Should Zuma serve time in prison?

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Michael Zuma, Jacob Zuma’s younger brother, is an honest man. Go around the world and you will find few like him.

He has told South Africa what presidential spin doctors are paid to hide – that our dodgy president is very worried about the prospect of going to jail.

“We are afraid he could go back to jail,” honest Michael told the Sunday Times.

It is said that poor Michael cried as he told how Zuma’s wives often approach him for advice, haunted by the imagination of their husband in a prison cell.

You can imagine the storm in Michael’s head: What would I do with so many wives? What would they eat?

Where would poor Michael get money to maintain so many rondavels in Nkandla?

Michael said his brother has changed: “This is not the brother I know. The brother I have always known is the one that cracks jokes, a brother who loves women.”

Michael is not hallucinating, Jackie Selebi ended up wearing the orange uniform in jail, powerful as he once was.

Even kings go to jail. Where is King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo?

That Zuma will finally have his day in court is now more than clear. And if the courts were to rely on the evidence that led to Schabir Shaik’s conviction, it looks obvious that Zuma could face at least 15 years in prison.

Michael is right to be concerned.

Political circumstances have changed dramatically since the days of political tsunamis outside courts.

Zuma has isolated so many of his erstwhile friends that he will have to rely on his family to mobilise a few gullible souls to go and hoist a placard when he faces a judge in court.

Maybe his son Edward will be the mobiliser-in-chief, certainly not his nephew Khulubuse.

Zwelinzima Vavi, that former tsunami man, has long crossed the floor.

Julius Malema, the ready-to-kill for Zuma champion, cannot wait to see his estranged friend behind bars.

Were it not for pure hunger, Blade Nzimande would have long left Zuma’s cabinet.

Who is left to defend Zuma?

The so-called premier league are chance takers who have little political heft to rally crowds behind a broken man.

In addition to their reputation of being corrupt, the premier league have been left exposed by the relocation of their sponsors to Dubai – the Guptas.

The only people Zuma can bank on are the few who belong to the faction that wants to use his name to blackmail his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, into believing they are her kingmakers.

Of course, Zuma would be excited to have Nkosazana as a successor. Nkosazana would be embarrassed to accompany her children to go and visit their father in jail.

She would try hard to save her former husband.

All of this aside, the real question for our society is: Should Zuma go to jail or not?

Leaders lead by example. If they are honest, ordinary members of society emulate them.

When leaders are corrupt, ordinary folk ask: If our leaders are eating, why must we not eat?

When Zuma apologised, following the finding of the Constitutional Court that he violated our constitution, criminals wondered why they still go to jail, if an apology is enough to shield a man from consequences.

Let us assume that Zuma would be found guilty of one of the 783 charges, which the high court has now declared valid, would it be enough for him to say, “I apologise for the confusion caused by my conduct”?

Those who would accept such an apology must call for the demolition of all prisons in SA, and apologise to all criminals who have spent years in jail when an apology should have sufficed.

If the demolition of prisons is not an idea Zuma’s sympathisers are bold enough to advance, the only option left would be for them to propose an amendment to the constitution, inserting a new Orwellian clause: “All are equal before the law. But presidents are more equal than you and I.”

The demolition of prisons would be a very expensive thing to do, but the amendment to the constitution would have serious consequences for our political system.

Clever criminals would take advantage of the new provision.

Those who are moved by Michael’s tears, and who are troubled by what would happen to Zuma’s many wives, must tell us: Do they want to live in a society where criminals buy their way to the top in order to gain immunity from prosecution?

In the end, it is not about the honesty of a ruralitarian’s tears, it is about the kind of society we would like our children to live in.

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