South Africa: Is President Jacob Zuma fit to rule?

By IndepthAfrica
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Dec 10th, 2012
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South African President Jacob Zuma attends a joint media briefing at the end of the plenary session of the BRICS Summit in New Delhi March 29, 2012. The BRICS group of emerging market nations voiced concern about the slow pace of reforms within the IMF in a draft summit declaration that also called for a transparent process to select the next World Bank president.

Vusi Shongwe makes the case for President Jacob Zuma, while Prince Mashele predicts ruin at re-election.

 

YES, he’s the man of the movement, says Vusi Shongwe.

Albert Einstein said splitting the atom changed everything except our way of thinking, which emanates from the hearts and minds of individuals; it is in each of us that negativity must be checked.

This applies in particular to views on President Jacob Zuma’s leadership. Negativity permeates any discussion of his leadership.

As the jostling for positions at Mangaung gains momentum, the character defamation and peddling of lies also gain ground.

The way the president’s reputation is being besmirched can leave you cringing in embarrassment.

Many unsavoury things have been written and said about his leadership style and unsuitability for a second term as president of the ANC and the republic.

No leader of the ANC has been offended and insulted like Zuma. A recent article headline read: “Is this the worst leader of the ANC in a century?”

But it should not be surprising. Vendettas are part of the pursuit of party leadership, especially at election time.

This is what Zuma faces now. Fortunately, he is made of sterner stuff.

It is, however, disheartening to see that whenever Jacob Zuma takes centre stage, all empathy and understanding vanish.

The fatal flaw of his critics is that their loathing often vitiates some of the good points they might raise, which, in a constructive spirit, might have curbed the erosion of confidence South Africans have in institutions and works of government.

I believe the negativity over Zuma’s leadership is largely unjustified. For all his faults and foibles, he remains a leader people from all walks of life can easily relate to.

If the verdict is Zuma has failed this country, then we the people have also failed.

During debate on the State of the Nation address in 2010, the erudite octogenarian, Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, surprised many when, like a true compatriot, he remarked: “I cannot afford to see the president and his government fail. If they fail, my own country fails. If the president and government fail, I will not applaud and rejoice, but weep; for if they fail, our liberation fails.

“In this time of economic turbulence and enormous challenges, we are in this boat together and together we will either sail or sink.”

When Cope tabled a motion of no confidence against Zuma, Buthelezi pledged his support to the president and remarked: “The times are too dire, the challenges too great and the risks too frighteningly high for us to undermine the commander-in-chief.”

Those words are as relevant now as they were when first uttered, especially as the country braces for the ANC’s elective conference.

We should not be confused by Buthelezi having since joined other opposition parties to call for a vote of no confidence in Zuma. He and his party are simply playing politics.

Ironically, the baptism of fire Zuma has undergone qualifies him for a second term, given he has seen it all and is acutely aware of the people’s needs.

To his credit, Zuma has handled all the negativity around him with aplomb. His equanimity makes him stand out as a mature leader.

Zuma is neither an intellectual nor a mediocrity. Rather, he is a leader who has stood the test of time. He is an unusually resilient person.

His smile continues to brighten his face and crinkle the corners of his eyes. He has won some victories, suffered some defeats, made some mistakes and has learned from his mistakes.

Perhaps the question of the ANC’s worst leader should rather be: is the current membership the worst the ANC has ever had?

What happened to the concept of collective leadership? In his book Leadership, James M Burns observes “if we know all too much about our leaders, we know far too little about leadership”.

This could be true in respect of the criticism of Zuma’s leadership.

There is a lot to be said for his leadership. He was not deterred by the 2009 global recession in his quest to improve the lives of ordinary people. When some people were engaged in all kinds of intellectual gymnastics about HIV/Aids, he listened to his conscience and ordered the roll-out of antiretrovirals, which saved millions of lives and made South Africa’s treatment programme the biggest in the world.

Zuma also needs to be applauded for the generational mix in his cabinet and his second term should be viewed in the light of his current achievements.

A key challenge for Zuma’s second term would be to manage the delicate balance between what he wants (priorities) and what he thinks the public wants (his perceived mandate), taking care not to confuse the two.

A priority of his second term would be unity and restoring party credibility – which depends on stability, renewal, continuity and good governance.

Zuma needs the second term to consolidate important projects started during his first and to build on them.

One of the biggest challenges of that first term was his administration’s inability to deal with corruption decisively.

In his second term, Zuma will have to install the necessary checks and balances in the issuing of tenders.

I want to argue that if there are people who have let down the president in his first term (in terms of service delivery), they are public service employees.

Employee corruption, exemplified by the R1 billion fleeced and the dismal performance of public servants, damaged his image. So public servants should be monitored more strictly.

Cadre deployment also needs a serious review. The deployment of those without the required skills or expertise to critical positions has had a debilitating impact on our society, as seen in most municipal service delivery protests. Intensive training courses before deployment could be a solution.

Intellectuals, economists and business people should give Zuma all the support he needs to better the lives of the people. Intellectuals should not just criticise; they should also come up with solutions.

After Mangaung, the ANC needs to address its recruitment and selection strategy and policy. The current membership leaves a lot to be desired.

Some of the members hardly know the constitution of the ANC, let alone its culture and the dynamics.

The ANC prides itself as a party where robust intellectual discourse is its hallmark. Never in the history of the ANC have people used guns and knives to drive their points home.

The killing of ANC members by their own comrades for positions is new to the movement.

Perhaps in the process of recruiting members the ANC opened its doors to hardened criminals and fraudsters.

This calls for a thorough review of selection and recruitment policy.

* Shongwe works in the office of the KZN premier and writes in his personal capacity.

 

NO, he would be the worst option, says Prince Mashele.

South Africa today, most people are worried about what will happen at Mangaung. Others consider what will come after.

 

Let us explore the first.

Many things are already known about ANC conferences. They are an opportunity for the BEE class to drink expensive alcohol in the company of ANC politicians who preside over billions of rand in their capacities as president, ministers or premiers.

ANC conferences are also a place for party-connected government officials to show off their big wheels. Blade Nzimande’s BMW 7 Series will certainly be among the cars on display.

Indeed, shebeen owners make handsome profits, for ANC delegates are notorious for drinking copious volumes of beer and whisky – not umqombothi.

What we certainly know is that Jacob Zuma will be re-elected, along with all those who appear on his slate. Since Polokwane, the ANC has become a slate democracy.

Kgalema Motlanthe would be naive to hope for some miracle. The nominations have already spoken.

Motlanthe has already dismissed the possibility of a behind-the-scenes deal for him to retain the position of deputy president. So, we can foretell that, should Cyril Ramaphosa say “I am available”, he will replace Motlanthe.

But Ramaphosa must be warned. The Zuma faction is bringing him in, not to run the government while Zuma kisses children – as Mbeki did under Mandela – but to use him as credibility insurance.

 

Observers who hope that the conference will provide clarity on key policy questions must temper their expectations. The ANC under Zuma is the vaguest. The only phrase that Zuma has managed to memorise is “Let’s debate”.

The second part of the question is what will happen to South Africa during Mangaung? The answer is simple. Nothing!

Most of us will be on holiday.

Only after Christmas will we return to question.

Let us begin with the ANC.

It will be more divided because supporters of Motlanthe will not put their weight behind Zuma. They have already told us that Zuma is bad for the ANC.

 

The ANC will be more demoralised. The thinking ones within the party will see no hope. Only beneficiaries of Zuma’s patronage will be excited and motivated.

The party will certainly be more factionalised. From day one, losers in Mangaung will work to regain power within the party. Given that Zuma is prone to embarrassing scandals, they will wait for an opportunity to recall him.

The ANC will be more corrupt. Zuma and his fellow travellers will know that the second term is their last chance to loot. We must thus expect many more scandals of Zuma’s brothers and cousins benefiting from dodgy projects such as Nkandlagate.

The party will be directionless. Led by the very same uneducated Zuma, you would have to be naive to think he will mastermind some turn-around strategy for the ANC.

Let us now turn to the last, more worrying, part of the second question: what will happen to South Africa? Things will get worse.

With regard to governance, nothing will improve. We will have to get used to living in collapsed provinces like Limpopo.

We will need to accept that the children of the poor are doomed. Education Minister Angie Motshekga will continue to destroy their future. Despite positive noises from Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, more and more people from the middle class will flee public hospitals into the private sector. Who wants to go to a public clinic to be told that there is no Panado?

On his part, Pravin Gordan will not stop manufacturing good news. He will exhort us to worry not. But rating agencies will downgrade South Africa until you need R20 to buy a loaf of bread, and R50 for this newspaper.

Well, if you think this is doomsday prophesy, ask Zimbabweans to tell you how their dollar collapsed. They will most likely reminisce about the good old days when their dollar used to be stronger than our rand.

As all this unfolds after Mangaung, ordinary citizens are likely to take matters into their own hands. Councillors will get used to living under threat – from the very people that voted them into office. The so-called service delivery protests will occur daily.

Workers now know that the ANC government will not improve their conditions. We must not be surprised to see more and more labour unrest. Of course, Zuma and his ministers will remain as powerless as they were before and after Marikana.

 

SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande will manufacture many more accusations against white people to rally hopeless blacks behind his collapsing party. Those of us who write newspaper articles will be in trouble.

Hopelessness will reign supreme.

The state will collapse

. The rainbow nation of Nelson Mandela will disintegrate, under the weight of a corrupt government, led by people who build large compounds in Nkandla.

* Mashele is the CEO of the Forum for Public Dialogue, and a member of the Midrand Group. He is the author of The Death of Our Society, available at Exclusive Books.

Sunday Tribune

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