On December 7 the Mail & Guardian published a long-supressed forensic report by auditing firm KPMG that lays out, in staggering detail, President Jacob Zuma`s financial incontinence and names arms companies, banks and business people who were his willing enablers.
On December 18, 2983 delegates at the ANC`s Mangaung elective conference voted for him to stay on as president of the party – a 75% majority over Kgalema Motlanthe that powerfully consolidated his relatively narrow Polokwane victory.
It has been that kind of year for Zuma. Scandal, drift and failure at every turn, offset by an increasingly determined grip on the most important levers of power: the ANC and the alliance, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), intelligence services, public broadcaster and parastatals.
Clobbered in the Supreme Court of Appeal for appointing the gravely compromised Menzi Simelane as chief prosecutor, Zuma left the NPA in the hands of the even more problematic Nongcobo Jiba. She, in turn, presided over dropping corruption charges against presidential allies in the sprawling “amigos” case involving allegations of systematic tender rigging in the purchase of medical equipment.
The NPA also played a critical role in frustrating another Supreme Court of Appeal judgment: the one that appeared to order that the “spy tapes” – which Zuma had dubiously managed to get himself off the hook for in 2009 – be handed over to the Democratic Alliance.
Similarly, the sidelining of Richard Mdluli in the police`s crime intelligence division has barely slowed the creation of a new praetorian guard out of a unit that should be focused on organised crime.
And at the SABC evidence of a broadcast agenda designed to shield the president from criticism is now overwhelming. It is coupled with a regulatory agenda – from print media regulation to the Protection of State Information Bill – designed to limit the ability of the raucous private media and activist groups to expose malfeasance.
All this represents a sustained assault on critical institutions of democracy in the interest of one man and those around him in the ANC and government – whose response to declining popular legitimacy is increased authoritarianism.
So much for the things Zuma has done.
His real métier is inaction.
In some instances, this is a good thing. A refusal to choose between the competing visions of his economics departments creates damaging uncertainty, but the basic fiscal framework has been left alone, as has the Reserve Bank under the formidable Gill Marcus. It has helped South Africa to muddle along in the 2% growth band through brutal global conditions. It is far too slow, but given some of the pressures in the alliance, it could be much worse.
Of course, if the minerals sector (to pick the most obvious example) was not badly regulated, prone to corruption and beset by fears of nationalisation – all of which Zuma has consistently refused to soothe – it could be much better.
Zuma has also been unwilling, or unable, to articulate a response to the Limpopo textbook crisis and, more damagingly, to the killing of 34 miners by the police in Marikana.
The violence in the platinum belt, and later across the mining sector, demanded leadership. By taking a stance Zuma could have addressed the extraordinary breakdown of basic social and political arrangements that have contained South Africa`s yawning divisions over the past 18 years.
Of course, a commission of inquiry was necessary, but to refuse to answer in any way to the rage, bewilderment and sadness sparked by Marikana is perhaps Zuma`s most telling failure.
The “pro-poor” man from Nkandla has presided over the widening of our Gini co-efficient to a world record of 0.7 and faith in the democratic deal is fraying badly.
Nothing exemplifies his blindness to the problem as much as the appalling R250-million spread he has built in Nkandla – mostly with taxpayers` funds, the rest with a pot of mystery cash – in one of the poorest parts of the country. Look out of the window this Christmas, Mr President -you are about to see a rebuke.