Our Sunday afternoon trip to the Mthatha airport happened to coincide with the arrival of the South African state president, Jacob Zuma. He was returning via helicopter from Mvezo, the birthplace of Nelson Mandela where a party for the latter's 92nd birthday was being held. We watched from the viewing deck/airport cafe as Zuma, accompanied by his third wife--"the pregnant one", explained the people standing next to us--descended the steps of the helicopter, walked across the tarmac, and boarded the South African air force jet waiting to bear him back to Pretoria.
The whole scene was unceremonious. Yet it reinforced for me the proximity of sitting presidents to power--military power. A camouflage helicopter and a jet inscribed with "South African air force" was needed to transport one man, a wife, and his entourage to and fro. In light of such service, I wondered how any politician would not automatically be beholden to the specific interests of the military. I also pondered that, just over sixteen years ago, Zuma had been on the other side of the same power that now shielded him, and whether that did not seem to him at all disturbingly ironic--that the very machinery which was employed to destroy his people was now within his control. Or is he in its control? And is that not why Jesus refused "control" of the kingdoms of the world when they were offered to him?