President Jacob Zuma jolts people out of their reverie and political apathy, says the writer. Picture: Rumana Akoob
President Jacob Zuma has the ability to unite people of disparate socio-political interests and ideologies, writes Don Makatile.

“So, what are we going to do about Jacob Zuma?”

This question did not come from an elderly white woman at any of the countrywide marches calling for the president to vacate office.

The mature white lady who posed this question was Gaye Derby-Lewis on March 9 last year, when Lindiwe Hani, Chris Hani’s daughter, had driven to Pretoria to meet Clive Derby-Lewis, the mastermind of the April 10, 1993 assassination that nearly plunged the country into a civil war.

After a session of peddling a lie about not being aware of the project hatched by her husband to kill Hani, Gaye Derby-Lewis finds the chutzpah to chit-chat about “our common problem”.

She doesn’t say it in so many words but a livid Lindiwe notes that Ms Derby-Lewis does her utmost to steer the conversation from the intended purpose of the visit, which for the Hani lass is to ascertain why her father was singled out for assassination.

The meeting comes 23 years after the gunshots that silenced the voice of the fiery SACP leader and on the back of Clive Derby-Lewis’s countless attempts to meet the Hani family. “I’ve been waiting for this call for a very long time,” says Derby-Lewis to Lindiwe when she started the ball rolling with that first telephone call to him.

They finally get the chance to meet and what does Gaye Derby-Lewis do after perfunctorily “coming clean”? She moves the conversation along. “So, what are we going to do about Jacob Zuma?”

This is the allure of Zuma, to unite people of disparate socio-political interests and ideologies.

This shone through last Friday when a video went viral of an elderly white woman in a red T-shirt and jeans with her small coterie singing their own fatigued Zuma-must-go version, accompanied by a jitterbug.

On any other given Friday, she’d have only found time to drive her poodles to the dog parlour or met with friends over a game of bridge.

But thanks to this magic that Zuma possesses to create the strangest bedfellows, the woman in the video was out in the streets alongside Mmusi Maimane, Sipho Pityana, Zwelinzima Vavi, Solly Mapaila and many others whose newfound mantra has become ABZ - Anybody But Zuma.

For the woman in the video and her ilk, on any other day, news of a mugging somewhere in England would matter more to them than a Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa being forced into a coffin. Talk of a minimum wage to them is anathema, not when they have been so good to their Eves, who should be grateful they at least have jobs.

But Zuma jolts them out of their reverie and political apathy. They suddenly remember him being “our common problem”. And so oil and water mix on the streets, placards held aloft, the common thread #ZumaMustGo.

Zuma’s singular gift, other than his penchant for song and dance, is allowing Themba Godi, Bantu Holomisa, Julius Malema, Phumzile van Damme and Andries Tlouamma to find common ground and actualise the proverb that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.

On Wednesday, Tlouamma of Agang found a rare place on the podium, addressing the kind of masses he’s only ever seen on TV.

It is difficult to imagine what Godi, given his Pan Africanist background, can ever find attractive about the politics of the inarticulate Tlouamma, except their common aversion to Zuma.

The famous Winston Churchill quote bears repeating here: “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”

This Churchillian mindset is the rationale of the opposition in modern-day SA. They hate their Hitler so much they are prepared to extol the virtues of Lucifer.

Do not dismiss those who aver that Zuma is the best gift the opposition has had from the ANC. He is the glue that holds the enemy camp together.