VIA Daily Mail
On stage in a stadium in Soweto, the township at the heart of the uprising against apartheid, South Africa’s president, in a green and gold leather jacket, was dancing a Zulu war jig.
A court order against ‘hate speech’ meant Jacob Zuma, a former cattle herder, was banned from singing his favourite ‘liberation’ songs, including Bring Me My Machine Gun and Shoot The Boer. But, after listening to speeches in which a succession of obsequious cronies described him as a ‘giant’ alongside African leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Zuma delighted supporters at his 75th birthday celebrations a few days ago with fiery rhetoric instead — and in doing so sounded the death knell for the Rainbow Nation.
In front of more than 20,000 people — party loyalists and others bussed in with the promise of free food and ‘Zuma T-shirts’ — he warned the white population he was coming for their land. As armed bodyguards, in black suits and sunglasses, scanned the crowds from the stage, Zuma attacked his white opponents, saying: ‘They are telling us that we will be breaking the law when we take the land — but they broke the law first by stealing our land!’
As cheers rang out, he added: ‘No normal person would sit idly by after his land has been stolen from him. Why should I keep quiet about the land issue? [Whites] hate me because I touched a raw nerve by talking about the economy that all should share in.’
He also attacked his critics among the black population, branding them ‘back stabbers and cowards’. Anyone opposing him was a ‘racist’. Zuma had earlier informed the South African parliament that he planned to introduce a new law allowing land seizures to go ahead without compensation, saying all blacks should unite to ‘take back the land’.
Mzwandile Masina, a prominent member of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), made his own incendiary contribution, warning that ‘we will crush’ anyone who stands ‘in the way of nation building’.
Whites, who comprise four million out of a total South African population of 50 million, should expect that things will be ‘very, very rough’ for them, Masina warned. He told the crowd that while the white population is small in number, ‘we are many’.
‘I want to say to our white counterparts in South Africa, they must be very, very careful,’ Masina added. ‘This thing of being shown the middle finger by white people because they have gained a new confidence must come to an end. We are not monkeys, we are people.’
Zuma’s decadence and defiance at his party earlier this month — which cost £1m to stage — comes as South Africa lurches ever closer towards the abyss of a Zimbabwe-style collapse and possible violence as black and white factions prepare themselves for conflict.
A man, wearing a T-shirt with a photo of Zuma on it, laughed bitterly when I asked him if he had come to the celebrations to support his leader.
‘My friend, I have three children I can barely afford to feed, there is no work, so how do you think I can support this crook,’ he hissed. ‘I only came to see if there was food.’
Expressing sentiments I heard repeatedly from other impoverished black South Africans, the 49-year-old added: ‘At least the whites (under apartheid) gave us jobs. Mandela tried to get rid of black and white and make us grey. This clown is dragging us down and down.’
To underline the scale of the country’s woes, 23 years after apartheid ended, business leaders have just taken out an extraordinary advert on page three of the South African Sunday Times newspaper, warning that the State has been ‘captured’. ‘South Africa is in crisis,’ it said, blaming Zuma for the ‘illegitimate acquisition of South Africa’s natural and financial assets’. The government was guilty of ‘propaganda, slogans, racism and lies’ to silence criticism.
The economy is undoubtedly in peril after government bonds were downgraded to junk status. Once a net exporter of food — as neighbouring Zimbabwe was before Robert Mugabe seized land from whites in a programme of ‘racial transformation’ — the country is now forced to rely on imports to feed the population.
Unemployment is 90 per cent in some townships, and riots — described as ‘service delivery protests’ by the ANC — are so widespread and frequent they barely get reported. Crime is rampant — with more than 50 murders a day, many sadistic and barbaric — while South Africa is shamed by an appalling record on rape, with a woman sexually assaulted every 23 seconds. Now, many have had enough. Black opposition leaders and a coalition called Save South Africa are staging protests, calling for Zuma to quit.
Certainly, Jacob Zuma does not inspire confidence when it comes to running what has long been regarded as Africa’s superpower. Born in Nkandla in 1942, the site of famous battles with British forces in the late-19th century, he was raised in a traditional village. His father, a policeman and village chief, was an adviser to a local Zulu king. As a boy, Zuma herded cattle, collected wild honey and hunted small animals with a spear.
Aged 11, he was circumcised with a traditional stone implement after a period learning about Zulu tradition at camps run by elders in the bush. It was there, too, that he was taught about sex, a subject he has taken a close interest in ever since. ‘I was told to be a man among men,’ he said once. Zuma left home at 16 with no qualifications and one year later joined the ANC, becoming a foot soldier for Umkhonto We Sizwe — Spear Of The Nation, the armed wing of the liberation movement which carried out a bombing campaign in a bid to end white minority rule.
He was arrested aged 21 for conspiring to overthrow the government and served ten years on Robben Island — alongside Mandela — in the infamous jail. Upon release, he travelled to ANC bases in neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana, and became head of the ANC’s internal intelligence wing known as Mbokodo, or ‘the stone that crushes’. When Nelson Mandela was released in 1990, after 27 years in prison, Zuma returned to South Africa and became deputy president under Thabo Mbeki, from 1999, until being forced out amid corruption allegations in 2005. He became the nation’s fourth black president in 2009.
Zuma has had six wives and 22 children and has been linked with numerous other women. In 2005, when he was accused of raping the daughter of an ANC friend, he denied the charges, claiming it was consensual and it was his duty as a ‘Zulu warrior’ to have sex with a woman if she wore a short kanga — an African wrap — and he could not leave her ‘unfulfilled’.
‘In the Zulu culture, you cannot just leave a woman if she is ready,’ he told the court. ‘To deny her sex, that would have been tantamount to rape.’
Despite knowing that the woman was HIV positive, in a country where one in three carries the virus, Zuma was unfazed by criticism that he hadn’t used a condom. ‘I had a shower afterwards,’ he said, cheerfully.
Eventually Zuma was cleared, but it is his financial rather than his sexual activities that are the cause of the greatest fears for the future of South Africa. Zuma is now fabulously rich, with a personal fortune estimated at between £15 million and £100 million. How he has acquired this wealth is of particular interest to his opponents. He has been accused of taking huge bribes in an arms deal, and could face up to 783 charges. The real evidence of just how far Zuma has come is at Nklanda, the sprawling palace he built using taxpayers’ funds near the rural home where he grew up.
In the style of a Zulu king’s kraal, he has homes here for four of his wives, reportedly connected to his own grander house by tunnels, as well as two helicopter landing pads, and an area for cattle.
In a scathing report last year by the public prosecutor, he was ordered to pay back some of the costs of upgrading the presidential palace, including the price of a swimming pool he claimed was needed for water in case of a fire. As Zuma’s wealth and power have grown, the parallels with the collapse of Zimbabwe are ever more striking. Military veterans, who answer only to Zuma and who served in the ANC’s military wing, have paraded on the streets. They formed a guard of honour at Zuma’s recent party.
Zimbabwe’s despotic president, Mugabe, also used ‘military veterans’ to seize white farms in 2000, tipping the country into years of decay by following the policies now being proposed by Zuma. Not surprisingly, some white South Africans are taking extreme measures in response. Where once ANC guerrillas camped in the bush, plotting against white rulers, now it is white militias training at secret camps.
These are run by leaders of the Kommandokorps, a volunteer force who wear the brown military uniforms of South Africa’s old apartheid-era forces. On remote farms, recruits are being trained with pistols, pump-action shotguns and 303 rifles.
More than 2,500 volunteers, aged from 14 to 38, have been drilled. Their leader is Colonel Franz Jooste, a former officer in the old South African army, who fought what he calls ‘black terrorists’ in secret operations in Mozambique, Angola and Zambia.
‘We are in a heightened security situation,’ he told me. ‘We have to prepare for anarchy and how we can protect ourselves.’
The ANC is also training thousands of ‘national rural youth service corps’ at military bases. There are reports that volunteers on the two-year programmes have been promised land. (The ANC denies they are trained as soldiers, but admits they are ‘exposed to military discipline so they become better and more patriotic citizens’.)
So deep is the crisis that Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the face of opposition to apartheid while Mandela was in jail, has joined anti-government protests, and described Zuma as ‘disgraceful’.
‘I am warning you that we will pray as we prayed for the downfall of the Apartheid Government,’ the 85-year-old says. ‘We will pray for the downfall of a government that misrepresents us.’
Former president F.W. de Klerk, who, in 1993, was awarded a joint Nobel Peace prize with Mandela, believes thieving from state coffers will spell disaster.
‘Corruption is a deadly threat to South Africa,’ he told me. ‘It has enriched the leadership group — but will make it difficult for the great majority of South Africans to escape from poverty. Most seriously, it has corrupted the values for which leaders like Nelson Mandela struggled.
‘President Zuma is dangerously stoking up racial animosities. The ANC claims that it does not want to repeat the mistakes of Zimbabwe — but it is difficult to see how it would avoid this if it proceeds with expropriation [land grabs] without compensation.
‘We hope that the world will condemn growing institutionalised racism against (white) minorities with the same vigour with which it condemned apartheid.’
Then, if all this were not grim enough, there is Julius ‘Ju Ju’ Malema, a former ANC youth leader tipped as a future South African president, before he fell out with Zuma and created his own anti-white party called the Economic Freedom Fighters.
Self-styled ‘Commander in Chief’ Malema has attracted millions of supporters. He has a penchant for fast cars and expensive Breitling watches and makes Zuma seem like a moderate. He has urged blacks to illegally seize white land ‘wherever they see it’.
‘We are not calling for the slaughter of white people — at least for now,’ he said in a recent speech. ‘The rightful owners of the land are black people. No white person is a rightful owner of the land here in South Africa and the whole of the African continent.’
Many believe the country is doomed — even the black leader of one opposition party.
‘Jacob Zuma is dangerous for South Africa,’ said Mumusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance. ‘He is running a project of destroying South Africa.’
A few days ago, the more apocalyptic warnings about South Africa seemed false as I watched blacks and whites enjoying the Easter break. But when I first visited Zimbabwe 20 years ago, I would never have believed the tranquil breadbasket of Africa would become an economic basket case and a place of horrors, nor that in 2008 I would see millions of worthless bank notes blow through the capital Harare.
And I have never forgotten an exchange with one of Mandela’s advisers after I moved to live in Johannesburg 20 years ago. He was shocked when I said I didn’t own a gun. ‘You’d better get one,’ he warned. ‘Africa is a rough continent — anything can happen.’
I didn’t buy a weapon then. I might now if I lived there. For, if Zuma and his cronies choose to follow this corrupt, ruinous and racially destructive path, it won’t matter who ends up president of this magical, troubled country. They will be fighting to be King of the ashes.