South Africa's President Jacob Zuma the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at the United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Lead Opinion South Africa

Analysis: Zuma ‘…No safe hands, for Weapons of Mass Destruction!’

President Zuma leads a call for a new ethic at the 72nd UN Sitting

There are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction’, these are the words accredited to the SA President Jacob G. Zuma as addressed the 72nd UN Sitting.



The UN gathers in 2017 again at another crucial and volatile moment in time. A week after hurricane storms ravaged islands in the Caribbean, Cuba battered Florida and Virgin Islands where some are trying to return to some semblance of normality, whatever that may mean. In a time when Mexico City rudely shaken with a 7.1 on the Richter scale earthquake recording and Mexico City moans the lives lost many others displaced.



Yet it’s also a season of tense volatility in the Korean Peninsula where North Korea recently launched and tested another missile. This last one in the same vein as its predecessor pierced the atmosphere of Japan to land in the Still Ocean. Naturally this last one raised more than eyebrows for a defiant Kim Jong Un gives the world another double finger. In an attempt to show military power and solidarity the USA and South Korea its ally did a preliminary military drill in the area.


As fate would have it this 72nd UN sitting also coincides with the same week Kalashnikov the inventor of the infamous AK 47 weapon is honoured with a statue in Russia.



North Korea is for some a maverick, unorthodox defiant society and political / military leadership for a very long time. It has been subjected to all forms of sanctions yet despite these sanctions to ensure the restraining of North Korea’s appetite to be a nuclear force as its defiant tests have shown over a period of time.



The present politics of rhetoric between this tiny nation and the USA adopts in this season precarious and strange forms. We now almost have daily salvos of exchanges between Washington and Pyongyang. On Tuesday September 19, the USA president Donald Trump in his maiden to the UN general Assembly did not mince his words: ‘ No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles: He continued, “ the United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”.



I am not sure when last in modern history in a post World War II setting we heard the leader of such standing as USA president ever resort to such a threat. This threat of total destruction of a nation in post-modern world where democracy and sovereignty of states are upheld, confirms the time we are in as precarious one.



It remains the overarching aim of some leading nations to work to rid others from the same capacity and access of proliferated power immanent in nuclear etc. The record shows that more than two-dozen nations of the world have nuclear power, these include Russia, United States of America, China, India, Israel, France, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. As its stands some nations preside over this capability and it does not bother the constituency of international states yet they work tirelessly for others not to have such access. The dualistic ethic applied has been written about on many score, yet the duplicity remains ever pervasive.



It’s right that we must ask why does anyone need nuclear power as some already posses and others hope to attain?



Why does a postmodern world where we espouse the ethic of a global world and peace need weapons of mass destruction? Who then are the typical targets for those who currently own the capacity of such power?



On the other hand why do those who strive to own it want it and who makes up their target audiences?



These questions remain simple yet unanswered in a world where we have sat foot on the moon, and getting ready to do so on Mars. In a world where we have satellites beaming information in milliseconds and we treat cancer with lasers, we haven’t yet had the presence of mind to honestly attempt answering these simple questions of who are the targets for the weapons we design and own?



It is here the words of Jacob Zuma the SA president in his recent address proves direction setting. Let us attempt to hear what he says when he articulates ‘There are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction’. In the face of an ambivalent and double standards ethic on nuclear power, South Africa opted to do away with its own weapons as far back as 1989. The six constructed and one under construction) were dismantled and SA acceded to the Treaty on non proliferation of Nuclear Weapons when South Africa ambassador to the United States Harry Schwarz signed the treat in 1991. There will always be rightful divergent views as to the real reasons for this decision on the eve of the dawn of liberation, with some saying it was the Apartheid’s state’s ensuring the new political leadership which it did not trust will not have this capacity it needed during apartheid for its own self-interest. Another school remonstrates it was necessary to confirm South Africa a worker for peace. I hold no brief for any of the streams, since I am vehemently opposed to all forms of weapons and certainly would afford no one the right to own any nuclear power over the others.



What this decision to end nuclear power does for SA is that it extends the nation a moral right as qualified to talk on the subject if not to give direction on it. Therefore South Africa’s leader President Jacob Zuma can face the nations of the world and prove directing.



‘There are no safe hands’, Zuma with this statement tells the world and its leading nations there are no safe hands and that includes you. He tells those who are working on attaining that power, neither will you prove safe hands in a future of possession. He tells those who peddle an ambivalent and known questionable ethic as to who may qualifies to possess the capacity to obliterate others, regardless to how you may coax it there are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction period.



The president’s choice of words in using the collective description of  “weapons of mass destruction” a construct that entered our lexicon with the 43rd USA president of the USA George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair leading what was at first thought the West in a wild goose chase on  Iraq’s Saddam Hussein possessing the capacity of weapons of mass destruction. It is than opportune and appropriate for the SA president to remind the world in New York at the UN Head Quarters in a form of reverse psychology – do you remember “weapons of mass destruction”, he unequivocally reminds the globe it is this unsafe hands reality of the presence of weapons of mass destruction that is confirmed in utterances of President Trump of a threat of complete annihilation of the nation of North Korea.



President Zuma helps us to appreciate that it’s a sophism to want to advance there are nations and leaders in this volatile world of self-interest that will in ethical sense prove safe hands.



Perhaps another reason for this timeous caution is the fact that a very unorthodox leader in President Donald Trump leads the USA. Him lacking the typical party historical presence, political sensibility and global awareness confirmed in sense of diplomacy of former USA presidents, Trump struggles to make the transition from pure campaigning for the hot seat of the 45th president and leading a nation beyond all its anomalies. Trump who prefers to share cardinal USA policy by way of twitter handle and a difficult customer for his own Republican Party for some spells a threat for his confirmed right leaning political epistemology and praxis. Trump who often blabber on rightful secret information on investigations USA allies share in confidentiality, confirms a challenging leader for many reasons. In some circles the USA was seldom this vulnerable in unpredictable executive leadership as his many hiring and firing of key staff members in less than eight months of leading the USA has shown. Thus the caution of safe hands beyond the subject of reference in nations is embodied in attempt to ring true at a personal level of the 45th USA president Donald J. Trump. In a sense Jacob Zuma as the leader of SA and Africa responds to Trump in saying we are not deceived to assume you sir are safe hands for weapons of mass destruction.



When Zuma tells the leaders of the world there are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction he in clarion call is redrawing the line for a new ethic. He rises above the tiny claim of a South Africa in global politics r the backwardness of an Africa as it often is reduced to. President Zuma takes leadership and is not intimidated to be honest about the calamitous context of these weapons in its current form.



His warning is also unequivocally extended to nation friends and partners too. He tells Russia, China and India all part of the emerging BRICS world, even you my comrades are not safe hands for weapons of mass destruction. He is telling Israel and Pakistan neither are you safe hands.



At another level President Zuma as SA and Africa leader came to the 72nd sitting of the UN and made the case for peace. Peace we know is not the absence of difference or hostility but it’s the recognition that others have the same rights we often without contest or debate claim for myself.



Most may have missed this because we seldom pay careful attention to what is being said at these gatherings. Particularly in classically conditioned SA where President Zuma is denied his human agency as led by the crafters of this sick narrative his words were not even heard. President Zuma with this crystal clear call exerts a new paradigm and ethic if not relook at the casually advanced doctrine in claims of some can be trusted to possess weapons of mass destruction.



We may never know how much and if this sobering one liner in a very powerful speech directly, inadvertently and or consciously aided the altering of President Donald Trump’s current stance on North Korea. His latest stance adopts a much more sensible diplomatic line of more sanctions.



We must therefore echo and re-echo these words today and always  – ‘there are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction’. It must be our daily call and an ongoing campaign, of advocacy against the existence of weapons of mass destruction. It must be conscious red carding of a false claim of safety to have these types of weapons in our interconnected and interdependent globe.



There are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction… if we may add, there never were safe hands and there will never be safe hands when it comes to weapons of mass destruction.



Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
Political Commentator

Clyde Ramalaine – Columnist and Analyst
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine is an ordained and licensed member of the SA and USA clergy with over 25 years of service as a practicing theologian. Ramalaine’s incisive political analysis and commentary on a variety of issues has appeared regularly in most SA newspapers since 2010.
His work continues, among others, to appear in The Thinker, the leading Pan African Journal for thought leaders. He participates in panel discussions on subjects of his interest, and has appeared on SABC and ANN7 platforms, among others.
A published author including annual anthologies of political commentary and a volume of poetry named Gekraakte Blare.
He holds a BTH (Hons-Status) with double majors Systematic Theology and Sociology from the University of Western Cape (UWC).
He also earned a MA Theology (Systematic Theology) Cum Laude from North West University (NWU). His dissertation “Black Identity and experience in Black Theology: A Critical Assessment” is considered a ground-breaking and very relevant work in Black Theology. In such, he successfully questioned the usage of the epithet ‘black’ from a socio -historical and theological perspective.
He serves as management consultant on strategy design, analysis, and communication services for the last 22 years with serving clients in both private and public sector domains.
Analyst for Weekly Xpose.

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