Donwald Pressly: #Zuptagate stole the #SONA2016 show. Malema outwitted Zuma.

As the State of the Nation captured attention of thousands of television viewers, so Donwald Pressly says it was down to some quite brilliant theatre. Pressly says Malema’s #Zuptamustfall was some crafty use of political theatre, which captured the day. As in the words of Shakespeare, a little altered by Pressly: “Full of sound (deleting and fury), signifying little (nothing). A strong piece. – Stuart Lowman

By Donwald Pressly*

All that one can say is that after the starring performance of the 25 Economic Freedom Fighter MPs, shouting ZuptaMustFall as they left the house at the opening of parliament, is that it would have taken a Kennedy or a Clinton to rise above the occasion – and say something sensible and inspiring.

But, of course, President Jacob Zuma did not take the gap. He is no orator. He did not have any Kennedy moments. Nor does he appear to have any original ideas in his head to restore his integrity as president while, at once, giving hope to a nation in a state of political and economic shock. His speech did nothing to stem the tide of economic despair that ordinary South Africans are facing. It was more of the same, as Peter Attard Montalto of Nomura put it: It was business as usual.

Members of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party leave the parliamentary chamber as South Africa's President Jacob Zuma delivers his State of the Nation address in Cape Town, February 11, 2016.  REUTERS/Schalk van Zuydam
Members of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party leave the parliamentary chamber as South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma delivers his State of the Nation address in Cape Town, February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Schalk van Zuydam

While the tactics of Julius Malema leaves little to be desired – he butchered the parliamentary rules and stripped parliament of what little honour it has left – he was right about one thing: Why does one have to sit and listen to someone dressed up as a president who has discredited himself? As Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota put it, President Zuma is a president who holds the post illegally after breaking his oath of office.

The ZuptaMustFall  slogan is simply clever. I predicted in a column before the state of the nation speech that Malema would scream ZumaMustFall. I was almost right. Malema has a way of snatching the moment, like him or not. Even a copy editor would be proud of the line ZuptaMustFall, the combination of Zuma with the Gupta family name. The Guptas have garnered much state largesse in various ways – not least of all through advertising in their newspaper. They owe their good fortune to their connection to Jacob Zuma. It is made for Twitter. In contrast to Malema’s disruptive performance, Zuma’s State of the Nation was not signified by anything that he said. Everyone will remember it for the vigorous demonstrations by anti-Zuma forces who clashed with riot police around parliament. And what Malema and his other MPs did.

What is extraordinary about the president’s pathetic response to the Malema and EFF tirade – which is something we come to expect in Parliament now – is that Zuma does not react to it. Or at least he didn’t when he finally got to deliver his speech. He just read his prepared script, somewhat badly.  Even the ANC supporting media are asking questions today: “How long can Zuma continue to fumble and miss every opportunity to help the ANC right its ship?”

Outside parliament there were all those marching bands, soldiers (a lot of them looking rather fat), and expensive motorcades. When the Cape Town Highlanders marched back from parliament down Buitenkant Street, a young woman shrieked as she spotted the men wearing kilts: “Siestog.” (That is shame in English). It captured the occasion. Everything was pretty much a shame and shambles. That woman captured the opening of parliament moment for me.

  • Donwald Pressly is Editor of Cape Messenger, an online site focused on Western Cape business-related news. He has corresponded from parliament for 23 years. He is also secretary general of the Cape Town Press Club.
(Visited 36 times, 1 visits today)