Former President Jacob G Zuma, continues to capture the imagination of many, barely a week since threatened by his NEC with a recall and thus compelled to resign when he enquired on reasons for NEC decision, he honoured an invitation by his successor despite the advanced claims that he was betrayed in an agreed transition. When some wanted him to spit fire, he honoured the invitation and arrived at a cocktail gathering to bid farewell to his senior staff and cabinet. In his jovial self and always up to share a joke, he said his goodbyes with a face that denies any malice revenge or plotting. This week with the ANC having its Luthuli House beefed up with more NEC members as full-time staff in preparation for the 2019 elections campaign, the ANC conducted its elections strategy workshop. Zuma attended as an ordinary member and cadre to be informed as to participate in campaigning for the ANC for a 2019 elections victory.
When most presidents after almost two terms of having served would be seeking a holiday on a tranquil coastline to reminisce about their time spent he is busy readying to work for the ANC. When most presidents after being forced into resignation as threatened by recall would be licking their wounds and be vengeful and rejecting all attempts to do things for the party, Zuma is as he has promised back on the battlefront completing three score years of selfless service to the ANC. We have been here before; former president Mbeki was recalled in September 2008 and the next elections were in May 2009.
While he accepted the decision of the NEC that he was no longer fit to lead at that level, Mbeki appeared not to have availed himself for any other deployment least to hit the campaign trail to benefit those who ousted him. His actions could have been justified as many of his defenders did at the time even till today. Jacob Zuma in a no dissimilar position even justifiably and potentially more aggrieved since there was, as he alluded to in his SABC interview a transition deal which was brokered and later reneged upon, he behaves the complete opposite of Mbeki at the time.
How then is this behaviour of Jacob Zuma to be interpreted since we are confronted to ask what does this mean, is this the cadre and love for a movement on display? Is this the epitome of service to the ANC? In order to appreciate this, we must first hear Zuma in his relayed conversation with ANC President Ramaphosa during their time of constructive and fruitful discussions as dubbed by Ramaphosa. Zuma is on record to have told Ramaphosa, he was not willing to be responsible to see bloodshed in his name. He considered the unfortunate events of what transpired at Luthuli House in that troublesome week in February 2018, when a branch secretary sporting CR 17 – Siyavuma campaign attire kicked a grandmother like a dog, as detestable and echoing a precipice that some may find sufficient evidence to set the country ablaze.
I will attempt to extrapolate at least six things former President of the ANC and SA Jacob Zuma is modelling with his consistent behaviour in protection and interest of the ANC.
His actions today are not new, I still hold for not contesting a third term which he could and may even have won, he proved mature to afford the contestants a fair opportunity to vie for the ANC high office free from him being a threat, something he was not spared in 2007.
Firstly, Zuma showed ANC former leaders, members and cadres what it means to put the ANC first. He showed tremendous maturity to put the ANC first instead of his own political demise. In the week of him resigning, I could think of no other moment as to a time in the aftermath of the Hani death in 1993. Again, the nation in a sense was on a tipping point, that tipping points a selfish and self-serving leader could have easily exploited as useful currency anchored in nothing but self-interest. As Mandela led the ANC at that dark moment in our organisational and country history in marshalling a sense of soberness and appealing for rational thinking, so Zuma in the week that he was recalled equally desisted the temptation to exploit the occasion and lump the ANC and SA in a worse position than what it already finds itself.
A factionalised leader would have batted no eyelid to manipulate the emotions of those who share the mind that their leader was served a gross injustice. Naturally, some will retort its an over exaggerating to compare Hani’s death with a Zuma recall, the fact is South Africans and some in the ANC make for the spoiled nation since it seldom proves sober to see how often we have skirted with violence that could have been more than disastrous. The one incident at Luthuli House held its own potential to push us over the cliff since the ANC and nation remained divided on the treatment of Zuma.
Secondly, Zuma showed equal maturity and leadership to show due deference and respect for both the ANC and SA president and his new team as his leadership when he chose to honour the newly sworn-in President Ramaphosa’s invitation, which for some remains an impromptu public relations stunt. To Ramaphosa’s credit, his action in this regard was also historic since there was no handover between Mbeki and Zuma. For attending the cocktail dinner where his successor was getting the accolades for quickly closing the door on a Zuma presidency, Zuma showed himself willing to submit to elected ANC leadership.
Thirdly, Zuma confirmed it is never about the individual where an organisation is at play. Zuma showed that in the greater scheme of things it is never about the individual if the individual belongs to the oldest liberation of Africa. He displayed the courage of his convictions and courageous heart of a cadre to show up and sit in an ANC elections strategy workshop to come and listen as to what will make for the strategy to inform campaigning.
In the fourth instance, he reaffirmed his lifelong commitment to be cadre, to the ANC as ready to work for the movement despite his served for sixty years. He, therefore, today embodies the values of being a tried cadre, loyal beyond self-interest faithful at the cost of self and sold out irresponsible of how his actions are interpreted. He is ready to be deployed to work wherever the Movement so deem him fit to lead.
In the fifth instance, Zuma not showed if you want to lead to must be willing to be led, but he gives a new ethos to that leadership by educating us all you should be willing to be led even after you have led at the highest level. He thus sends a message to a group of veterans who hitherto have sought to abuse the fact that they have led before as their meal-ticket to direct all and never to take instructions from anyone junior to them.
In the sixth instance Zuma reminds being a cadre is not a word thing it must be followed by action, it has to be life choices and find meaning in daily means. It cannot be theorised as a subject in the proverbial clouds but must be made to stand here and now in the practical reality of its leaders as the first port of call.
Does Jacob Zuma today teach many, who wrote him off in a description of corruption, at what a true ANC cadre means? Is he setting the bar very high or is he doing what true cadres ought to do? While we know there are many who have in the avowed moral sense of self-righteousness articulated cadreship in an etymological sense. Some hastily cite former ANC leaders in a sense of expert knowledge sense as deities, but themselves fail to measure up to the standard they accord a former generation and demand from others. It remains easy to cast former ANC leaders in a type cast mould as a cheap means of deflection of self, when they hardly have the energy or track record to emulate this cadreship in deed, especially when they have been done an injustice.
Cadreship is less a talked subject, it does not suggest you will be treated fairly and justly, in fact, it must breathe and stand in the very face of an inflicted injustice, it must find meaning in the context where are grounds to argue one is aggrieved. Zuma after all the years of serving the ANC as his liberation organisation is not done educating, teaching and modelling the cadreship that often is talked about by most yet not made a living and consistent experience.
The ANC needs a cadre that is selfless and that selflessness cannot be a subject of theory, it has to be a lived experience, it must be tangible and real and modelled in leadership. I fear no reprise in advancing the claim that Zuma has set the bar very high. Of course, he is a strategic thinker and he has determined to campaign for ANC victory, while he will stay abreast and active in a Ramaphosa presidency. He, therefore, breaks with the Mandela engineered tradition later also claimed by Mbeki although not practised to the hilt of going into self-inflicted exile. Zuma has determined to stick around and lend a hand, he has decided to play a role at a lower level and had shown his hand in being willing to work and build the ANC.
It is not unfair to categorically assert, former ANC and SA leadership, presidents and deputy presidents like Mbeki and Motlanthe and many others, while talking a great deal about what makes for an ANC cadre, denied ANC cadres of what Zuma is leading in this season when they behaviour after having served at the highest level showed differently.
Are we seeing the first true cadre in an ANC where capital has infiltrated it and self-interest has become the order of the day? Zuma thus sets the example of true leadership in an ANC sense having been privileged to serve, afforded a chance to reach the pinnacle of power and called from there to go back to branch level where it matters most and work for the agenda of the ANC.
Do not be surprised to see Nxamalala sporting an ANC Ramaphosa face T-Shirt as he knocks on our doors selling the ANC to many. This is leadership, this unprecedented in ANC democratic era context where former presidents assume a status of being owed something and not willing to work for the movement at a grassroots level.