South Africa and the Advent of President Jacob Zuma

So much for the naysayers of all complexions and complexities – within and without of Africa – who at the onset of majority rule in South Africa, predicted with prophetic certainty that that nation was doomed and inexorably fated – after the manner of other African nations ‘gifted’ with self-rule – to travel down that well worn path of self-destruction. It was only a matter of a short time – they bleated with pompous self-assurance – before the inevitable would happen and South Africa would join the swollen ranks of the continents incontinent non-performers and begin its government-led descent into anarchy. And at which point, die-hard proponents of apartheid would gleefully rub their hands together and say ‘we told you so’.

The barely concealed subtext of their dire prognostications was that things were best left the way they were; and we all know the way things were back then and well before then. An unacceptable situation in which a majority population was in subjection – in seeming perpetuity – to the will and whim of a minority based government infamous for its oppressive actions. Thankfully, those of this mindset were allowed their say, but not their way.

Fifteen years hence, and no such government-led descent into anarchy has occurred. And those who proffered such negative ‘oracular’ pronouncements – indirectly rooting for the retention of the status quo – failed to understand that the African National Congress (ANC), in spite of its imperfections, is cut from a wholly different bundle of cloth, from that which attires many other African governing political parties. They neglected to recall in their overzealous ‘visionary’ outpourings that the ANCs political soul and essential character were forged in a crucible, whose underlying heat was provided by flames fanned and fuelled by state sponsored inequities, iniquities, and atrocities; atrocities which on several occasions during those dark foreboding days of Apartheid claimed the lives of not a few of its members and sympathisers.

The harsh lessons of such a maturation process are unlikely ever to be forgotten, and in all likelihood they will continue to serve as a constant reminder to the ANC of the real danger(s) and ease with which state political power can be abused and misused to further inhuman and inhumane ends. The ANC leadership – to its credit – judging from its pronouncements appears resolved to ensure that under its ‘watch’ no such activities will be pursued in, or under, any circumstances. It will do well to stick to this promise. This positive ethos, is one to which even ordinary South Africans must subscribe; even as they grapple with the contradictions of having lived to see the displacement of political apartheid, but still endure the abominable living standards from that appalling timeframe.

So far the ANCs post-apartheid administration of South Africa has been competent. Apart from sporadic bouts of infighting and occasional hiccups it has handled state power reasonably well. Much of this of course, has to do with the fact that from the onset of majority rule, it has had the good fortune of having, not one, but two towering political personalities lead its affairs. In Madiba Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki – each man a giant in his own unique way – ensured, as did many others, that the spirit of democracy and the principle of reconciliation developed entrenched roots in the political soils of South Africa.

Now the mantle of presidential power has been placed upon the shoulders of the effusive, charismatic, and controversial Jacob Zuma, a veteran of the struggle. Although not viewed internationally as a man of comparable stature to either of his substantive predecessors, he is nonetheless, a man of stature (no matter how flawed) and particularly so in the estimation of the ANC party faithful; who saw to his emergence as ANC leader and president of their republic.

In some quarters there has been some discomfort at his ascension to the presidency. There is a suspicion that this sense of discomfort has less to do with his well publicised flaws, but more to do with his close association with ordinary South Africans. He is seen, and possibly even more so, than the revered Madiba Mandela, and certainly more so than the cerebral Thabo Mbeki, as a man who personifies the frustrations and aspirations of ordinary South Africans; and one who they fear may – wittingly or unwittingly – stimulate within their minds residual memories of their painful past. Particularly, as his political repertoire at party functions and on campaign trails often invokes and evokes such memories.

But President Zuma, as leader of the ANC and one following closely in the ‘gigantic’ footsteps of towering predecessors, knows that South Africa can ill-afford to look backwards. It has to continue in its forward march. The drumbeat of reconciliation and equality – racial and economic – must be the beat to which his nation continues to march in single-minded resolve. Regardless of isolated cries for recriminations which may echo occasionally.

His job, which by any standards is a difficult one, particularly, at times such as these – considering South Africa’s close links to the grid of Western based economies. The choices and challenges before him will be tough and unfortunately he is not equipped – as an instrument of office – with a magic wand, with which to make things right and just by a simple wave of it. But nonetheless, he must set about the task of working to improve the lot of his people.

As his nation’s first Zulu president and the continent’s newest head of state he has Africa’s best wishes as he discharges the functions of his office. He must ensure that he governs for the good of his people – of all hues and complexions.

And in concluding, one does so on a light note, it is no secret that President Zuma loves to dance and to sing and in a manner reminiscent of the late James ‘say it loud; I am black proud’ Brown, who was affectionately acclaimed by African-Americans to be their ‘Soul Brother Number One’; by the same token it is also fair to say that Jacob ‘give me my machine gun’ Zuma is South Africa’s ‘Zulu Brother Number One’.

So, President Jacob Zuma, ‘Zulu Brother Number One’ it is now over to you to confound the nay sayers by putting in a good performance in office. And so in the spirit of Shaka Zulu; Albert Luthuli; Walter Sisulu; Oliver Tambo; Govan Mbeki; Steve Biko; Nelson Mandela; and countless others – may you govern for the good of your people.

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1 comment
  • Brilliant article. You took the words out of my mouth. Zuma was always for the people. The possibility of Zuma being the next South African president was a threat to the elite and their economic interests.