There are several things that African Presidents can learn from President Jacob Zuma of South Africa;
How to to be a tribal african at the core by regaling themselves in animal skins and perfecting their tribal dance moves that will win them more wives,many if you please,and some sidekicks too!
They can also learn how “not to think like an African” in their countries’ development agenda.
But mainly,they can learn how to duck “political bullets” and safely wade through the minefields of their political careers!
Take the Nkandla affair, for example.
It was no big surprise that President Jacob
Zuma chose not to respond in detail to the
serious findings Public Protector Thuli
Madonsela made against him and his
government relating to the security upgrades
at his Nkandla residence.
He kicked the matter
into touch, meaning that a few months down
the line he will revert to it (and perhaps create
It is now quite clear that
the President of the Republic treats
constitutional institutions, Parliament and the
people of South Africa with disdain.
move shows that he does not even care about
the impact this scandal has on his own party.
And as Zuma prepares for five more years in
office, the situation is not just shocking, but
When the corruption charges were finally withdrawn
against President Jacob Zuma in 2009, a few weeks
before the national elections, an alliance leader made
a remark that was quite chilling.
“After the rape case
and this, nobody will ever believe any charge against
Baba. He can actually shoot someone and he will
never go to jail,” the leader exuberantly proclaimed.
The remark exposed that leader’s fundamental
misunderstanding between the rule of law and
The fact that it was said by
someone in Zuma’s inner circle is possibly an
indicator of the thinking of people who have
influence over the president.
Such sentiments, along
with Zuma’s own predilection to defer responsibility
to others, could explain why the president is under
the impression he is accountable to nobody, no
matter what he does.
Over the past two weeks that Zuma had to
contemplate the report by Public Protector Thuli
Madonsela, one wonders whether he or anyone in his
legal or government entourage considered that this
was the worst indictment against the head of state in
post-democracy South Africa.
If they did, they surely
would have realised that a nonchalant letter to the
Speaker of Parliament, suspending a full response to
the Public Protector’s report to a later, yet
undetermined, date, is an inadequate reaction.
On Wednesday, Zuma met Madonsela’s deadline to
respond to her report through Parliament. She had
asked that the president report to the National
Assembly “on his comments and actions” on her
report within 14 days.
Zuma, however, simply wrote
to Speaker Max Sisulu saying he was aware he was
accountable to Parliament, and noted that there were
“stark” differences between the reports of the
government task team and that of the Public
In the letter to Sisulu, Zuma states that the Special
Investigating Unit (SIU) is also investigating the
Nkandla upgrades and he has written to the unit’s
head Vas Soni for an update on that probe.
Zuma said he would therefore give full and proper
consideration to the matter once he received a report
from the SIU.
The SIU indicated to the media on Wednesday that
they expected to complete the investigation by the
end of May.
If all goes according to the presidency’s
plan, this neatly takes the Nkandla matter off the
formal agenda until after the elections and
establishment of a new government.
The problem, though, is that it does not expunge the
matter from national discourse.
In fact, Zuma’s
response only adds fuel to the already raging fire.
There is no relationship between the SIU
investigation and the Public Protector’s report.
In fact, with Zuma pointing to an “anomaly” between
the government task team and Madonsela’s report, it
is almost as if there is an expectation that the SIU
investigation can reconcile the contradictions.
And the SIU definitely cannot deal with
Madonsela’s findings of ethical breaches by the
There is in fact no need for Zuma to delay responding
to Madonsela’s findings against him.
If he had any
appreciation of the seriousness of her conclusions
and respect for the Public Protector’s office, a
constitutional institution, and for Parliament, the
president would have been eager to clarify these
More than that, if he took seriously his own
constitutional obligations as president and his image,
he would have immediately wanted to give an
explanation to the nation.
But it seems Zuma is unruffled and happy to let the
matter ride for as long as possible.
What about the damage to the ANC and its election
campaign? Zuma seems just as unperturbed about
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe made it
clear that the ANC had a “short” discussion about
Nkandla at its weekend national executive
committee meeting, and the party decided it would
not demand an explanation from the president or
interfere with government processes.
Why the ANC feels it cannot hold its presidential
deployee accountable is worrying.
But the fact that
Zuma did not feel the need to take his own party into
his confidence and also relieve some of the pressure
and negative publicity in the heat of the election
campaign shows that his only concern is his own
Had Zuma provided some reasonable
explanation for his role in the Nkandla upgrades, the
ANC would not be in the untenable position it is in
now, trying to justify the unconscionable and
But Zuma failed the “reasonableness” test long ago.
From the moment the Mail & Guardian broke the
story in December 2009 that the president’s Nkandla
home was to undergo a multimillion rand facelift, it
should have rung alarm bells in the Zuma household
and in government that this project would be under
It should have alerted everyone
involved that any potential wrongdoing would be
Yet neither Zuma nor any of the ministers
and officials involved exercised any caution.
On the contrary, processes and prescripts were manipulated
Madonsela noted this in her report: “The earliest
concerns regarding opulent or excessive expenditure
at the private residence of President Zuma were
expressed on 04 December 2009 by the Mail &
Guardian in an article titled ‘Zuma’s R65 million
Apart from the release of a
statement by the Presidency on 03 December 2009,
denying that government was footing the bill,
nothing seems to have been done by government to
verify the 2009 allegations or attempt to arrest the
costs which the article predicted would continue to
It is on this basis that Madonsela made the grave
findings against the president that he violated the
Executive Ethics Code and acted inconsistently with
“It is also not unreasonable to
expect that when news broke in December 2009 of
alleged exorbitant amounts, at the time R65 million
on questioned security installations at his private
residence, the dictates of sections 96 and 237 of the
Constitution and the Executive Ethics Code required
of President Zuma to take reasonable steps to order
an immediate inquiry into the situation and
immediate correction of any irregularities and
excesses,” the Public Protector’s report states.
But Zuma did not think it was necessary to take
these “reasonable” steps.
And for the same reason,
he did not find it necessary to explain to the Public
Protector during her investigation, to Parliament, to
the nation or to his own party why he allowed his
home to become a national scandal.
Next month, Zuma is set to be re-elected as
president of South Africa.
He will stand in the Nelson
Mandela Amphitheatre at the Union Buildings, hold
up his right hand and take the oath of office.
In the oath he will swear to “be faithful to the Republic of
South Africa, and will obey, observe, uphold and
maintain the Constitution and all other laws of the
He will also “solemnly and sincerely promise” to
“discharge my duties with all my strength and
talents to the best of my knowledge and ability and
true to the dictates of my conscience”.
Zuma will do
all this while there are findings hanging over him
that he violated the Executive Ethics Code and acted
inconsistently with the Constitution.
The situation would be almost comical if it were not
The most solemn of moments in any
democracy, the presidential oath of office, will be a
The institutions which uphold our
democracy such as Parliament and the Office of the
Public Protector are being undermined by the one
person who takes a solemn oath to “devote myself to
the well-being of the Republic and all of its people”.
And then, for the next five years, this same person
will continue to preside over South Africa, in all
likelihood still accountable to nobody.
It is the
redefinition of democracy before our eyes.
Brace yourself, South Africa, for the Age of Zumocracy.
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