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Opinions of Friday, 23 February 2018

Columnist: Africanus Owusu-Ansah

Weep not Africa. No tears for Zuma

“Ex Africa semper a liquid novi”

(Always something new out of Africa)

Pliny, the Elder

Historia Naturalis Bk 8 Sect 42

AKENTEN APPIAH-MENKA has died peacefully at home, and the ‘one-week’ celebration was held on Tuesday, 20th February. He was 84. In his autobiography, ‘The River in the Sea’, he discribed himself as “The village boy, lawyer, politician and entrepreneur” In Chapter One of his book headed ‘Believe it or Not’, he had intimated; “Nobody knows my name. Not even me. Neither does anybody know my date of birth.

I never had anything easy.The only thing I had on a silver platter, was to have been born as a fatherless African child on one Wednesday by the illiterate Eno. Eno Akosua Boursonu, my mother, had been a ‘five year bonded slave girl’ and widowed twice in succession in the Ashanti village of Aboabogya, a typical African rural community haunted and engulfed in devastating superstitious beliefs, practices and gossips of the age.

Hence she gave me her emotionally heart dictated name ‘Kwaku Menkamasem’, ‘Kwaku’ means a Wednesday male born and ‘Menkamasem’ means ‘Nobody knows the trouble I have seen’…. At the age of 16 years, I personally composed and assumed the name ‘Akenten Appiah-Menka’ That was in January 1950 at Zion College, Anloga in the Volta Region of Ghana”.

More stories will be told about Appiah Menka when the body comes home and lies -in-state at an appointed place, and obituries are read. Meanwhile, I never heard anyone even whisper or whimper a single misdemeanour about the man. Paulina, a daughter-in-law cries out:’” Whom shall I go to, for support?”

Not so, Jacob Zuma. He is still alive. He confessed before pupils at Marhulana Primary school: “I never went to school but I educated myself… I took a decision to educate myself when I realised I didn’t have a choice, because my father had just died”.

If there is anything to remember Jacob Misholozi Zuma by, it is that of corruption and mismanagement. He joined the African National Congress in 1959, and became active in the affairs of Umkhonto we Sizwe; he later joined the South African Communist Party and got sentenced to 10 years imprisonment at Robben Island together with Nelson Mandela in 1963.

On his release, he took part in major political struggles that included the Soweto uprising. After sojourning in Mozambique and Zambia, he returned to South Africa in February, 1990. In the general election of 1994, Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa with Thabo Mbeki as his deputy, while Zuma became a member of the Executive Committee.

When Thabo became Presiddent, Zuma became his deputy, but got sacked in 2005. In 2009, Zuma became President of South Africa. The ordinary man in South Africa must have over-blown the joy- here was a grassroots man who knew their problems and would, therefore, do everything to improve their lot.

After scraping through the rape charge, he defended his having had sex with an HIV positive lady on the grounds of having had a shower after the sex act, to ‘wash away’ the likely infection,

In his acceptance speech as President in May 2009, he had stated; “We must hold ourselves to the highest standards of service, probity and integrity… For as long as South Africans die from preventable disease… struggle to feed their families…women subjected to discrimination, exploitation or abuse… children go without education.. are unable to find work, we shall not rest.” Re-assuring words in the mould of Nelson Mandela, you would say.

Then, he re-built his Nkandla homestead using public funds-in the Kwa Zulu township of Natal-fitted with a helipad, underground bunkers, security fixtures, a fire-pool, a chicken-run, a private military hospital and a large parking lot. $65 million of tax-payer’s money was used.

Then the Gupta family bought the luxurious Dubai Palace for him at L35 on Lailak Street in Emirates Hill-10 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, nine reception rooms, and a space for almost 20 cars all in marble, mosaic and gold.

Unlike Robert Mugabe’s resignation which was marked by jubilation in Harare, the South African citizens who were unemployed, broke and hopeless, took Zuma’s “I have come to a decision to resign with immediate effect” with equananimity. They were just tired of Zuma’s scandal-ridden leadership. He who could not read easily ” In the beginning…” would go home fabulously rich after holding office as President of the ‘Rainbow Country’ for nearly ten years. The hopes and dreams of South Africans were shattered.

When Ngugi was Thiong wrote ‘Weep Not Child’, he made Njoroge the hero. In Ngotho (the father’s) family, Njoroge was the only one who had school education. The Mau-Mau were very active, fighting to get their ancestral land back. Then Jacobo, the pro-system African, got murdered, and Ngotho and Njoroge were held liable: Njoroge’s education was cut short, and in his desperation, he sought to commit suicide…

His mother spoke him out of it-‘weep not child’. The sysmbolism may not be the same in the case of Zuma, but mothers have that motherly feeling for their children, and the mothers of Nkandla may admonish their child not to weep.

But Julius Malema, the Economic Freedom Fighter MP is not relentless in his bashing of Jacob Zuma: “It was under Jacob Zuma that all strategic state-owned companies were auctioned off to a criminal syndicate network led by the Guptas which laundered billions of rands out of South Africa, and caused massive debts.

It should be highlighted that Jacob Zuma did not resign because of his political consciousness and conviction. He resigned because he knew that if he did not do so, he was going to be humiliated and embarrased by the EFF-led ‘motion of no confidence’ which was guaranteed 99% success in the National Assembly”

If there was any semblance of similarity in Zuma’s case in comtemporary literature in English in Ghana, we may pick ‘No tears for Ananse,’ and substitute the wily and cunning Ananse with the avaricious and insatiate Jacob Zuma.

Let Cyril Ramaphosa take note, and remember that whatever steps he takes, he himself will be writing his own obituary. When he dies what history will he leave behind? Of course, he is remembered for popularising condom-use by introducing ‘Max’ condom into the Assembly: “The max condom is for maximum pleasure, maximum protection… if you want a grape flavour, you can get (it)”, Cyril, stick to your promise: “We are all called upon and enjoined to heal the divisions and the pain of the past, And this a collective task. It is not a task of the ANC alone, it our task as a nation. It belongs to all of us,”