Time to recalculate Zuma’s electoral liability

The job of President Jacob Zuma’s spin doctors has become more difficult after he was booed by large sections of the crowd at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday.

The booing was not confined to the FNB Stadium but was also reported from other venues. We have some sympathy with the view that a dignified memorial service is not the right place for booing.

However, that must be weighed against the argument that what the world witnessed was democracy in action.

Mandela was, after all, a firm believer in free expression. Various media interviews suggest that those who booed, or left the stadium early, or ignored Zuma’s poorly delivered speech, were motivated by general dissatisfaction centred around Nkandla and e-tolls.

Thousands were wearing ANC shirts, so it is wrong to blame Julius Malema’s EFF or other political parties.

Less than a year after Zuma emerged triumphant from the ANC’s national conference at Mangaung, he looks like a liability. Since Mangaung we have repeatedly heard how Zuma will be the face of the party in next year’s elections. Now those polls are about four months away and he could cost the party an unknown number of votes.

No one can be sure whether the disaffected will vote for other parties or simply stay away. Party bosses must recalculate whether it’s too late to put forward a different presidential candidate or whether spin doctors must simply do the best with what they have.

Spokesman Jackson Mthembu says those who booed did the country a disservice. No, those who gave us a deeply flawed Jacob Zuma have done South Africa a greater disservice.

The more they defend the indefensible, the more they distort a value system inherited from Madiba.

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