Friday, 25 May 2012

The Thing to Remember with Zuma

I do enjoy me a good Streissand Effect, and as such will happily join the millions sharing around Murray's The Spear. Here you go:


I tend to agree with Owen Swart's assessment of the painting and the subsequent shouting about it. The only thing I'd add to that, which Sipho Hlongwane has already covered nicely, is that obviously the ANC is only making such a massive fuss, perhaps even any fuss at all, because they'd rather have everyone focused on something trivial that they can rally the troops around, than on other, more important and more thorny issues.

What other issues? Well, there are plenty; South Africa has, among other things, perennial crime problems, an awkward 1½-party democracy, persistent apartheid-induced inequalities and bigotry, and a tragically inadequate service-delivery effort from government. It's hardly shocking that the ruling party would want to distract people from their short-comings in addressing these serious problems.

But let's assume we're only interested in Zuma, since he's the focus of the painting. What's he got to hide, personally? The main thing, I believe, is the fact that he should probably have ended up in Westville Prison, instead of the Union Buildings.

Somehow, people seem to have forgotten the Shabir Shaik trial and the subsequent legal battles that Zuma dodged with all his might. And I think it's vitally important that we keep that story in mind. To be clear, a court never found Zuma guilty of corruption. But that wasn't because there was no evidence, and there's still a good case to believe that Zuma probably was guilty of serious corruption, receiving big bribes as part of the stupid rip-off set of arms deals South Africa blew billions on (which I have mentioned in this blog before, though that was about the Gripen fighters, while Zuma's corruption was connected to the Valour-class frigates).

First, the Shaik trial revealed that Zuma's financial advisor accepted bribes on Zuma's behalf, so that Zuma would back the "right" horse. There is no way in which that reflects well on Zuma. At best, he's such a bumbling financial and political fool that he couldn't possibly have understood why Shaik was always handing him huge piles of money or explain why he chose to put his support behind Thint. And he's now president? At worst (and Occam's Razor would seem to cut this way), he was totally aware of the whole thing, freely supporting it.

And the latter was the basis for the subsequent prosecution of Zuma himself. As I understand it, the evidence gathered for that was not insubstantial; the evidence carried over from the Shaik trial alone would have given Zuma's lawyers quite a work-out. But in the end, too much evidence was thrown out of court on procedural grounds. Now, I'm all for maintaining fair, honest and logical standards of evidence in the courts, but we still have to groan when everyone agrees that the evidence was solid, except that the investigators got it by the wrong procedures. That implies that guilt should have been provable, until someone got impatient or lazy or stupid, which is a crap way to lose a case.

The bottom line of all that is that, while he may be officially, legally not guilty, it still seems quite hard to believe that Zuma didn't happily cash in at least a couple million rands worth of bribes and other corrupt fees. He most likely should have gone to jail. Instead, he's used his presidential pardon power to get his friend Shabir Shaik out of jail, in a transparent "fuck you!" to the idea of justice.

Since I'm posting this on Towel Day, let me close with a very appropriate Douglas Adams quote:
Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.