Zuma PR exercise reeks of desperation
The publicity stunt by former president Jacob Zuma and his son Duduzane is an ill-advised political strategy, and a pathetic public relations exercise.
Father and son took to YouTube to chat about matters that, ordinarily, will be shared between the two of them in the privacy of their homes or phones. However, keeping a father-son conversation private would apply for ordinary citizens, but the Zumas of Nkandla are not ordinary.
The YouTube channel exercise is an effort by both of them to tell their own story because they believe that their side has never been told properly or adequately. And they may be right.
The timing of the broadcast of the YouTube footage is not a coincidence. The teasers and the actual footage were released in the week that Zuma was expected to appear in court to answer to charges of corruption and fraud. These are charges in a matter that is over 17 years old. It dates back to the time when he was deputy president of South Africa and relates to the multibillion-rand arms deal.
The PR stunt by father and son was designed to continue the portrayal of Zuma as a victim in all of this. This was yet another attempt to get people not to focus on what happens in court and instead listen to the concerted fables of a desperate politician.
The political strategy is, naturally, not far removed from the public relations approach. Here, Zuma and his son play the role of heroes and reveal how they saved the lives of deputy president David Mabuza, with the help of the Gupta brothers.
This revelation is a deliberate jab at Mabuza. The Zumas are still hurting from the manner in which Mabuza outfoxed them at the ANC Nasrec conference and sided with a faction that ultimately saw Ramaphosa being elected as ANC president. The true intention is to portray him as an ungrateful turncoat who dumped those who saved his life - by flying him to Russia to get treatment for him.
Duduzane also reveals that Mabuza lived in the Guptas’ guest houses in Johannesburg for some time following his return from Russia.
The victim narrative is continued when the father reveals that he has information that his son, Nhlakanipho, who died in 2018 from complications related to lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease, was murdered. Zuma says Nhlakanipho, who shares a mother with Duduzane, was killed by some dark forces who interfered with his medication.
It is astounding that the former president of South Africa has information about the alleged murder of his son and does not go to the police. In a related matter, he has also not gone to the law enforcement authorities, years after he threatened that he knew who, within the ANC, had committed corruption, among other criminal acts.
This was, of course, another ill-advised political strategy, from a man desperate to remain as president of the ANC and the country. That strategy did not work.
Zuma has adopted his victimhood strategy because he has come to a cul-de-sac, in terms of his own Stalingrad tactics of delaying his day in court. He is an intelligent man and knows that he has small or no chance of winning his criminal trial. So, the strategy is to play the victim. The hearts and minds of South Africans are what Zuma is after. Their heartstrings are what he continually tugs.
This is why it was necessary to disclose the deeply private developments leading to the suicide of Kate Zuma, Duduzane’s mother in 2000.
While the disclosures made for good television, the question is: to what extent are the two of them prepared to go in a desperate attempt to save the father from going to court or jail?
In revealing his mother’s last moments, Duduzane could not resist throwing mud at Dr Frank Chikane, the director-general in then-president Thabo Mbeki’s office.
Duduzane indirectly accuses Chikane of leaking his mom’s suicide note to the media. It was a small sideswipe, but one designed to reinforce the victim narrative in people’s minds. The strategy is that South Africans must believe that Zuma has done nothing wrong. He has done good, including saving the life of a comrade, and everyone is out to get him and his family.
Duduzane is doing what any son would do for a father who is drowning.
However, the reality is that none of these antics that take place outside court are going to have an impact on what the judge or judges decide.
The court will restrict itself to the evidence before it and nothing else.
The political and public relations stunts will remain just that and when trial gets under way - it will be as if they don’t exist.
* Jovial Rantao is an editor, political analyst, media trainer, and chairperson of the African Editors Forum.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.