Azad Essa is a journalist, columnist and aspiring filmmaker. He completed a multinational Global Studies MA in 2005 and spent several years slaving away in South African academia before launching his journalism career. He calls Durban home, but works for the Al Jazeera Network in Doha, Qatar. Essa is also an Executive Editor and co-founder of The Daily Vox.
Azad came to prominence writing the Accidental Academic, a provocative and award winning Thought Leader blog that challenged the established assumptions of contemporary South African culture, politics and events. His first book Zuma’s bastard: Encounters with a desktop terrorist (Two Dogs Books) was published in late 2010. With writing adapted from and inspired by the Accidental Academic, Zuma’s Bastard tackles race, religion and politics head-on, gives fresh insight into the Israel-Palestine conflict, unpacks the South African-Indian-African identity into its constituent dirty parts and casts new light on old stereotypes, often pissing all over them.
Zuma’s Bastard comes with an age restriction.
His second book, The Moslems are Coming, was published in 2012 by HarperCollins India.
Three months before he was voted in as president, Zuma took out his machine gun and slipped a ball through Irvin Khoza’s legs. In most countries, this would be called “infidelity”, in South Africa it’s called shibobo.
No wonder we’re such poor footballers.
The knives are predictably out, not for a c-section, but for Zuma’s penchant to sleep with his friend’s daughters with disturbing regularity, and that too without a rubber.
So columnists, bloggers and newspapers — from Independent Newspapers to the Times to even the Daily Sun are alive with the sound of condom-nation for Zuma and his latest inglorious basterd.
Opposition parties are having a field day, asking for Zuma’s “head” on a platter.
“Zuma is not practising what he’s preaching”, “he is undermining HIV policy”, “we think he should resign” to my favourite “he is the wrong role model for youth looking to have sex with their best friends sisters/daughters/hot mothers”.
Of course they are all right.
There is no disputing that Zuma’s personal hygiene cannot be an example to the rest of us, that there should be some consequence for creating further ambiguity in the struggle to promote safe sex, trusting partners and friends you can trust with your daughter.
But unless Zuma hung his testicles in a museum, who knows, your mommy might be next.
And unless it is sex with a minor, an animal, Pieter-Dirk Uys, or all three, there is very little that can be done about it.
By implication, if we know our president is a nymphomaniac, what purpose do we serve by continuously focussing on it every time he refuses to wear a condom?
Why do we allow his lack of personal hygiene to create more ambiguity around HIV/Aids and then expect to place the blame squarely on his shoulders?
The guy has a problem; we know it. Either get him out of office, sew a condom around his crotch or buy him a black blow-up doll.
The question must be asked: Why does the media escape scrutiny regarding the broadcasting of his infidelities?
What purpose did this news serve to anyone except servicing free speech and creating the image of our president as a well-hung whore?
Did it bring the divided electorates in this country any closer to fighting against the pandemic or did it serve as just another opportunity to label each other and bring race, civilization and cultural values to a head?
Indeed, did this type of journalism open Zuma to a type of tangible public scrutiny or did it merely harden Zuma followers against any criticism of his leadership or lifestyle?
This is not about curtailing media freedom, or requesting to spank ourselves with self-censorship. This is about grooming real media might, where the watchdogs wield such power that they might be able to identify news as more than just a consumable to earn their daily bread.
This wasn’t a corruption scandal where heads could roll.
Of course Helen Zille thinks he is a pig. That is what she is supposed to say. Of course the African Christian something something thinks he should resign. This is their mandate.
The surge of anti-Zuma sentiment tells a tale of a ready-made-sitting-on-the-side-lines-dossier out to make the president seem a bigger tool than we already know he is.
Where does the actual struggle against HIV/Aids fit into all of this?
Is our Aids crisis not crying out loud enough for people to stop looking for ways to undermine a largely losing struggle?
When will this government, this media and this people put fighting HIV/Aids at the top of the agenda, over political games or points?
Of course the media needs to tell the news. They cannot always be sure of the type of impact, if any, a story will have.
But they can steer the direction.
As it stands, the manner in which this issue was presented seemed like ordinary outrage flushed down ordinary methods of quote and counter-quote by friends, foes and communication officers.
It is the most bland form of accepted journalism, which achieves nothing but showcase byte-sized prejudice.
An editorial that blasts Zuma or an op-ed that renounces such behaviour achieves precious little compared to the impact of breaking news.
Would it not have been purposeful if editors of the major media in this country had a private meeting with Zuma, discussed his infidelity and their concern that such news would devastate all positive developments in HIV awareness/safe behaviour and thereby putting his balls back into his court (or hands).
“Mr President, we will ignore your infidelities, for the sake of presenting a positive image to our nation and towards promoting healthier lives. But you should know that we know what you are up to. If, however, you are involved in corruption or fail to deliver the necessary health reforms needed, we are going to screw you. We are watching you very closely on those matters.”
Now that might have got him thinking.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep on dreaming.
2010. Zuma’s bastard: Encounters with a desktop terrorist. Two Dogs Books.
2012.The Moslems are Coming. HarperCollins India.