By Max du Preez
The leader of the official opposition has come as close as was politically possible to apologising to the president for some remarks made and she has admitted that she had misread the mood of the people after the election.
Helen Zille even admitted that her males-only cabinet was "a problem". This is the Helen Zille I got to know and respect: straightforward and honest. Does that mean we can regard the unpleasant mudslinging and name-calling that have dominated our political scene since the elections as something of the past? Well, when one looks at the behaviour of President Jacob Zuma and his cabinet, it seems the answer is yes.
Helen Zille told the Mail and Guardian she was "warmly met and welcomed, especially by President Zuma" when she attended the Cabinet lekgotla last week. She said the meeting was "very constructive and was held in a positive, professional atmosphere".
Zuma 'charming and warm' Zille spent time talking to the president, assuring him of her and her party’s respect and acceptance of his role as president of the whole country and promising their cooperation in the Western Province.
She told Die Burger Zuma was the "nicest, most charming and warmest person one can get". This was such good news after the noxious aggression of the last few weeks. This was the Zuma I got to know and respect: a warm, inclusive and conciliatory man.
But wait. If Zuma is the president of the ANC, then surely he, together with his senior lieutenants, determines what goes on in the party?
So why do the ANC Youth League, the MK Veterans Association and Cosatu behave in exactly the opposite way as their president and senior leaders?
Are they the tail that wags the dog?
Does the left hand not know what the right hand is doing? Is it possible that Zuma is deliberately following a good cop, bad cop strategy?
Or is he simply letting others do his dirty work for him? Teaching Zille a lesson? Because even after Zille and Zuma made up at the lekgotla, the Youth League and the MK Vets continued with their racist, sexist vitriol against Zille and Cosatu is persisting with its threats of strikes and ungovernability because they don't like Zille's choice of MECs.
And not a peep from their president.
James Myburgh, editor of Politicsweb, wrote last week that the ANC alliance "appears to be trying to teach her (Zille), and South Africa, a lesson.
This is that from now on everyone should grovel before the feet of the new big man".
I think he may just be right. So Zuma is not so different from Thabo Mbeki after all. The difference is that Mbeki took on his critics himself; Zuma uses his fox terriers to do it while the grandfatherly smile never leaves his face.
But in essence the weapon they employ against criticism is the same: it is unpatriotic and un-African to criticise the president.
How quickly they forget the vicious insults and humiliations visited upon Mbeki by the Zuma camp when Mbeki was still president of the ANC and of the country! Lead South Africa When Julius Malema and Blade Nzimande and Zwelinzima Vavi insulted Mbeki, was that not unpatriotic and un-African?
Zille's critics had a point when they told her after the election that she should give Zuma a chance to govern, to be president and prove himself. She should accept him as her president also, because he won the elections. But Zuma's fox terriers should be given the same medicine.
Zille's party won the election in the Western Cape. She should be given the chance to govern and prove herself. The Youth League and MK Vets and Cosatu in the Western Cape should accept her as their premier also.
I'm waiting for Zuma, my president and your president, to send the fox terriers to the kennel.
The real Jacob Zuma should now stand up and lead South Africa.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
By Max du Preez