Financial Mail on a possible Zuma presidency

The Financial Mail has this article speaking about what a rough road we have ahead if Zuma becomes South Africa’s next president. Unfortunately it now seems that the only way we can avoid such a tragedy is through charges being pushed through against him.

The article tries to figure out what Zuma would be like as president. This is pretty tricky because he is distressingly quiet about his policies and ideas. That said, the author is able to infer some of Mr Zuma’s social ideas:

  • He has intimated that the press should project a positive image of the country, rather than criticise.”
  • His own behaviour and support for Zulu virginity testing poses significant concerns about his attitude to the rights of women.”
  • Other comments betray his homophobia.”

The article goes on to discuss possible economic and cabinet changes that the author feels Zuma is likely to make. For instance, his close alliance with the left is likely to have a big (and in my opinion bad) impact on his fiscal decisions. Labor laws will probably become tighter instead of being loosened. Taxes are likely to go up and tax breaks could become “a distant memory”.

Although I don’t necessarily think everything in the article is justified Zuma does scare my pretty badly. He doesn’t give us enough information to judge his policies and what he does say is all crazy.

  • Greg Feinberg

    After reading this article I actually googled the term “Positive Zuma Presidency” and could only come up with results detailing his indiscretions with an HIV positive women.

    To my relief (and amazement) I then received this article today titled “Beware the Chicken Littles ” by By Ian Macdonald:

    The prospect of a Zuma ANC presidency is becoming more and more of a reality and with it a scenario so long feared by the chattering classes.

    Normally sane, rational people have said things like “If Zuma becomes President, I’m outta here!” and “You’ll really battle to find any “good news” if Zuma is elected. The country will be screwed.”

    It reminds me of the hysteria and popular opinions that swirled around the suburbs before the 1994 General Election (“You better stock up on water, canned food, guns and ammunition because there’s going to be chaos”). Similarly, the world wide angst over the Y2K computer bug in the lead up to January 1, 2000 (“Planes are going to drop out of the sky! Nuclear plants will melt down!”).

    Perhaps the fears of many aren’t as extreme but instead mirror the concerns by the same groups of people that greeted firstly Thabo Mbeki’s becoming President in 1999 (“Socialism is around the corner”); secondly Trevor Manuel’s appointment as Finance Minister; thirdly Tito Mboweni’s appointment as Governor of the Reserve Bank (“The Rand is going to plummet now, just you watch!”).

    And, of course, in hindsight, all these fears have proved to have been completely unfounded.

    Those who stockpiled and battened down the hatches before the 1994 elections must’ve felt very foolish when they emerged into the warm sunshine of our peaceful transition. And almost nothing happened at midnight on New Year’s Eve 1999. (Of course, debate still continues whether the consequences of Y2K didn’t materialise because of the hysteria and the preparations costing an estimated $300 billion beforehand, or whether the extent of the problem had been overstated).

    And the Rand did take a slide in 1999 around the time of Mboweni’s and Mbeki’s appointments… but then recovered and became the world’s best performing currency against the US Dollar between 2002 and 2005!

    So let’s not fear the sky falling on our head Chicken Little-style as we wait with baited breath for the new leader of the ANC to be chosen. And if it is JZ and he does become President of the country, what kind of President would he be? (Bearing in mind a lot of water is still to flow under the bridge!)

    Veteran political commentator and writer Allister Sparks had this to say:

    “ (Zuma) is essentially a man of the people, with a charm and warmth that endears him to the crowds. He would not be the philosopher president. You would not hear him quoting Yeats or Shakespeare or delivering speeches of literary grandeur, but he has his ear to the ground and he knows what’s going on. As the Afrikaners used to say of their political equivalents, Hy weet waar die volk se hart klop.

    “He is clever, but not too clever. Perhaps his greatest asset is that, unlike Mbeki, he knows his own intellectual limitations. He would not try to run everything himself. A Zuma administration, like Nelson Mandela’s, would be more open and collegiate, with the President keeping a light hand on the tiller. He would let his ministers get on with the job of running their departments, while he concentrated on what he does best, which is mixing with the people, pressing flesh, listening to their complaints and trying to make them feel good. It would all be done in the name of returning to the ANC’s tradition of “the collective.”

    Sparks’s main concern about a Zuma presidency is that his campaign has been a populist one, pitched to the aggrieved underclass who feel they have missed out on the new wealth flowing to the burgeoning black middle class and are accusing Mbeki of betraying the revolution.

    “It is an easy pitch to make,” says Sparks, “but a difficult one on which to deliver. And failure to deliver to that expectant constituency could provoke an angry backlash, with new accusations of “betraying the revolution” levelled against the new President. It is a familiar pattern which has led to the axiom that revolutions end up devouring their own children.”

    “As for policies, there could be some welcome changes. A much clearer and more vigorous set of policies to combat HIV-AIDS; a tougher line on crime; a tougher line on Zimbabwe, where Cosatu, Zuma’s closest ally, has been actively involved and grievously insulted by Robert Mugabe.”

    Sparks expressed concern about Zuma’s impact on the economy; if he comes to power, he would be indebted to the left, to the SACP and Cosatu who have stuck with him through thick and thin.

    “He is not the sort of man to do anything silly, like “nationalising the commanding heights of the economy” which used to be an ANC mantra before the party came to power and faced global economic reality,” says Sparks. “But he might feel obliged to yield to Cosatu demands for an end to inflation targeting and, more seriously, to introduce protectionism in industries such as clothing, textiles and footwear where there have been massive job losses through cheap Asian imports.”

    Zuma has consistently insisted that the economic policies of the ANC are his policies. Zuma is currently touring foreign capitals to assure investors that there will be no significant change in policy if he wins. And the message seems to be sticking.

    “Zuma has never taken a different position on economic policy than that which was generally agreed by consensus among policy makers,” rating agency Moody’s Vice President Kristin Lindow was quoted by Reuters. “Investors at this stage are not particularly alarmed as Zuma has been doing his best to reassure them.”

    So, what we have is a man of the people, with his ear to the ground and a commitment to improve the lot of those that have benefitted least from our new democracy; a clever man who knows his intellectual limitations and leaves others to do their jobs; a man who could support tougher policies on crime and Zimbabwe and a clearer, more vigorous Aids policy and a man who would in all likelihood keep us on the path of economic growth and macro-economic stability.

    Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? And it’s hardly a reason to pack for Perth.

    Time will tell. Perhaps, like the pre-1994 election hysteria and the Y2K panic, JZ as President may be another disaster that never happened.

  • Alistair

    Very interesting. The fact is that we don’t really know what JZ is going to do – and that is a little frightening. We do know that his judgment isn’t great.

  • Len

    Just a brief comment on Greg’s response:
    If we take Greg’s comment and then ‘Find and Replace’ Zuma with Mugabe, we have an essay which could easily have been written in the then Rhodesia. Similarly, if we ‘Find and Replace’ Zuma with Hitler we have an essay which could have been written by some Jewish intellectual in 1934 Germany. My point is that pure optimism doesn’t change realities. What one needs to do is look at probabilities of some event occurring, not only at the possibility that an event may occur. What is the probability of a man whose legal advisor sits in jail for corruption and fraud, and who admits to having unprotected sex with a known HIV positive woman (with a shower to protect him!), providing stable leadership?