After 15 years of evasion, Zuma will finally get his day in the dock

This week, the Class of 2020 finally received their matric results. It’s a very late start to the year and the rest of their lives, but then again this is the time of the plague; nothing is the same.

This was also the week where Jacob Zuma was finally informed that he will go on trial on May 17. He’ll be tried for the same crime of corruption that his erstwhile financial adviser Schabir Shaik was charged with and then sentenced to 15 years in jail by Judge Hilary Squires. 

Shaik only spent 28 months behind bars, before being released on medical parole. He made a Lazarus-like recovery from his terminal condition and by last year had “served” his entire sentence. Zuma on the other hand has spent almost every day of the last 15 years trying to frustrate any bid to hold him to account, despite telling everyone that all he wanted was his day in the dock.

That wasn’t all he was up to. There’s also State Capture. This week, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s officials asked the Constitutional Court to jail Zuma for two years for the unprecedented contempt he has shown the commission (a recalibrating of the Stalingrad defence he pioneered) for point blank refusing to appear as a witness to the ongoing horror show of revelations of corruption and brazen looting that Zondo has to chair.

It’s been a bad week for Zuma, but spare a thought for the class of 2020. Their futures might have been delayed by the Coronavirus – one of the few calamities that in all fairness can’t be laid at Zuma’s doorstep – but they’ve definitely been derailed by his legacy. 

Less of them managed the hurdle of their national senior certificate than previous years, even given the perilously low bar, though more have qualified to apply for university admission. Amazingly, none of the Class of 2020 have ever known life without the spectre of the Arms Deal and Zuma’s starring role. Judge Willem Heath started his investigations in October 2000. 

It seems like ancient history now. Even the amount of money Shaik was alleged to have corrupted Zuma with is quite quaint: R1.2-million wouldn’t even buy a decent flat in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs these days. It’s a drop in the ocean compared to what would follow. The Zondo Commission into the decade of kleptocracy under Zuma’s presidency itself has already cost more than R700-million. Some analysts estimate though that state capture itself cost us a third of our GDP – R1,5-trillion. 

This week the latest unemployment figures were released. Close to half of this country are now either unemployed or have given up looking for work. That’s the actual price we are all going to have to pay – especially those of the Class of 2020 who don’t get to study further.

This week the increasingly vocally incontinent Carl Niehaus asked if the Zondo Commission had lost its mind by daring to ask that Zuma be jailed. It might have been easier for us all to endure, if we had all lost our minds.

Maybe we still will.

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 27 February 2021.