Rift Between Zuma, Ngcuka Upsets Their KwaZulu-Natal Supporters
Those who cut their political teeth in the kingdom in the 1980s should be utterly dismayed at the turn of events in the saga between Bulelani Ngcuka, head of the national prosecuting authority, and Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
Both have strong links with KwaZuluNatal. Zuma is from a poor rural community in Nkandla, where his controversial building project being investigated by Ngcuka is located. It is alleged payments for the project can be traced back to a French company which benefited from the arms deal.
Ngcuka was based in Durban in the 1980s and worked for Griffiths Mxenge, a prominent human rights lawyer brutally murdered by apartheid assassins despatched from Pretoria by security branch officers.
Mxenge's wife, Victoria, also a lawyer, was later killed in Durban.
Ngcuka's ties with the province are further cemented by his marriage to Phumzile MlamboNgcuka, the mineral and energy affairs minister. She comes from Clermont in Durban, a small, fairly well-off community where, even under apartheid, blacks owned land.
Past and present prominent citizens of Clermont include Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, KwaZulu-Natal Judge-President Vuka Tshabalala, late United Democratic Front president Archie Gumede and prominent businessman Diliza Mji.
Therefore, as proud elders would rightly say in this part of the world, Ngcuka is very much one of their own as umkhwenyana wentombazane (the husband of our daughter).
Many remember a young Mlambo-Ngcuka attending the political trial of lawyer Patrick Maqubela, against whom Ngcuka would not testify, ending up in prison for it.
Those were difficult days for political activists. As evidence at the truth commission hearings confirmed, the security branch was brutal against political activists. Those who defied their coercion to co-operate were regarded as true heroes of the struggle for liberation.
Counted among those are people who chose to go to prison rather than betray their comrades and the struggle. Their defiance as they shouted Amandla after they had been sentenced to lengthy terms of imprisonment inspired many to do their bit for the liberation of the country.
Of course, among those who defied the might of the apartheid machinery in KwaZulu-Natal are Zuma and Ngcuka.
I suppose many ordinary men and women in the province are proud of the achievements of these men.
Certainly, people in Clermont or Nkandla would not want to have to decide who is right or wrong between Ngcuka and Zuma.
The intricacies of prima facie considerations do not consume much of Clermont residents' daily routine, and they probably would not want that to change. They would, however, understand that if Zuma were guilty of an offence, he would have to be jailed, like any one of them.
However, as we all know, in the world of politics things are not always that simple. The investigation into Zuma's affairs is now well and truly a political matter which necessarily will have a political, rather than a legal or moral, conclusion.
Legally and constitutionally, Ngcuka did the correct thing to investigate his political senior if he had grounds to believe he had contravened the law. He was on firm ground.
Once, though, the investigation, correctly or incorrectly, was placed in the political domain, Ngcuka was at a disadvantage. If anyone doubted that, the singing in support of Zuma at the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) congress in Midrand last week would have demonstrated which way the support of the masses is swaying.
Virtually every week Zuma is at some public gathering addressing people. They love him in remote parts of the country because he comes across as someone who genuinely enjoys being there and sharing in the dancing and singing.
He does seem to be taking the whole controversy in his stride if his utterances in Parliament are anything to go by.
Our prosecutions chief does not have platforms such as a Cosatu conference or a community gathering in Bisho to explain himself to the masses. Even if he sang better than Zuma (which I doubt), he is not in a position to lead them in slogans and songs that denounce counterrevolutionaries whoever they are in this context.
The battle started as a legal matter. It became a political mess. Now we are firmly in the shady world of espionage. Ngcuka has welcomed the appointment of a judge to investigate the claims he was an apartheid spy.
Yet again, that is firmly Zuma's playground, and the accusers from the erstwhile intelligence community of the African National Congress have openly pledged their loyalty to him.
Those who know them from this kingdom in the 1980s say they can play nasty games.
The dispute dismays every comrade who knows and respects both Zuma and Ngcuka from those many years ago as anti-apartheid fighters.
Madlala is editor and publisher of UmAfrika.
With acknowledgements to Madlala and the Business Day.