You know people who know people who can get things done. Like rigging a roulette table at a casino.
You don’t know who or how, and you don’t want to know. Plausible deniability. All you know is that it’s Saturday night, the booze is flowing and you’re winning. Not all the time, of course – the guys who rigged it knew what they were doing – but it’s ticking along nicely enough. Just stay put for another four or five hours, and you’re going to clean up, cash in, and walk away.
Except, at about 9pm, just as you’re really getting warmed up, someone in your entourage comes up and whispers in your ear. He’s uncomfortable, he says. He worries about how this is all panning out. He thinks you should leave, and that the crew should move to a table that hasn’t been rigged.
Which is why I don’t think Jacob Zuma is going anywhere. Why would he walk away from the table just as the long con is paying off?
Still, it’s fun to indulge the anxious fantasy that politics is about doing the right thing, so let’s leave the casino for a moment and imagine a scenario in which the ANC decides to recall Zuma.
The first hurdle is, of course, ego. The ruling party has proved that it is much more concerned with saving face than saving the country, so how exactly would they sideline Number One while keeping his dignity intact?
There’s one solution that’s so obvious I’m surprised we haven’t read any think-pieces about it: Zuma needs to fake his own death.
For example: 100 orphans are tipped into a lake after an enraged white supremacist surfaces and capsizes their boat. Zuma happens to be on the shore, having led his flock down to the water to drink deep of the Kool-Aid. He hears the cries of the children and dives into the lake.
For hours he swims like a man possessed by Ubuntu-demons, dragging orphan after orphan to safety. But the exertion takes a terrible toll on a man of almost 74. His organs of state are failing. He is having, you might say, a constitutional crisis.
At last he scoops all 100 children into his arms and begins to run. He sprints across thorns, between Thuli Madonsela’s CIA handlers, and over the testicles of white monopoly capital, until he reaches a rural hospital. The children are saved – but no! The doctors tell him that there is no electricity.
He readies himself for one final sacrifice
Zuma is incensed: after all he’s done to avert load-shedding by de-industrialising the country! No, say the doctors, it’s the cables: they have been stolen, probably by unmarried women, and now there is no way of getting the electricity from the substation to the hospital.
Zuma immediately understands what he must do. He readies himself for one final sacrifice … and then he grabs the substation in one hand and the hospital in the other.
Ninety-million volts crackle through him, but he cares only for the children. “Save the babies!” he gasps, arms outstretched, glowing with a holy blue light.
The doctors work frantically, saving life after life. All except one. The father of the nation is spent. He is no more.
Handled right – a sombre statement on TV by Cyril Ramaphosa, an infographic in The New Age explaining how electricity works (eels, fairies, etc), state funerals in Pretoria and Uttar Pradesh – it would be an exit for the ages.
Even better, it would be a goodwill windfall for the ANC. Nothing rehabilitates a reputation like dying. A wife-beater has a fatal stroke while torturing a dog and within two years he’s remembered as a passionate man who died doing what he loved most. Were Zuma to be heroically fried tomorrow, Mmusi Maimane would lead the nation in prayer and Julius Malema would concede that although he’s no longer 100% for Zuma, he’s definitely somewhere in the mid-50s, possibly even nudging up towards 60%.
The problem, though, is if the ANC writes Zuma out of the soap opera that we all inhabit, he’ll have to stay dead, lying low in Nkandla for the rest of his life. Just nipping down to the corner shop for a Sterri Stumpi would be a logistical nightmare, involving an elaborate ghost costume and clouds of dry ice. Then again, ghosts are supposed to be transparent, and Zuma has made himself so transparent in recent months that the ruse might just work.
No, in the end the ANC is going to have to fall back on the old classic: Shaik Syndrome. A nondescript ailment that will leave Zuma alive but reclusive, alert but silent, waving and smiling from the sidelines. Maybe a chronic heart problem caused by loving us too much?
In the end, maybe. But of course this isn’t the end. The old gambler is ordering another drink. He’s not going anywhere. Why would he?