Duduzane Zuma, the 'comeback' kid?
For years, Zuma has described himself as a businessman but his re-emergence has left more questions than answers.
Zuma has over the last few months been hauled before the courts and the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
He was recently acquitted by the Randburg Magistrate’s Court for culpable homicide following the death of a passenger in a taxi travelling from Johannesburg CBD to Sandton a few years ago.
Phumzile Dube was killed in 2014 when the car Zuma was driving crashed into a minibus taxi in which she was a passenger.
The case had been withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority but lobby group AfriForum obtained a private prosecution certificate.
This forced Zuma to return from Dubai to face trial. Following several weeks of evidence, the court cleared him of wrongdoing.
But his troubles are far from over as the Zondo Commission heard evidence from former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas that Zuma had facilitated a meeting with Fana Hlongwane where Jonas was allegedly offered a ministerial position by the Guptas.
Jonas said the Guptas had offered him R600 000 in cash and another R600 million in a bank account later. But he declined the offer and left the meeting. A few months after this meeting, Nhlanhla Nene was fired as finance minister and Pravin Gordhan appointed in December 2015.
Zuma has denied claims he was corrupt. He told the commission last year he was seen as the face of corruption, but he was not corrupt.
Another former Cabinet minister, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, also told the Zondo Commission that Zuma had tried to arrange a meeting for him with the Guptas in 2014. This was six months after he had been appointed minerals minister. But Ramatlhodi said he turned down Zuma, saying he would not meet with the Guptas.
Zuma has for years remained a shy figure and rarely seen in public. He was thrown into a political storm when Jonas alleged he drove him to the Gupta compound.
After months of silence, Zuma emerged in public and at ANC events in what is deemed to be a “comeback.”
Themba Mhlaba, an ANC member in the eThekwini region who attended the province’s 108th anniversary in Port Shepstone last weekend, endorsed Zuma. “He has the DNA of ANC leadership. There are no coincidences in politics. Duduzane is establishing his base for future leadership,” said Mhlaba.
Political analyst Thando Dotyeni said Zuma’s sudden re-emergence at ANC events is a message to the detractors of his family that it is not over for them.
“Duduzane’s popularity in the ANC is not coincidental. He is being groomed for leadership. Because of the growth of the EFF, the ANC finds itself in short supply of popular young leaders. He is positioning himself for that,” said Dotyeni.
When asked whether this was a strategy to launch him into politics, the Jacob Zuma Foundation said Zuma was free to do what he wanted. “Duduzane Zuma is a citizen of this republic. We believe he is free to attend any event. He doesn’t report those attendances to the foundation.
“However, we were pleased to see him meeting people, taking pictures and mobilising towards ANC events. The purpose of any leadership is to respond to the plight of the people on the ground. Those have been the teachings of president Zuma,” said the foundation.
But the corruption claims against him has seen an increase in stories about him.
Other than the culpable homicide charge he was acquitted of, the public got to know more about him at the Zondo Commission where he defended himself against the allegations. He offered his version and denied allegations he was a fixer for the Guptas.
But the final outcome lies with the commission when Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who heads the inquiry, delivers his report work later this year.
Zuma is no stranger to some senior ANC figures. They got to know him as a young man in the early 1980s when his father was in exile.
Ramatlhodi testified to that effect at the commission when he said he knew Zuma when he was fairly young. The same goes for other figures in the ANC.
Zuma is known for his respect for elders in the ANC. He referred to them as uncle or some other title, but never addresses them by their first name.
He has for years lived in the shadow of his father the former president.
Born to Kate Mantsho and Jacob Zuma, the young Duduzane showed early signs of entrepreneurial gifting.
In the winter of 2010, he was introduced to the Gupta brothers. Later, he developed a strong friendship with Tony, the youngest of the brothers.
Zuma senior, has fiercely defended his son’s association with the Guptas, saying he was a simple businessman.
He said like any other child, he could not stop him from joining any business.
People should not judge him because of his father, but on his business skills, said Zuma jr.
But the next few months will determine whether the 36-year-old continues to hog the public space with his impromptu appearances at ANC events and taxi ranks or he remains in his business space.
The big test will be the National General Council in June, whether he would attend any of the sessions associated with it or not.
Zuma, who was very cagey in his responses, told Independent Media, that he was “just living his life”.
“My surname is Zuma. There’s been good parts and bad parts. I can say it’s been a blessing and a curse. I am just a guy living his life. I am one of the people,” said Zuma.
Asked if this was the preliminary steps in his running for president in 10 years time, Zuma Jr said: “I am a businessman. Let’s speak in 10 years. Now we must do what needs to be done.”
This week Zuma jnr told radio station Gagasi FM that he had always attended the ANC’s birthday celebrations.
Asked if he was invited to attend ANC rallies, he said: “I don’t need an invitation. I was attending an event of the glorious movement.”
The ANC has, over the past few years, been mired in deep divisions that have threatened to tear it apart. It is these divisions that have played into some of its structures being unable to function.
But Zuma will have to show he is his own man in the coming months.
However, Dotyeni has indicated that this was an indication that the Zuma family was demonstrating that it is still in the political space, and would not be removed easily.