Zuma : Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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Jacob Zuma ousted Mbeki to assume his party’s leadership position at a time when the world was beginning to see the cracks in the party once known as the Peoples party. African National Congress (ANC) is the very party that struggled and eventually overthrew one of the most repressive regimes of the twentieth century.
The most memorable leader to date was Nelson Mandela who was charismatic and had a compelling narrative to sell through his ability to connect with the people. Thabo Mbeki his successor got that position mainly because of his Dad Govan Mbeki who was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela for 24 years. Thabo was not a typical hero in the people’s eyes so along came Zuma when people were ready for change.

There were many cries from the business community that Zuma was a populist and the economy would sink under his leadership. Zuma treaded lightly particularly because he did not want to be known as the President who ruined a good economy. In addition South Africa was going to host the World Cup Soccer and he did not want anything to diminish his chances of putting South Africa on the map by offending the international powers that be.

Zuma turned out to be friendly to the business community after all, perhaps too ‘friendly’ that under his watch the police force shot dead 34 unarmed miners protesting their current wages and demanding higher salaries. So what will be Zuma’s legacy. At present Zuma has become a liability to the business community. He is no good to his party either as people are growing more disgruntled with the ANC.

In Zuma’s South Africa, unemployment is high at 24.9% and shanty towns are still home to many indigenous South Africans. Most of the nations uneducated are African and who given the state of affairs find Malema’s message appealing. Black unemployment is at 30% compared with 6% for whites in that country. Education levels for ordinary South Africans have not improved significantly since independence. During the apartheid era the number of Africans who sought higher education was limited by quotas as a means to limit the number of educated Africans.

Zuma has become useless even to the people that he fought to protect. If the economy is not doing well and Zuma is not offering ordinary South Africans opportunities for a better future then of what value is he to South Africa. More often than not he makes headlines mostly for his eventful family life than for any revolutionary changes that will benefit the future of Africa’s biggest economy.

Statistics Source: The Economist June 2010