According to analyst Graham Sell, President Zuma is the ultimate puppet master, and the Guptas are in his pocket, not the other way around.

Analyst and blogger Graham Sell, writing on and his own blog, Disconnected Democracy, has provided an overview of the relationship of President Jacob Zuma and his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and suggests the two have probably been working together for years.

He compared the couple to the power-hungry Frank and Claire Underwood, from the political US TV drama series House of Cards.

He alleges their divorce was probably a sham, just for show, because Zuma’s then wife was linked to major corruption scandals involving the play Sarafina 2 in 1996, as well as the Virodene scandal of 1997.

They divorced in 1998 after 16 years of marriage and four children, citing “irreconcilable differences”, which Sell describes “as the least controversial and most convenient method of severing marital ties without any further attached scandal”.

He alleges this divorce allowed Zuma a clear path to ascend to being the deputy president under Thabo Mbeki in 1999, without the whiff of scandal that would have come with marriage to a woman suffering bad publicity at the time.

Dlamini-Zuma then became the minister of foreign affairs in 1999 “to improve her overall political profile”.

In drawing a picture of Zuma’s strategies, Sell explains how Zuma gained the support of the ANC Youth League, which was highly instrumental in Zuma’s ultimate rise to power as ANC president in 2007. Dlamini-Zuma, in turn, worked to gain control of the ANC Women’s League, which is now pushing hard under her ally Bathabile Dlamini for her to succeed her former husband as ANC president later this year.

In answer to those who have said Dlamini-Zuma appeared to side with Mbeki against Zuma in 2005, Sell believes this was also merely strategic. He says the fact that Dlamini-Zuma turned down the offer of being deputy president to replace Zuma when Mbeki fired Zuma was very revealing.

“Plan A”, according to Sell, was always for Zuma to become president before her, and “Plan B” (her becoming president) would only be the fallback option. In pursuing this plan, she became Mbeki’s running mate against Zuma and Kgalema Motlanthe in 2007 at the Polokwane elective conference, so that at least one Zuma family member would have a clear path to the Union Buildings – Zuma earlier, his ex-wife later.

He writes: “Her decision not to accept the vice-presidency in 2005 therefore only makes sense when you consider that the ANC’s National Convention was a relatively short 18 months away and, although politically wounded, and with the Youth League fully behind him, Jacob Zuma was still strong enough to challenge Mbeki. It was therefore worth risking the wait, for the sake of their future dynasty.”

He says another giveaway that the two have probably always been working together was the fact that Dlamini-Zuma was the only Mbeki “supporter” Zuma retained in his first Cabinet after his rise to the presidency in 2009. He alleges the decision to move Dlamini-Zuma to home affairs was so that she could take credit for the work of her then director-general, Mavuso Msimang, which improved her reputation to the point that she was able to become the African Union Commission chairperson, “a position she never seemed entirely comfortable to hold”.

He said there were always suspicions about why Zuma had pushed so hard for his ex-wife to get that job.

“There is no doubt that Dlamini-Zuma is a seasoned politician, but there is also a shadow of the Puppet Master’s hand to be seen behind every career move she has made. Join the dots differently and you might glimpse the almost invisible hand of her ex-husband, subtly but steadily orchestrating the perceived improvements in her political stature, in preparation for her eventual succession to the Zuma dynastic throne,” writes Sell.

In this context, Dlamini-Zuma being treated like royalty and given presidential-level VIP security despite only being an ordinary ANC member should not be surprising, says Sell.

He also says that South Africans appear to have misunderstood the relationship Zuma has with the Guptas, as it is actually Zuma using the business family for his aims, and not the other way around.

“It is therefore more likely that the Guptas were trying to curry favour (pun intended) with Jacob Zuma and, strategist that he is, I believe JZ would have seized the opportunity to convert them to his own cause with promises of wealth beyond their wildest dreams, as long as they fronted his own ambitious State Capture end-game.”

He claims the Guptas were a useful front for him to use to corrupt and bribe other state officials.

Sell has made an appeal to ANC MPs to vote against Zuma in the upcoming motion in parliament because “Jacob and Nkosazana do not love and are not loyal to the people of South Africa. Nor do they love and nor are they loyal to the ANC, the organisation that has trusted them for so many years to further the cause of social justice. They are peas in a pod, two like minds whose only ambition is to perpetuate and cement the Zuma dynasty.”

He told the MPs that their “smallanyana skeletons” would “be as nothing compared to the devastation that a Zuma dynastic dictatorship will bring, so feel free to vote your conscience”.

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