One thing is clear about Jacob Zuma: to mangle Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, our president will not go gently into that long night of retirement … or prison. Again, to quote Thomas, it appears as if Zuma is determined to “rage, rage against the dying of the light”.
Zuma is clinging to his position with his fingertips, trying to get the best deal he possibly can out of new ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma is facing a possibly bleak future, considering that the legal process – which he tried to stall and which Ramaphosa has recently kick-started again – is already under way.
He will, undoubtedly, be dragged into multiple cases related to state capture. The only way Zuma can avoid standing trial on those charges – and on the 783 counts already on the charge sheet against him – is if Ramaphosa takes over as president and gives him an official pardon.
Because, no matter what Ramaphosa and the ANC promise Zuma to rid themselves of him, neither of them has the power, in the legal context, to grant Zuma immunity from prosecution.
Moreover, it would be political suicide for Ramaphosa – who has campaigned strongly at home and abroad on an anti-corruption platform – to even consider such a step.
It would seem to be a simple open-and-shut case then for Ramaphosa and the ANC leadership, so we wonder what else is at play here.
It is true that Zuma still has considerable support, particularly in his rural heartland in KwaZulu-Natal and also in the Free State (ruled by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule). It is also true that if Zuma is forced out, his supporters in the ANC will be angry.
Yet, we believe none of those real issues constitutes a reason for Ramaphosa to continue to vacillate as he has done the past few days.