[DEBATE] : Zuma's vision
tintinyana at gmail.com
Fri Dec 21 03:15:40 GMT 2007
My take on Zuma in the context of reassuring-for-capital coverage NY
Times (Mark Gevisser esp), WSJ, and W Post coverage here. I wrote it,
and it was published, before he made his speech --- Sean
December 20, 2007
Now that the ethically challenged Jacob Zuma has soundly defeated Thabo
Mbeki to become president of South Africa's ruling party, the next
questions are whether he'll become the country's next democratic
president and if he does, what kind of policies can South Africans and
the world expect from him?
The answer to the first hinges on whether he can keep a fractious ANC
together and stay out of jail. Zuma may not be a unifier, but he has
the support of two crucial ANC constituencies: the trade unions and
leftist elements. As for staying out of jail, his legal team is heading
off a court date for long-delayed corruption charges, and it looks as
if he may succeed in portraying the corruption charges as an Mbeki-led
As for how he'll govern, much has been said already about his style.
That he is the opposite of Mbeki: more consultation with the ANC's
allies (or appearance of consultation), less aloof, more charismatic.
However, there is less surety as to what he'll do the about the
fundamental issues in South Africa: the paradox of 5% average economic
growth accompanied by 30-40% unemployment; the fact that South Africa
remains the most unequal society in the world, and that while the black
middle class now surpasses the white in numerical terms, black people
comprise the overwhelming majority of the poor; and Aids sufferers.
Also unclear is how Zuma may reimagine South Africa's role as a
Unfortunately we won't learn a lot from Zuma himself. He does not write
a lot or give memorable speeches like Mbeki, whose weekly online Letter
from the President column was - until Zuma's election - a must-read for
South Africa's political and media elites. He blames South Africa's
media for his legal troubles, so rarely gives interviews.
Zuma is often called a populist, and much is made of his association
with key trade union leaders and leftists. If his public utterances
were taken at face value, however, Zuma will not radically overhaul
economic policy in a redistributive direction. As he recently told the
BBC, "The ANC is going to move as it moves and change its leadership as
the time comes, but keeping its direction - so nothing is going to
change." He has reportedly offered even more specific assurances in
private to key South African and international business figures.
Zuma certainly has problematic sexual politics: on trial for the rape
of an HIV positive family friend (he was acquitted), he claimed to have
showered after sex to prevent possible infection. At the same time, he
has since taken an Aids test, something Mbeki in his denialism refused
to do. So Zuma is unlikely to indulge in quack Aids theories and will
probably fire the health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who has
promoted garlic and beetroot as Aids remedies.
South Africa has been criticised for its quiet diplomacy towards the
crises in neighbouring Zimbabwe and the despotism of its leader, Robert
Mugabe. Zuma told two German journalists last year, if "If the people
love him ... how can we condemn him?" About China's growing economic
influence on the continent: "There is not a single country in the world
that is not interested in doing business with China at the moment,
including Germany. And no one is seriously concerned about human
rights. But Africans are criticised for wanting to do business with
So even though many were alarmed to hear him singing Bring Me My
Machine Gun in Zulu, a Zuma presidency may indicate more a change in
style than in substance. Over the next few days Zuma and those in his
circle will probably fill in more of the blanks about his vision for
South Africa. For now, we can content ourselves with knowing he can
carry a tune.
Blogging as Leo Africanus at http://theleoafricanus.blogspot.com
On Dec 20, 2007, at 11:51 PM, debate-request at lists.kabissa.org wrote:
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