Jacob Zuma & The Notion of Democracy

South Africa is a young democracy about 23 years removed from one of the most ruthless regimes in world history; the Apartheid regime. Millions of indigenous South Africans died at the hands of merciless mercenaries for the land of the Khoi, Zulu, Sotho, Nguni people who already occupied the land when the Dutch settlers displaced them. Apartheid was the institutionalized and government backed system of depriving African of resources while giving those resources to those of European origin.

Since South Africa’s independence, the country has had 3 Presidents who have been democratically elected. This is a good statistic for nation that is just 23 years old. However, the institutions in South Africa were built to empower the minority Europeans who resettled on African soil and not the original landowners who were the Africans.

Democracy is government of the people, for the people and chosen by the people. It can be implemented in many forms and there is no one size fits all. In many democratic nations there is what is called ‘one person one vote’ system and the person whom the majority elects becomes the President. In the United States for example which describes itself as the beacon of democracy the President is elected by what is known as the Electoral College so a candidate can win the popular vote as in the case of Hillary Clinton who won by over 3 million popular votes but lost the election because she did not win enough Electoral College votes. That is the American version of democracy.

South Africa’s democracy is unique in that the people do not actually vote for their President. South Africans vote for the national assembly and it is the winning party‘s leader that becomes the President of the nation. Jacob Zuma challenged his predecessor Thabo Mbeki for the party’s leadership and won his way to the presidency .The point here being that Jacob Zuma won in a democratic manner and if the people want to remove him from leadership then they must do that through the ballot and not through protests. If he is guilty of a crime he must be charged and go through due process but this idea that he must resign because people ‘simply no longer want him’ does not represent true democracy.

In 2019 Zuma will have finished his second term and history will judge his tenure. It is important to remember that Zuma was elected and democracy mandates that his agenda which is the people’s choice be implemented because it represents the wishes of the majority. South Africa should focus on reforming apartheid era institutions and reinforce checks and balance but the leader should be decided through the ballot.

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