SLR Diary: Zuma’s Zondo quartet; and a tribute to Johnny Clegg

As global news organisations commented on former President Jacob Zuma’s appearance at the Zondo Commission, it’s no surprise that weekly columnist Simon Lincoln Reader did the same. It also wasn’t a surprise how the former President deflected much of what was asked with ‘I don’t know, or remember’ etc. The other big news in South Africa was the passing of Johnny Clegg, on which Reader said: “Music – when used as political resistance – sometimes becomes more powerful than the actual politics.” A classic juxtaposition of what makes South Africa brilliant against what almost brought her to her knees. – Stuart Lowman

Jacob Zuma, State Capture Commission, Zapiro
Explosive Stuff (Jacob Zuma). More if Zapiro’s magic available at

By Simon Lincoln Reader*

Some observations about Jacob Zuma’s anticipated appearance at the Zondo Commission:

  1. If you can make even vague sense of Jacob’s wild, incoherent rambling featuring plots and conspiracies, perhaps you would like to submit your CV to an air crash investigation authority? I suppose its not good form to throw Martin, the talking medium-sized speckled goat who told Jacob all this stuff one day (date unclear – obvs) on a dust road near Mdantsane, under the bus, so I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed if you expect these claims to be corroborated.
  2. I don’t know what life is like under a half-clever spy – Russia, for example – but I know, like you, what its like under a stupid one. So I think that, in light of the nonsense expressed on Monday (and Tuesday), all sensible movements the world over should study Jacob’s deposition carefully before entertaining candidates with “intelligence” backgrounds ever again.
  3. News24 has always been convinced that Jacob is a keeper of dirt on ANC mischief and will uncork his secrets like the proverbial jeroboam of urine in the manner of a victorious racing driver over the dutifully assembled attending the commission. Having the appearance of keeping dirt is much more effective a strategy in defence than revealing the dirt itself, which we always suspected to be fabricated rumour, sometimes exotic – but mostly still choice grade paranoia non-the-less.
  4. The witness is clearly unwilling to assist us in locating the 1.45 odd trillion missing from the fiscus under his administration – because he doesn’t know where it’s gone. He doesn’t know anything. He wasn’t even there. For nine years, we were led not by a man but a shadow with an unhinged imagination, sometimes blended with toxic masculinity and occasionally, some lazily-researched East German economics – all the while defended by cultural boundaries we had no business intruding upon. So that’s that then.


Jacob has inflamed theories of his own hatred of white people with a statement to the effect of “the white community mobilised against me”. This is, of course, a lie – one he frequently peddles – but the idea that Jacob and his children hate white people is itself not true.


Certainly not in the way that the beautiful US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and her friend Ilhan Omar (D-MN) hates whites. I doubt you could even qualify some of Jacob’s most controversial remarks as casual.

There are white people who support Jacob – many of Duduzane Zuma’s friends are white, some have accompanied him to court on his own charges. But more than that, there is a particular type of white South African to whom Jacob is accessible, allied even – one that speaks a language Glenn Agliotti was alleged to have in Jacques Pauw’s book: “He’s a gangster, like us,” Glenn was quoted to have said of Jacob at a golf club, presumably ending the sentence in hysterics. It is a language the late Marc Batchelor was proficient in.


The speed at which grief over Johnny Clegg’s death has shifted to profound reflection acknowledges the forces, far greater than just talent, that lay inside him. He was a child of ghosts, born with an inherited sense of the arc of suffering, the great evil men are capable of – the Pogroms, the fleeing of persecuted Polish and Lithuanian Jews to Western Europe, blood through the ages and stories that would have been uncomfortably familiar with the excesses of apartheid.

It is said that the only thing that can turn history into patience is art. Music – when used as political resistance – sometimes becomes more powerful than the actual politics. So it was for him, dear, great, beloved, extraordinary man.

  • Simon Lincoln Reader lives and works in London.
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