Africa’s Frank and Claire Underwood – Zuma strategy is ANC’s House of Cards

Graham Sell

I read this logical, persuasive thesis with growing admiration, both for the writer Graham Sell and Jacob Zuma, his chief protagonist, who we now know has the cunning of a jackal and memory of an elephant. Just how long Msholozi’s end-game has been in the making and how cleverly he’s adapted to predatory developments, makes for a breath-taking narrative. Following in the footsteps of his ambitious and ruthless ancestor, Shaka Zulu, Zuma understands power and has consistently outflanked his enemies who are only now carefully circling what they see as the wounded, weakened Bhubesi (Lion). Sell disconnects the dots of popular discourse, throws away the numbers, and re-assembles them in a historically accurate way that makes greater sense. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s tenure as African Union Chief in which every African crisis from Ebola to Isis and a bunch in between, saw her absent from the radar with lesser African collective leaders heading for the hot spots to help out, plus her inauspicious heading of various local ministries under Thabo Mbeki, makes her a poor presidential candidate, no matter how impressive her career CV may seem. In a relationship similar to Bill and Hillary Clinton, Sell posits that the Zuma pairing is a highly successful marriage of political convenience, the hyphenation on her surname occurring only after their divorce, not to mention the recent irregular VIP security protection status afforded her as an ordinary ANC member. In the Zuma camp’s eyes (and therefore all thoroughly entrenched and strategically-placed acolytes’ view), she’s Royalty. Forget the popular narrative of a charismatic but uneducated, simple country herd-boy led by the nose by various Shaik’s and Guptas. Here’s a grand chess-master, groomed in guerrilla intelligence-gathering and counter-intelligence strategies by his Russian masters – skills honed in combatting a ruthless apartheid regime. – Chris Bateman

By Graham Sell*

Connecting the dots originated as a children’s puzzle, where each dot is numbered and if you draw a line between each dot in the correct numbered sequence, a recognisable picture emerges and you become an instant artist.

Wikipedia’s definition includes…”connecting the dots” is used as a metaphor to illustrate an ability (or inability) to associate one idea with another, to find the “big picture”, or salient feature, in a mass of data.

For me, the “Big Picture” of South African politics is just a tangled web of lies and deception that has no believable pattern, nor recognisable form. So instead of continuing to pursue the connection of wildly divergent dots, I have tried to disconnect some of them to see if an alternative picture emerges when they are re-connected differently.

Our generally recognised “Big Picture” in South Africa is that the Gupta family has captured Jacob Zuma, and through him all the essential organs of State. JZ is identified as the ignorant, pliable puppet with the Gupta family pictured as the puppet masters who are pulling everyone’s wire – as it were.

“I’m nobody’s puppet”. Some more magic from

But what picture emerges if we connect the dots differently? What if Jacob Zuma is the Puppet Master who “captured” the Guptas with promises of wealth beyond imagining provided they acted as his surrogate bankers and political facilitators?

First of all, our President may be undereducated, but do not make the mistake of believing he is ignorant or stupid, and my dot-reconnecting conjecture is that his dynastic dictatorship game-plan began over 20 years ago.

To follow this particular line of dots I have retraced some of the significant timelines in JZ’s rise that are bringing him ever closer to realising his ambition to establish a Zuma dynasty. It is quite a long story that goes back some time, but if you have the patience to follow these dots with me then I hope your endurance will be rewarded with a completely different perspective of where we stand today, and where, perhaps, we might go tomorrow. So, once upon a time…

1 – Jacob Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini: Early Period (1982-1999)

In 1982 JZ married Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini.

In 1994 Dr Nkosazana Zuma as she was then called, was appointed Minister of Health in South Africa’s first democratically elected government under Nelson Mandela.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and President Jacob Zuma

In 1996 the Ministry of Health funded a “dangerously inaccurate” anti-Aids play, Sarafina 2, which heralded the first sniff of possible corruption surrounding the Zuma family. According to a 1996 New York Times article “…the Cabinet Minister in charge of health has been caught lying to Parliament. The production contract turned out to have gone to a good friend of hers. Proper bidding procedures were ignored. The private donor she said had paid the bill had never heard of the play.”

Over the next couple of years the Sarafina controversy and a 1997 Virodene scandal refused to go away for Nkosazana. Meanwhile, Jacob had eyes on the Deputy Presidency that would be open to him at the end of Nelson Mandela’s term of office in 1999, which ran the risk of being derailed by the smallest hint of familial corruption or ineptitude.

So, in 1998, after 16 years of marriage, and four children later, Jacob and Nkosazana divorced over “irreconcilable differences”, which is the least controversial and most convenient method of severing marital ties without any further attached scandal.

Interestingly, it was only after the divorce that Nkosazana introduced the hyphenated Dlamini-Zuma nametag. Perhaps indicating an ongoing connection beyond marital boundaries? Or indicating a politically inspired divorce born of like minds, rather than their supposedly irreconcilably different minds? Separate but still connected?…Hold those thoughts for a while…

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki

In 1999 under the Presidency of Thabo Mbeki, JZ was duly appointed Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa. In the same year, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was redeployed by Thabo Mbeki from Minister of Health, to Minister of Foreign Affairs. My own suspicion is that this appointment was most likely influenced by JZ, not only to initially distance Nkosazana from the Sarafina/Virodene spotlights, but perhaps more importantly, to improve her overall political profile. After all, in any government worldwide, Foreign Affairs Ministers and their equivalents have a much higher profile than Health Ministers.

2 – Jacob Zuma and the ANCYL (1994-Present) (“He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”)

In December 1994 Jacob was elected as National Chairperson of the ANC, as well as Chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. These appointments put him in close association with ANC Youth League structures across the country, and in particular the KZN branch. It is therefore not entirely surprising to learn that in 1996 a Zulu was elected as National President of the ANCYL.

What might be surprising, is the name of that Zulu is Malusi Gigaba, our recently and controversially appointed Minister of Finance. There is also no doubt that the ANCYL were influential in the appointment of Zuma to the Deputy Presidency in 1999.

Gigaba held the ANCYL position for eight years until 2004, when the baton was passed to another familiar political name – Fikile Mbalula, who was recently reshuffled from the Sports Ministry to become our latest Minister of Police.

In 2007 at the ANC National Convention held in Polokwane, Limpopo Province, the ANCYL, under the leadership of Mbalula vehemently and vociferously supported Jacob Zuma against Thabo Mbeki’s campaign to serve as ANC President for what would amount to a third, essentially  unconstitutional term of office.

Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader Julius Malema

In 2008 at a chaotic ANCYL conference marred by tactics of intimidation and violent confrontation between opposing factions, Julius “I-will-die-for-Zuma” Malema, supported by his predecessor Mbalula, was controversially elected as the new National President of the Youth League. Up until this point it is quite clear that Jacob Zuma was the Puppet Master who had the ANCYL dancing to his tune. They really were prepared to go to any lengths to protect him.

The picture changed somewhat after 2011 when Julius Malema was re-elected unopposed, after his only contender, Lebogang Meile, declined to stand against him. Zuma recognised that Malema’s increasingly high-profile and revolutionary rhetoric had not only loosened his own grip on the puppet strings of the Youth League, but also threatened to derail his long term dynastic plans.

So in 2012 reasons were found to have Julius expelled from the ANC, putting JZ firmly back in the driving seat. In the resulting fallout, all Youth League structures were disbanded in 2013.  They were only re-established in 2015 after JZ had found himself another pliable puppet in the form of a somewhat less-than-youthful Collen “Oros” Maine.

From here onwards the modus operandi of the Puppet Master and these puppets is clear. Nothing more needs to be added except, in closing this segment, to tell you that the quotation in the heading “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future” came from one Adolf Hitler – just saying.

3 – Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the ANCWL (1991-Present)

While Jacob was busy with the Youth League, Nkosazana was busy with the Women’s League where she was instrumental in establishing their national structures, and from 1991-1993 served as chairperson of their Southern Natal Region.

By now, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that during her three years as regional chair, her committee included Bathabile Dlamini, our less-than-capable Minister of Social Development who suspiciously avoided the chop in JZ’s latest Cabinet reshuffle.

President Jacob Zuma with Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini.

Interestingly, during the very same 2013-2015 period that the Youth League structures were out of commission, the Women’s league also failed to hold their required congress to elect new leadership.

This brings me back to the nature of the relationship between Jacob and Nkosazana. Were these events coincidental, or were they the Puppet Masters waiting to align their new puppets?

Whatever the answer, in Bathabile Dlamini’s election as chairperson of the ANCWL in 2015, JZ and Nkosazana got the puppet they both needed to move their plans forward. What is unbelievably crass about this is that we have a Constitution that strongly promotes gender equality yet, in Bathabile Dlamini, we have the leader of a powerful women’s organisation who will go to any lengths to protect a patriarchal sexist, who believes that a particular item of female attire represents an open invitation to have sex. (Remember Kwezi?).

4 – Jacob Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (2000 – Present)

Because of the above overlapping timelines, it is difficult not to connect the dots in a picture that shows there has been some careful planning in the way that Jacob and Nkosazana have moved themselves forward. The King and Queen executing a subtle coordination of moves with outcomes that always ensured there was a Plan B if Plan A failed.

Read also: Walls closing in on Zuma? ANC split in KZN heartland threatens his succession plans

Another example – in June 2005 when Thabo Mbeki fired Jacob Zuma because of his links to a fraud and corruption scandal surrounding the $5 billion Arms Deal, it was reported that Mbeki first offered the vacant Deputy Presidency position to Dlamini-Zuma, which she declined. It was a seemingly inexplicable decision because had she taken the position then, it would have been the clearest, cleanest and quickest route for her to become South Africa’s first female President, possibly as early as 2007.

In my picture, however, that would have required their ditching of “Plan A”, which was for Jacob to be the first of them to assume the Presidency, and moving them straight to the implementation of “Plan B”, which is for her to ultimately assume the Presidency.  However, this would have left no fall-back Plan “C” position, and had there been any resistance to a female becoming President at the 2007 National Convention in Polokwane, their dynastic plans would be immediately spiked.

Her decision not to accept the vice-presidency in 2005 therefore only makes sense when you consider that the ANC’s National Convention was a relatively short 18 months away and, although politically wounded, and with the Youth League fully behind him, Jacob Zuma was still strong enough to challenge Mbeki.  It was therefore worth risking the wait, for the sake of their future dynasty.

Former African Union Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Much of Zuma’s perceived strength could also be drawn from the general ANC membership’s discomfort with Mbeki wanting to serve an unconstitutional third term as President. They perhaps saw another African dictator in the making, and seemingly worked on the principle of “anyone but Mbeki”, which played directly into Jacob Zuma’s hands.

In 2007 Dlamini-Zuma had an apparent change of heart when she agreed to run as Mbeki’s Vice Presidential candidate at the Polokwane Convention to be held that December. This about-turn alone makes a case for re-joining the dots differently. By waiting the relatively short period of 18 months, the Zumas were able to keep both A and B plans in place. If Jacob won, he would become President first (Plan A), and if he lost, Nkosazana was appropriately positioned to still eventually become the first female President of the Republic of South Africa after serving as Mbeki’s deputy (Plan B).

Another give-away that the relationship between JZ and NDZ is perhaps not all that it appears to be, is that Nkosazana became the only Mbeki “supporter” to be retained by Jacob in his first 2007 Cabinet. Not only that, but in 2009 he moved her from Foreign Affairs, where she was fairly anonymous in fulfilling her duties, to the Department of Home Affairs. While many thought this was a demotion, it actually gave her the opportunity to claim a great success in turning the chaotic Home Affairs Department around. However, it appears that much of the work had already been accomplished by the Director General, Mavuso “Mr Turnaround” Msimang, starting as early as 2007.

Read also: Donwald Pressly: Is Ramaphosa ‘playing Shakespeare’ to take over the ANC?

Nkosazana’s “administrative success” at the Department of Home Affairs was used in 2012 as the spring-board from which the Puppet Master, Jacob, pushed her to controversially contest, and win, the position of Chairperson of the African Union. A position she never seemed entirely comfortable to hold, and one that was overshadowed by “…African rivalries, suspicions about her abilities, and the reasons why her former husband, Jacob Zuma, pushed so hard for her to get the job”…

African National Congress

There is no doubt that Dlamini-Zuma is a seasoned politician, but there is also a shadow of the Puppet Master’s hand to be seen behind every career move she has made. Join the dots differently and you might glimpse the almost invisible hand of her ex-husband, subtly but steadily orchestrating the perceived improvements in her political stature, in preparation for her for eventual succession to the Zuma dynastic throne.

But is she really Presidential material? Rebecca Davies wrote a very telling article on this subject for the Daily Maverick in 2015, which reflects that Dlamini-Zuma’s performances have been somewhat less than stellar wherever she has been.

Returning to the redrawn “Big Picture”, you must have noticed that the Guptas have not yet featured. This is because I find it almost impossible to believe that an immigrant family of opportunistic traders with flexible morality are in any way capable of derailing Zuma’s master-plan, laid out above, by “capturing” him so quickly and easily.

When then Deputy President Jacob Zuma met the Guptas, reportedly for the first time in the 2002/3 time frame, not only was his dynastic plan already well underway, but it was also a time when I believe the Guptas would not have had enough money to tempt the Zumas away from their ambition.

It is therefore more likely that the Guptas were trying to curry favour (pun intended) with Jacob Zuma and, strategist that he is, I believe JZ would have seized the opportunity to convert them to his own cause with promises of wealth beyond their wildest dreams, as long as they fronted his own ambitious State Capture end-game.

Our President is renowned for putting others in the firing line while staying a safe distance away from any potential fallout, so when it comes to bribery and corruption of State officials is he likely to approach an official such as Mcebisi Jonas, or Vytjie Mentor himself, or more likely use a surrogate, or puppet?

If you accept that Jacob Zuma is the Puppet Master hell bent on securing if not a dictatorship, at least a dynasty, then you must also accept that when he laughs that trademark laugh, he is not only mocking the opposition, but also mocking the ANC for not seeing through his plans to use them for his own purposes.

Read also: Malema: Zuma’s “President-in-Waiting” ex-wife even closer to Gupta than him

If you accept the redrawn “Big Picture”, or even some of it, then you must conclude that Jacob and Nkosazana do not love and are not loyal to the people of South Africa. Nor do they love and nor are they loyal to the ANC, the organisation that has trusted them for so many years to further the cause of social justice. They are peas in a pod, two like minds whose only ambition is to perpetuate and cement the Zuma dynasty.

Even if half-true, the message to the ANC leadership is that these two cadres have abused their positions and brought the ANC into disrepute by bringing both the ANC, and the entire country, to the brink of disaster. It is well beyond the time for you to take action to remove them and their puppets before it is too late for all of us.

To ANC MP’s who may shortly be asked to vote in a motion of no confidence, your smallanyana skeletons will be as nothing compared to the devastation that a Zuma dynastic dictatorship will bring, so feel free to vote your conscience. All will be forgiven if you prevent the Zumas from destroying our country, and everything so many in the ANC have worked so hard to achieve.

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