Our brother, Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, is in the news. More precisely, he’s in the eye of a monstrous storm. Brother Jacob Zuma loves himself a new toy! And his people in South Africa will have none of it! They are furious. And they want brother Zuma’s head on a tray like the head of John the Baptist.
Brother Zuma wants a plane. A brand new presidential jet! Some reports say it will be the second presidential jet if he is allowed to purchase it. South Africans don’t understand why the man needs a second presidential jet in these lean times. Adjectives and expletives like “wasteful”, “insensitive”, “ostentatious”, “callous”, “drunken sailor”, “spendthrift” have been flying around all over South African airspace.
Wherever there is a mud fight going on in Africa, you can always rely on the BBC to add petrol to the fire. So, the BBC has further incensed South Africans by supplying some details of brother Zuma’s desire. It turns out that brother Zuma is not just looking for a new plane. He’s looking for a cool plane. From the BBC’s description of the toy, it looks like brother Zuma wants it to pass through Xzibit’s Pimp My Ride before delivery in Pretoria. Says BBC:
“But the advert for suppliers specifies they are looking for a plane with a range of 13,800km (8,600 miles), meaning it can fly to Moscow or New York without landing to refuel. The tender notice also says the plane should have 30 passenger seats - double the number of the president's current plane.”
That is not all. Brother Zuma also wants the plane “fitted with a private bedroom suite‚ a bathroom and conference room for eight and 30-person capacity.” In order words, brother Zuma wants Africa’s first mini-Airforce One. Price Tag? Not much. Just four billion rands. That is two hundred and eighty million US dollars!
There is confusion in South Africa in terms of what precisely they want brother Zuma to do. Some say he should buy a less expensive and less luxurious plane. They are recommending something less chic than the second or third private jet of an average Nigerian prosperity Pentecostal pastor for the President of South Africa. Some say it is the timing. The timing is bad. Some wonder why he needs a second jet when the old one is still working just fine – only needing mechanical maintenance once in a while. Some wonder why he wants a plane that can fly for 13,000 miles without refueling. They say: the father of the nation, Madiba Nelson Mandela, did not mind refuelling stops when he used the old presidential jet.
It is the argument of this last group of South Africans that I find most insensitive, most unfair to brother Zuma. Madiba Nelson Mandela could afford endless delays and refuelling stopovers in Europe because he had only one wife putting pressure on him to hurry back home to her whenever he was away. With six wives at home, brother Zuma has shown himself capable of still playing “away matches”. When you have six wives and a handful of away matches in Pretoria and Johannesburg jointly screaming at you on the phone to hurry back home every time you are on Presidential trips abroad, it stands to reason that you cannot afford to fly on the cheap like Nelson Mandela. On this score alone, brother Zuma has even been very considerate. In his shoes, I would have commissioned the revival of Concorde and have one specially pimped up for me.
The South Africans blaming brother Zuma also have no clue about how to restore national pride. South Africa’s national pride suffered a terrible blow when Nigeria rebased her economy and declared herself Africa’s largest economy. Every South African behaved like they had just lost a close family member. It was like a national funeral. You mean that every Nigerian is not just a thief and drug pusher ruining the paradise that is South Africa from Johannesburg to Cape Town, these African foreigners are now claiming to come from Africa’s largest economy? What a joke! And they sought consolation in calling themselves Africa’s “most sophisticated economy”.
Now, part of what it takes to be Africa’s largest economy is that despite gruelling poverty stuck on your black African ass like the beard of a Taliban Mollah stuck on his chin, you must maintain a Presidential fleet of eleven jumbo jets. You don’t just go about claiming to be first in Africa without the planes to show for it. In fact, during Nigeria’s last Presidential campaign, President Buhari condemned the former President Jonathan for keeping a harem of eleven presidential jets. He said it was unconscionable and irresponsible for a country like Nigeria to maintain such a huge presidential fleet.
After he won the election and was sworn in, President Buhari has since understood that eleven presidential jets are crucial to the identity of Nigeria as the giant of Africa and Africa’s largest economy. So, he has wisely, quietly, courageously, and stoically ignored all calls and pleas and entreaties to fulfil his campaign promise and reduce the presidential fleet. He has discovered the sweetness of the fleet and how easy it is to blame your predecessor when you are not tasting what he is tasting.
Now, the enemy in West Africa – who is even trying to cripple MTN for sharp business practices and breaking the law – has eleven presidential jets and you are blaming brother Zuma for wanting a paltry second jet? How else is he going to restore South Africa’s national pride? If he cannot maintain parity of presidential jets with Nigeria, the least he can do is buy just one jet worth the combined price of Nigeria’s eleven jets.
It took Nigeria more than 50 years of self-inflicted postcolonial injuries to reach economic ruin, poverty, and 17th century infrastructure. Do South Africans honestly expect their country to spend the same number of years on the same journey to the same familiar destination as an African basket case? President Zuma is a man with foresight. He understands that this is the 21st century and an African country heading for poverty, infrastructural collapse, and social destitution must hurry up. His new jet only means that the hike in school fees which recently caused strikes that paralysed the country would return very soon to the agenda. It only means that he will be able to educate less black South Africans and lift them out of the ghetto. It only means that he will have less resources to address the problem of electricity cuts affecting his country. And he will have less funds to address severe economic problems and crumbling infrastructure.
But South Africa would have gained a brand new jet worth the combined value of Nigeria’s eleven jets and restored her national pride.
As for the ensuing economic difficulties and problems of poverty, well, those can always be blamed on South Africa’s default punching bags: African foreigners and the makwerekwere.