Zuma is playing a game called South Africa, in which the rules must often change to suit him and the adults won't address his cheating.
When you were a young kid playing games with your family, they didn’t always enforce the rules strictly, because it was more important for your growth to have fun and enjoy and explore.
Welcome to South Africa, the game in which the former president is the cute, adorable child that the adults can’t stop smiling at, while allowing him to stay in a hotel on Eloff Street and forgetting to charge rent.
Ahhh yes, South Africa…
The great game where you can have an annual commemoration of a 61-year-old massacre that cost the lives of 69 people, all the while ignoring the daily death rate which is uncomfortably close to that very number, or the number of sexual assaults daily which are double that.
And if anyone dares make a comment alluding to this, you get scolded because “how dare you” and “we are perfectly capable of commemorating those who died in the massacre and dealing with our current issues”.
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To be successful in South Africa you need two skills; abstract word usage and misdirection. Kids are very good at that because their logical capabilities are not fully formed and stress tested, so when you ask why they didn’t clean their room, you could receive the answer “because there was a noise in the kitchen”.
But you know you don’t want to fight. You know you don’t want to try argue. You know you’re not going to change their mind, so you think “cute” smile and move on.
Now, however, the room is still untidy and the kid is armed with a new rationale that is nonsensical, but has just proven to be effective. Best believe you’ll be hearing that line again next time.
Enter the champion of South Africa, Jacob Zuma.
Wow, this dude is good! But not just in his own right though.
He’s watched a few Mamelodi Sundowns games and realised that, yeah, Shalulile and Zwane are great but they’re made better by the team around them. So Zuma invites his chums Ace and Carl to come play and as a team they clean up better than they could have done individually.
The benefit uBaba has is not only was he able to make up the rules of the game, but when the rules no longer suit him, he can take a step back and make a meta-argument about why the rules are wrong. And again, we’re just too tired to tell him otherwise.
So, we go along with it until, perhaps, he has changed the rules to such an extent that when others come to play South Africa in his house, they play by his house rules and not those that came in the box. And if they argue, he can just tell them that the rules in the box are from a different and outdated time.
Trust that in the back of their mind, they’ll be asking themselves whether that makes his rules any more legitimate, but they’ll probably be too shy to actually ask, after all, they’re in his house.
But if he brings the game to your house, do you play by the rules in the box? Nah. You’re already used to playing by his house rules, so his house rules are now your house rules and now you have a single set of rules, even if they make no sense and were made to benefit the person who made them. After all, weren’t the original rules made to benefit somebody anyway?
But some players are firm. They want to play properly and to engage on why the rules are important. They want to discuss the effect of the rules and the changes and effects therein. They want to have a discussion on why the rules in the box have been deviated from and whether the new rules are effective.
Unfortunately, when a fight breaks out over this, no rules can stop the players from removing themselves from the game and throwing the board across the floor in anger and desperation.
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All that can be done is for the adults to step in and send the child to their room, which they’ve constantly excused themselves from cleaning.
Now the only question is, is there an actual adult in the house?
Richard Anthony Chemaly, entertainment attorney, radio broadcaster and lecturer in communication ethics.
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