Monday, April 7, 2014

Here Comes Jacob Boo Boo

My post which appeared on News24, 01 April 2014
News24: Here Comes Jacob Boo Boo

Remember when President Jacob Zuma was booed at the memorial service of Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium in December of 2013?

My initial reaction was that this was highly disrespectful to the occasion, being Madiba’s memorial service, and also highly disrespectful to the legacy which Nelson Mandela was leaving behind. While the world watched in awe as we paid tribute to the life and achievements of one of its finest sons and statesmen, it also witnessed the culmination of sheer frustration being expressed by many at the stadium toward President Jacob Zuma and his ruling party, the ANC.

Debates raged on for weeks regarding the booing, and the ANC came out all guns blazing as they criticized the boo-ers.
While many may have agreed with the act of boo-ing, we also felt it was neither the time nor the place to show dissatisfaction at the president.

Fast-forward barely three months later and President Jacob Zuma gets booed once again as he walks onto the pitch at FNB Stadium for the post-match ceremony after Bafana Bafana played Brazil in an international friendly. This time it was Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula who came out in Zuma’s defence, even calling the boo-ers “hooligans and cowards who’s plans are infused in Satanism at best”.

All this boo-ing of our President and subsequent criticism from the ANC of those doing the boo-ing got me thinking about this act of disgruntlement. How frustrated and disappointed must the people be to get to the point of actively boo-ing their President in public? How negative must public perception be that the nation would vent its anger every chance they got at the country’s leader? If people feel that they have the right to vent their frustrations in this manner, what would have set the precedent for this kind of dissent? If the ANC are so critical of this act, surely it’s political origin could not have come from within its ranks? Why would they demonize and criticize an act if the party had previously condoned it on previous occasions? Had they condoned it on previous occasions?

Then I remembered the infamous Women’s Day rally in Utrecht, KwaZulu-Natal,  in August of 2005 where then Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was publicly boo-ed by none other than Jacob Zuma supporters. This after Jacob Zuma had been relieved of his position as Deputy President to face charges of corruption. I don’t recall the ANC being highly critical of Zuma’s supporters boo-ing Mlambo-Ngcuka, their Deputy President back then. The SABC was even taken to task for not having reported this incident.  The public broadcaster blamed the lack of footage on a freelance cameraman who arrived late. No surprises there.
In May of 2009, ex-President Thabo Mbeki was boo-ed as his arrival was announced at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Once again, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was not spared the wrath of sections of the crowd.

This form of venting dissatisfaction and frustration has been around for hundreds of years, and with the rise of social media networks it simply means that the public has quicker access to and immediate commentary on such acts as and when it happens. Twitter exploded instantaneously with news on each occasion of Jacob Zuma’s boo-ings at FNB Stadium .

So I find it rather disingenuous of the ruling party to tell us that showing dissent and exercising our freedom of speech by boo-ing that which we don’t agree with as satanic, cowardly and disrespectful. Where were these chastising voices when the people being boo-ed were out of favor with the leadership? I don’t recall Cyril Ramaphosa or Fikile Mbalula lambasting those members of the ANC boo-ing  Mbeki or Mlambo-Ngcuka and others? I don’t recall the people doing the boo-ing then, being referred to as ‘hooligans’.

If the ANC accepts that this act of boo-ing is par for the course when other political parties are on the receiving end, then they must accept when it happens to members of it’s own party too. If they condone the boo-ing of Helen Zille and Patricia De Lille, then they should accept the same treatment for President Jacob Zuma. I don’t accept the argument that he should be exempt from being boo-ed simply because he is the president. By that logic he is also the person who presides over his members and allows them to boo members of parliament unchecked. For goodness sake the MP’s themselves boo each other in the house. Just ask Terror Lekota, who by now must think his middle name is ‘Boo’!

I’m neither pro-Zuma nor pro-Mbeki, but I do believe that the ANC needs to stop treating the youth, the public at large, and anybody showing dissatisfaction with their leadership, as kids at a kindergarten. You reap what you sow. You cannot change the rules when the game is going against you.
I suspect that in the run-up to the elections, we are going to have a lot more boo-ing by a lot more disgruntled citizens. It’s become a fragment of our political quilt, much like toyi-toying, and parties need to accept that the people will be heard, one way or another.