Bruce’s List: A guide to informed reads.
There was nothing in the least surprising about President Jacob Zuma’s feisty appearance at question time in parliament yesterday. Under pressure he did the only thing available to him — he fought back. He attacked former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into state capture, saying it was unfair on him. He accused the banks who have cut ties with the Guptas of acting suspiciously (and, hilariously, deterring foreign investment). He said lots of countries have been downgraded. His supporters will have been comforted. Their guy is still standing. His critics will have been emboldened, their target just gets bigger every time he opens his mouth. By this time next year, with just weeks to go before the ANC’s elective congress in Kimberley, this country’s politics will look like a giant fireworks display as slates and candidates jostle to control Zuma’s succession as leader of the ANC and, ultimately, the country. Zuma, for all his bravado, is trapped. He may be able to delay a judicial commission into state capture but he can’t stop the due process slowly unfolding around the spy tapes saga and my reckoning is that he will lose an appeal against the effective reinstatement of the fraud charges against him in Bloemfontein by the end of next March and be in the constitutional court on the matter by August 2017. He’ll lose there too. Meanwhile, for all his tough talk about the banks and the Guptas, no inquiry will make that go away. If the Guptas have a problem with the way they’ve been treated by the banks that have closed their accounts, all they have to do is take them to court. But that is the last thing they want to do. Neither they, nor Zuma, would survive such a court case.
Which is why Business Day political editor Natasha Marrian’s excellent column is so well timed. December is upon us and stuff happens to us South Africans, and to Zuma, in December. Among other things, it is the perfect time to do damage. People are on holiday and they’re distracted. Zuma was foolish to fire Nhlanhla Nene on December 9 last year. It was too early. My advice, sir, if you’re going to fire Pravin Gordhan next month, wait until around December 22. There’s nothing much we can do but sit back and wait and see. You get a taste for our Glorious Leader’s mood from this report on the events in parliament yesterday.
And from the Daily Dispatch in East London, here’s a look at what a bang-up job Zuma and his government are doing running the country. There was a time when a picture of a few pupils taking class under a tree in the Transkei would spark outrage. This is much worse — pupils, dozens of them, writing exams on desks under open skies because the classrooms at their school are too small. It is easily the most profoundly depressing comment on the Zuma years that I have ever come across.
A few years ago I got into trouble for suggesting that diabetes had killed more South Africans than Aids. The Aids lobby had a full go at me and to an extent I deserved it. I didn’t have the facts about diabetes that they have about Aids. I still don’t, but I still think I may be right. Diabetes is a nasty beast that creeps up on you. You haven’t had unsafe sex. You’ve just either been born with it or the diet you were fed as a child has caught up with you. You don’t know what’s happening to you and you don’t spot it until it’s too late. I know a young man who is lying in a bed at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto today who had a finger removed when, after complaining of a strange discolouration was told it was gangrenous. And then they told him he was diabetic. After he lost the finger the infection spread and this weekend he may have to lose his hand as well, if not his lower right arm. Many South Africans have diabetes. It is almost 4m and I’d wager that is an underestimate. Pray for them.