In his final Sona as ANC president, he will paint a favourable picture of his legacy, and of the road ahead.
“Fake news” is a new catchphrase for an old phenomenon: the distortion of truth for propaganda purposes. In a word, lies.
Here’s the truth, Zuma is a wrecking ball, inflicting harm on the economy, damaging the country’s image abroad and dividing his party.
When he was elected ANC president in 2007, Zuma had a reputation as a unifier. Yet under his leadership, the party has seen two big breakaways by disaffected members: the formation of the Congress of the People in 2008, and Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters in 2013.
The ANC, which now limps towards December’s elective conference, is far weaker than the behemoth he inherited 10 years ago. His leadership has spawned conflict in the party’s national executive committee. The MK Military Veterans’ Association is at war with itself.
The ANC Women’s League openly deifies party strictures against early endorsement of presidential candidates, while the ANC Youth League is split over the succession race.
The party is in a mess, and riddled with factionalism, because of Zuma. As General Siphiwe Nyanda said on eNCA this week, “the ANC is in serious trouble, in crisis, in dire straits”.
Under Zuma, unemployment has reached a 13-year high of 36.3% on the expanded definition that includes discouraged work seekers. Economic growth remains below 1%, not nearly enough to absorb the hundreds of thousands of jobseekers churned out each year by a dysfunctional education system.
Much of corporate South Africa is on an “investment strike” – apprehensive about investing further in a climate of political and economic uncertainty, where labour laws and prescriptive “charters” are unfriendly to business.
Corruption, nepotism and cronyism are regularly exposed in courts and the media. And often the trail leads to the Saxonwold-Nkandla axis. So what can you expect from Thursday night’s Sona? The usual Zuma spin, with a more desperate tone. As the legal and regulatory pressures mount against the Zuptas, it is safe to predict the following:
Economic hardships will be blamed on the the 2008 global slump, lack of transformation, and “white monopoly capital”.
A tried-and-failed recipe based on the “national democratic revolution” will be recycled. Stand by for empty rhetoric about land reform, “radical socioeconomic transformation” and “reigniting economic growth”, with the purported aim of fighting poverty and creating jobs.
In fact, Zuma’s legacy will include worsening poverty and massive job-shedding.
One difference is that this time there will be a more obvious attack on the banking system, which has closed its doors to the Guptas. Even the Bank of China doesn’t want their business. Zuptas and their paid-Twitter army can’t blame “white monopoly capital” for this snub.
Smarting after his attempt to grab the keys to the Treasury was thwarted in December 2015, Zuma still has his eyes on that grand prize.
Watch for clues in Sona. So now you know.