Mysterious Zuma takes it lying down

We put a stethoscope to a conversation between former president Jacob Zuma and his advocate, Dali Mpofu.

© Copyright (c) Daily Maverick , All Rights Reserved

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Former Constitutional Court judge Sisi Khampepe recently conducted a review of the State Security Agency (SSA), noting that its processes to do with surveillance, especially the interception of phone calls, are all over the place – not properly signed off by a judge, used for political purposes, and so on.

Soon after her pronouncements, there was a leak of SSA material, possibly the result of a hack by rival agents (Mossad? CIA? MI6? KGB?), or just some error on the part of SSA agents who may have tried to erase the recordings but mistakenly sent them to the whole world.

Among those recordings is a conversation between former president Jacob Zuma and his advocate, Dali Mpofu, about the former’s health and its impact on his court cases and his incarceration. It appears that the SSA started illegally tapping Mpofu’s phone when he became chairperson of the EFF, and never stopped – even when he became Zuma’s personal Defender of the Indefensible.

Yes, we know lawyer-client conversations are privileged, but we feel it is in the public interest to tell you what was said in this chat. The transcription has been edited for clarity and to make the participants sound rational.

Mpofu: Hello, Baba, how are you?

Zuma: Oh, I’m very well, thanks, Dali. Right as rain. Well, apart from my mystery illness, of course.

Mpofu: Yes, actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about, Baba.

Zuma: Ah, but we’re not talking about it, are we, Dali?

Mpofu: We’re not, or at least your foundation isn’t. It’s keeping the mystery going. But it is going to come up in court. Then we have problems. And, of course, the DA will challenge your release on medical parole, and so forth. So it’s good to be prepared. I speak as an advocate, not a politician.

Zuma: I understand. Look, the main thing was to get me out of jail. You know I can’t bear being in jail. It reminds me too much of the old days, when I was a fearless warrior against apartheid.

Mpofu: Yes, I see that, Baba. And it is getting you out of jail. You will soon be back at Nkandla, welcomed by the amabutho and perhaps even by Duduzane, who I believe is preparing a Zoom to be conducted from Dubai.

Zuma: What do you mean, Zoom? I thought Duduzane was there, at Nkandla.

Mpofu: Er, no, he had to pop back to Dubai to make a withdrawal. We’ll need money for your court case, sir, which includes my fees. I anticipate they will be high enough to finance a few EFF parties in the year to come.

Zuma: Don’t tell me that, Dali! You know Dudu Myeni deals with all my finances. She’s very good with numbers. And she says there’s a lot coming in, you know, what with that crowdfudging campaign … crownflubbing, what’s it called?

Mpofu: Right, well, you see, Baba, Ms Myeni is an eternal optimist. I think we have to be a little more realistic, perhaps even plan for the worst. That would be sensible, no? So Duduzane took it upon himself to go to Dubai and get some money from his secret offshore account. You know how that works. He has to be there in person so they can do the eyeball identification. He also has to start up his speedboat so the battery doesn’t go flat.

Zuma: Ah, yes, his beloved speedboat! I understand. That speedboat really helps him pull in the ladies. Hehehe.

Mpofu: Indeed. At any rate, that’s happening, so can we perhaps just discuss your illness a little?

Zuma: Certainly. But it’s a mystery.

Mpofu: What? You mean the doctors can’t say what’s wrong with you?

Zuma: No, no, they know exactly what’s wrong with me. Too exactly, in fact. They’ve already operated, as you know. But we want to keep it a mystery. What is a man without mystery?

Mpofu: Isn’t that women of a certain age?

Zuma: Hehe. Perhaps you’re right. But I am a man of a certain age, and I want the same rights as any woman. I mean, look at dear Dudu Myeni. I believe she’s in her mid-30s, but she has allowed me to believe she’s only 27.

Mpofu [strangled sounds, then coughing]: Ah, yes, well… Ahem, perhaps we can leave Ms Myeni aside for now. As your advocate, I need to be filled in completely about any matters I may have to argue in court. It’s like a murder trial – I can defend you, but only if I know the truth. You have to tell me if you murdered anyone.

Zuma: I haven’t murdered anyone! Apart from that guy in Lusaka back in 1989, and that other guy who…

Mpofu: No, Baba, I’m not talking about murder. That was just an example. I’m talking about your mystery illness. I have to have the real facts or I cannot defend you in court. I need to know what I’m defending you against.

Zuma: You’re defending me against the CIA! And the DA! And Billy Downer! And Bloody Cyril!

Mpofu: Yes, but I must have the facts. What did the doctors actually say to you?

Zuma: Oh, well, they said I had this condition. It has been a condition for 18 months already. And they had to operate at once. So here I am recuperating in this nice hospital…

Mpofu: Yes, but what did they operate on?

Zuma: Oh, something … something down there.

Mpofu: Down there?

Zuma: You know, the nether regions. Where the sun don’t shine.

Mpofu: Ah, okay… I’m starting to understand. Is this the condition where they test for it by sticking a finger up…

Zuma: I don’t want to talk about it. I refuse to talk about it. If they hadn’t been military doctors, I wouldn’t have even let them do it. But, you know, the military, you have to do what they say.

Mpofu: Yes, of course. And you haven’t got medical aid. So they tested you for that, and now they’ve treated you…

Zuma: Yes, but no self-respecting traditional man can admit that they stuck a finger up – ah, ah, nurse! Nurse! Bring me my tranquiliser! [Sounds of nurse making placating noises, Zuma schlurping something.]

Zuma: Ah, I feel better already.

Mpofu: It’s no shame, Baba, that condition. Why, even Nelson Mandela had to have a prostate…

Zuma: Don’t mention that word! It makes me sound like I’m lying down.

Mpofu: But you are lying down. You’re in a hospital bed.

Zuma: Metaphorically, man! You don’t understand metaphors, obviously.

Mpofu: Sorry? I’m an advocate, of course I understand metaphors.

Zuma: And don’t compare me to Nelson Mandela! Just don’t! Never do that!

[A crashing noise, presumably sound of phone dropping to the floor. Scuffling noises. A new voice on the line.]

Nurse: Hello? This is Nurse Radebe. I’m sorry, sir, but Mr Zuma has to rest now. No more talk of this kind. It’s obviously stressing him out.

Mpofu: Thank you, nurse. I understand. We must let him rest. He has had such a busy time, what with jail, hospital…

Nurse: Yes, and the operation. Which was a great success, I may just add. We took out the, er, lump … but we left the mystery. DM168

Shaun de Waal is a writer and editor.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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