The Moment Before the Check-Mate

Everybody has been on Afrikan National Congress president Jacob Zuma’s case since he caught his but I think I should actually come to the defence of uGedleyihlekisa’s demeanor. See, I met Umsholozi once and his nemesis, former state president Thabo Mbeki twice.

The first time I met Mbeki was in 1999 and he was in a good mood until some people booed then Limpopo premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi and agitated Mbeki. He drifted from protocol, grabbed the mike from Collins Chabane and went on to address us in isiXhosa -exclusively. He was very angry and shaken (not stirred) and not yet a president but deputizing Nelson Mandela. JZ was still in Kwazulu Natal borrowing money from Shabir Shaik.

Then I met JZ in 2006 prior to Polokwane when he was no longer president of the country but a Trojan Horse of the ANC. He exuded warmth even though he never afforded us an interview, just like his nemesis. He came with a huge entourage of bodyguards and yes-men. He however sang his customary song which this blog is named after.

Then I met Mbeki again two years ago before Polokwane. It was two months before the policy conference and he was stressed, even looking older than 62. He exuded warmth but also didn’t want to speak to the media.

These were two men who played their cards close to their chests since they knew what is it they were going to be asked. The stakes were high. These were two men fighting a war through phone tapping and sending skanks to drop it (kanga) like it’s hot and later assassinate each’s characters. These were two men answering to no one but their own dark demons, one allegedly using the National Prosecuting Authority to fight his proxy war while the other used the National Intelligence Agency. These were two men playing a mental chess game that only them understood, a game that ended with a check-mate on April 6.

However the Msholozi who spoke to journalists at a Durban hotel after the charges were finally withdrawn was different from the charismatic Msholozi I met three years ago at the same venue that I met Mbeki. It was a rather relaxed, however cocky JZ. He had this don’t-give-a-damn attitude about him. He was no longer the ‘truly’ smiling warm Zuma who can charm an HIV positive woman out of her kanga. It saw a JZ driven by covert revenge and all-out retribution, a JZ who was playing his cards very close to his chest.

Zulu king Shaka adviced his amabuthonever to leave an enemy behind’ and ‘the child of a snake is a snake’. I doubt if JZ was sincere or just selling us a dummy – which we didn’t buy.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really interesting post, thanks. I really wonder about Mbeki at the moment... what is he doing? Thinking?

    The other day I remembered a proverb that was used to describe the drama with the Kenyan elections a while back:
    When two bulls fight, the grass suffers
    (or something along those lines).

    Which seemed pretty appropriate for us at the moment too.


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