If you have liked the presidency of Jacob Zuma so far, you will love the possible future rule of his former wife, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
And while our Department of International Relations and Co-operation has been mute on the use by the Syrian government of poison gas on its own people, it has found the time and resources to provide Dr Zuma with the full blue light siren brigade on the basis that she is a “president”.
Not to be outdone in seeking her favour, the SA Police Service – despite conflicting versions of the event – used an alleged robbery in Houghton as an excuse to continue the state-funded protection to Zuma who holds no office of state.
Readers of this column, unless they have lived in a cave for the past eight years, will be more than aware of the road to national ruin charted by Dr Zuma’s former husband, Jacob.
But he, it is fair to record, never really had a governing philosophy to speak of. He gave few clues before his presidential ascent about what he would actually do when he entered the Union Buildings. Not being the aloof and imperious Thabo Mbeki seemed enough for the party faithful.
He did promise, however, to continue the economic and fiscal policies of his predecessors Nelson Mandela and Mbeki. He offered vague bromides on how he would go “with the majority of the ANC” and stick to its stated policies. But that was, of course, a lifetime ago.
More recently, in December 2012, when Zuma was re-elected ANC president, he tied his term of office to the National Development Plan (NDP) which parliament, a few months before, had unanimously adopted as the country’s road map into the future, at least until 2030.
Entirely absent in both the document and the party conference at Mangaung was any reference to “radical economic transformation” and an acceptance of property rights enshrined in our constitution.
And for the first seven years of his presidency, until December 2015, he more or less allowed technocrats to run the Treasury and understood that those “amorphous markets” – Trevor Manuel’s words – quite easily pulled their money from risky places – money much needed to fund both our rising import bills and generous public servants’ wage increases.
But when Zuma’s own debts to whoever came due and he pulled the pillars down over the Treasury temple and over the head of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, those same markets forced him into an embarrassing U-turn.
Quite what gun is pointed at Zuma’s head, and which gunman holds it in the current crisis caused by his firing of Pravin Gordhan, is not yet known. And what the blowback will be on Zuma and his former wife remains in the realm of speculation.
Now Zuma has ditched both the NDP, the property rights clause and sensible economics in a last-ditch attempt to hold onto office and determine his own successor.
Last week, on her first unofficial outing on the campaign trail for ANC president, we got a first-hand view of what an Nkosazana presidency will look like. And it is not at all reassuring.
Speaking at an ANC cadres’ forum last week in Zamdela in the Free State, and minus the charm of Jacob Zuma, the good doctor provided her prescription for the country’s current ills.
First off, she declared the need to double down on the economic recklessness pursued in recent times by Zuma. She rather mystifyingly was reported as saying: “If we don’t control the finance ministry, we don’t control the economy.”
Actually, the bond markets, the stock exchange and the volatile foreign exchange markets have a great deal to do with our economic trajectory and solvency and not even the control-happy ANC dominates those.
There is, of course, the Zimbabwe option and while foreign affairs minister in the early 2000s Dr Zuma did much to cement Robert Mugabe’s hold on power there. She might then have missed that the total control Mugabe has achieved meant, according to a weekend report, that commercial banks there will soon be compelled to accept “cattle, goats and sheep as collateral for cash loans”.
Still a way to go down that road.
Dr Zuma’s remark is strange because, ever since 1996, so for more than two decades now, an ANC MP has served as finance minister, and most of them, from Trevor Manuel to Pravin Gordhan, have delivered for the people, the revenue service, the markets and the country – precisely what good stewards of the fiscus are meant to deliver. Yet, according to Dr Zuma, you would be forgiven for thinking the Treasury has been under hostile, or even opposition, control these past 20-plus years.
In the same speech, Dr Zuma went far beyond her former husband, at least in the area of education. For all the damage of the Zuma presidency, he at least has had the good sense to more or less leave the private education sector alone. It is perfectly true that he has refused to reform public sector education by allowing for teacher competency tests and the like, which offend his staunch ally in the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu).
But the president allows that education is the ticket to future advancement. Hence the exit by those who can afford it to former model C and private schools.
But Dr Zuma went after the Model C schools and rubbished my alma mater, the University of the Witwatersrand, into the bargain. Both were accused by Madam Would-be President of “feeding pupils and students anti-ANC information including that the party is corrupt”.
Perhaps, during her long stint in Addis Ababa heading the African Union, Dr Zuma missed the public protector’s report on state capture. Or the auditor-general’s annual reports, which state that about R30-billion of government money is misappropriated.
It is unclear whether the tens of thousands of people who massed at the Union Buildings last Wednesday demanding an end to a presidency they deem both captured and corrupt, were all acting from the false diet of lies fed to each of them by model C schools or Wits University.
It is true Dr Zuma has medical degrees earned by hard work and merit. But she also apparently has an honours degree in hypocrisy. Just ask her where her own children were educated or where Jacob Zuma’s other children still at school are placed.
It assuredly is in either the private or former Model C schools, precisely because both Zumas know that is where, if you can afford it, good education and results are obtained.
Critical thinking is the main objective of any decent and effective educational system.
Last week we got a glimpse of what Nkosazana Zuma wants for the country. Party control over everything and the suppression of inconvenient truths.
Hardly the remedy for a winning country driven by empowered citizens. But, at least, this time, you have had advance warning.
• Leon, a former leader of the opposition, now chairs Resolve Communications and is a senior adviser to K2 Intelligence of London. @TonyLeonSA.