Duma seizes the moment… and the microphone – The Mail & Guardian

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The ANC’s provincial chair, Siboniso Duma, has perfected the art of seizing moments. Photo: Darren Stewart/Getty Images


The fur is still flying days after ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sibonso Duma seized the moment — and the microphone — to shut down Zulu traditional prime minister Thulasizwe Buthelezi mid-sentence in front of the king and the president.

So are the insults, accusations and counter-accusations, along with a multitude of media briefings — I counted four on Wednesday alone — a cacophony of words, noise and outrage in the wake of the seizing of the mike.

Apologies too.

Ever since there’s talk of royal bans and 100 head of cattle fines for Duma — and loss of votes on 29  May for the governing party — along with a call for a calming of the waters in a province where politics and death have a history of walking hand in hand.

Duma, the leader of government business in KwaZulu-Natal, is a renowned seizer of both moments and microphones —­ ask Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube — or his predecessor as ANC chairperson, Sihle Zikalala, for that matter.

On Saturday the shadow premier — or is that the premier’s shadow — kept up his impeccable record when he silenced Shenge at KwaCeza within seconds of Buthelezi going off script.

Buthelezi, the Zululand district mayor and a member of the Inkatha Freedom Party’s (IFP) national council, was appointed as traditional prime minister by the Zulu king at the end of January.

Since then, Shenge has been living up to his clan name — and the example set by the man who came before him, IFP founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi — and has been giving the ANC leadership in the province chest pains at public events involving the king.

Buthelezi clearly shares the old man’s sense of drama — and eye for an opportunity to embarrass the governing party — but appears to lack his technique when it comes to keeping control of the microphone.

On Saturday at the event to honour King DinuZulu ka Cetshwayo, Shenge channelled his inner Karen and decided to talk to the manager — Cyril Ramaphosa — about the conduct of Duma’s comrade, ANC provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo.

Buthelezi has a history of slugging it out in public with Mtolo — and the rest of the ANC provincial leadership — and appeared to have confused the state podium at the weekend with an IFP rally and let fly at his opponents.

Shenge quickly found that it wasn’t Open Mic March or Say What You Want Saturday at KwaCeza.

Buthelezi had barely got going before Duma swooped, ending his 15 seconds of glory with an admonishment about his decision to be “clumsy” in front of the head of state and the king.

Duma has put in the practice at man-marking Dube-Ncube since she was appointed and cut Buthelezi off with the speed and dexterity of an Idols judge in their 37th season.

Freedom of speech — but watch what you say.

One wonders if the president was shocked and surprised by what unfolded in front of his eyes?

My money is, as always, on yes, although it is an election year and no ground — royal, presidential or otherwise — is likely to go uncontested.

From the president’s subsequent call for talks between the parties and restraint from all sides, the president is definitely concerned by what went down.

It certainly wasn’t the behaviour — or the optics — that the president and King MisuZulu ka Zwelithini would have been hoping for when they went on stage on Saturday morning for the commemoration.

Neither would have wanted a public tussle between the government and the monarchy for authority at an event meant to honour a long-dead king — a crude display of thirst for power, while the water taps of the spectators remain dry.

That’s what they got.

The current — and future — leaders of the two biggest parties in the province wrestling for the microphone in front of the heads of state and kingdom while people with no jobs, no electricity and little in the way of a future look on.

Presidential and royal protocol thrown out the window: gone, just like the Gupta brothers in February 2018 — just faster, and with less decorum and dignity — no event bigger or more important than the egos of our political class.

An embarrassing, unnecessary situation, laughable almost, except for the fact that 19 people were beaten up afterwards, and two of them are still in hospital with serious head injuries, five days later.

It’s a timely reminder of where we are — and where we’re at — historically, geographically and politically.

And it’s a reminder of the fact that in a couple of months’ time, these are the leaders who will ask us to vote for them.

We are, once more, led.

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