Sunday correspondent Tania Page, who once worked for Al Jazeera in South Africa, gives her thoughts on news the country's former leader Jacob Zuma has been jailed.
It looks like I’ll be eating my own shoe!
At some point in the past year I recklessly tweeted something about eating my shoe the day Jacob Zuma went to jail. Well, after a legal struggle a bit like battle-ship in the country’s highest court, Zuma’s ship has finally been sunk.
South Africans have been on a knife edge for a week now as former president Jacob Zuma holed himself up in his homestead ‘Nkandla’.
His supporters have rallied around him, determined to keep him a free man, pouring scorn on his prison sentence. While the rest of the nation, and many of my friends and former colleagues in South Africa waited with bated-breath.
The moment of reckoning has finally come today.
I spent six years in the country as the Southern Africa Correspondent for Al Jazeera English reporting on Zuma’s spectacular rise and his ardent supporters. While his vociferous critics grew in number due to a multitude of corruption allegations against him and his government, which leached into almost every story I did.
The current government estimates $35 billion (US) was stolen or mis-spent during Zuma’s nine years in power and at least 40 witnesses have linked the former President to the plundering. He’s not going behind bars for that, but for contempt of court.
However, I saw the enormous cost of that missing money every day through the lack of investment in basic infrastructure, poor healthcare and education in a country where there’s sky-high unemployment and no social welfare safety net for anyone but the most desperate.
While living in Johannesburg, I met someone who survives by begging, another who eeks out a living by collecting a few coins to guard cars while the wealthy dine out, a woman who works fulltime for $350 (US) a month, the sort of money some of us might spend on parking or maybe lunches out.
But mostly I think of my bureau crew Shadley, Dorion, Mukelwa, Nida, Prince, Joe and Julia. People born into and who lived through apartheid, its demise and the rise of the so-called Rainbow Nation. Who I learned from, debated and was enlightened by as they watched their country being eroded.
I know they’ll be working hard today knowing no one is above the law and in a nation that’s one of the most unequal in the world, the significance of that cannot be understated.