and violating his oath of office as president?

Errors and mistakes my foot! These are huge issues.

Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete wholly and shamelessly blamed "the disruption, anarchy and chaos that have been characteristic of this annual joint-sitting" for the unprecedented postponement of the Sona. Really?

Would it not have been better for her to take the nation into her confidence and explain that the governing party had forced a postponement of the Sona because they did not want Zuma to deliver it, because they felt he was a flawed character and they were in the process of recalling him?

The ANC cannot have its cake and eat it. It cannot, on the one hand, go to the lengths it did to recall an "innocent man" called Zuma, but also wish to use the same "innocent man" as the fall guy and a mirage with which to dupe the electorate for the 2019 elections. The sophisticated South African electorate will easily see through the ANC's transparent attempt to offer Zuma as a quick-fix sacrifice in exchange for their votes.

Either the ANC has or does not have any intention to move away from the corruption trajectory of Zuma. If it intends to change, the ANC will set up disciplinary processes against Zuma and all those who assisted him in acts that have damaged the reputation of the party, the reputation of its current president, as well as that of the country.

The ANC’s inability to come clean and acknowledge wrongdoing not only on the part of Zuma, but on its own part as an organisation, would seem to suggest the organisation is unwilling to self-correct and that it is not yet ready to renew itself.

It may mean the organisation is comfortable with being a permanent looting machine, with different factions taking turns to use it so they can eat.

My hope is that President Cyril Ramaphosa will not squander the goodwill South Africans are extending to him right now. It is my hope that he will rein in his general secretariat, both of whom have until now, seemed to have been brazenly running their own parallel show in Luthuli House.

While at it, Ramaphosa may wish to rid the cabinet of several flawed ministers whose performance is nothing to write home about.

He will need to sort out the prosecutorial, policing and investigative agencies.

There are several people needing to be investigated and/or arrested or both. And there is the comatose economy to be recalibrated.

* Maluleke is a professor at the University of Pretoria. He is currently a distinguished fellow and visiting professor at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, US

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

Saturday Star