By Craig Snoyman
South African social media has been scorching hot this week. The former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, was sentenced to 15 months direct imprisonment for contempt of a court order. The order was handed down by the highest court in the land, the Constitutional Court. It also ordered his imprisonment. Virtually the whole of South Africa was sure that he would do something to prevent his arrest, after all his so- called “Stalingrad Defence” has managed to stall criminal corruption charges against him for at least ten years . Cell phones were literally burning as discussion, speculation, conspiracy theories and humour jammed the internet.
One of the pictures widely disseminated was a photo-shopped pictures was of President Zuma disguising himself as an Arab, with him thinking of going to Dubai. It is widely rumoured that many of his illicit millions are there. What we do know, is that his son owns a very expensive apartment there. The Gupta brothers, who are alleged to have looted billions of rand from the South African fiscus in cahoots with Zuma, are also hiding out there.
Normally it is completely politically inappropriate even refer to “black-face” or in this case “brown-face”, let alone circulate such a picture but these are very strange times in South Africa. President Zuma, once referred to “Msholozi” (number one) and now in whispered references as “Jailkop Zuma”, is likely to spend some of his immediate future behind bars. At the same time as he sets out on a new path, so does Israel’s former President, Reuven Rilvin. Two pictures tell the difference between the two Presidents.
On his last day as President, photographs of President Rivlin in disguise, were released to the press. In the picture that appears in the Israeli press, President Rivlin is heavily disguised with a dark-haired wig, a bushy beard and spectacles (and possibly an altered nose and shoulder padding) and a long black overcoat. He certainly did not look like an 81 year old man. His security detail said that he spend several hours walking around, disguised and incognito, amongst his fellow citizens.
From our perspective at the bottom of Africa, it never looked like President Rivlin put a foot wrong. He was the image of the perfect statesman, (almost perfect because he looked a little too cuddly) representing the State of Israel in an extremely dignified manner. And then these pictures were released! Not furtively onto a site on the internet, but publicly released to all the national newspapers. Clearly an affectionate gesture by his secret-service protection, with his full consent.
All of a sudden, President Rivlin is seen in a different light! No longer the upright, ceremonial state representative. In one fell swoop, he is seen as an avuncular scamp – a man with a sense of humour, your favourite uncle playing a trick on you! He is transformed and now, he’s just an ordinary person, one of us. Sometimes we forget that the politicians are human to. For me, this is probably going to be my lasting image of President Rivlin, all his other accomplishments will slip into the recesses of my memory. Farewell President Rivlin, may your future journeys be filled with joy and wonder and much good health and happiness… and lots more impish humour. I doff my kippa to you, President Rivlin, a People’s President.
About the writer:
Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.
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