Zuma may be a one-term president

Back when he dislodged Thabo Mbeki South African President Jacob Zuma promised that he would only serve one term. But having tasted the power of the presidency, he now wants a second term. His bid, however, has not been well accepted within the ANC.

Although it is common knowledge that the much-married Zuma wants a second term he has remained equivocal on the issue, at one point saying “I never said I would serve one term and I have never said that I would want two terms”  (The New Age reported on Wednesday, June 8th).

The Africa Confidential reports:

Zuma’s main rivals, Tokyo Sexwale and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, are trying to fix it so that Motlanthe would be a one-term president, Sexwale would be his deputy and Paul Mashatile, Gauteng’s provincial leader and Premier, would be ANC national chairman. They may offer a deputy presidency to Lindiwe Nonceba Sisulu, the Defence Minister and Zuma’s ally. Sisulu and Sexwale, however, do not get along.

An anti-Zuma tirade erupted from the General Secretary of the Congress of SA Trade Unions, Zwelinzima Vavi, who said there is leadership paralysis in the ANC and warned that the country is in danger of ‘imploding’. He criticised Zuma’s ‘doublespeak’ on economic issues.

More on this here.

Securing Peace in South Sudan

UPDATE:

The ICG has a good report on the simmering conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan:

The loss of South Sudan has had a profound effect on the NCP, and senior generals led a soft-coup within the party. They have outflanked more pragmatic elements in the NCP who seek a negotiated strategy. Encouraging progress in the post-separation arrangements between North and South was blocked. More importantly, hardliners in Khartoum — including SAF generals — immediately rejected a 28 June framework agreement, which includes a political and a security agreement for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, facilitated by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, and signed by Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie, Co-deputy NCP chairman and a presidential adviser. A few days later, President Omar al-Bashir publicly disavowed the agreement.

Check out the rest of the report here.

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Texas in Africa makes a compelling argument against arming South Sudan (against potential aggression from Khartoum). She basically outlines three reasons against arming Juba:

  1. Such a move would implicitly side with the SPLM against other domestic armed/opposition groups. The point of concern here is that having just won independence South Susan needs to have a negotiated settlement among all interested groups. The Dinka-dominated SPLM, in particular, ought to credibly share power and resources with the other ethnic/interest groups.
  2. Arming South Sudan would spark an arms race against Khartoum and might lead to a war sooner rather than later.
  3. The West can’t be sure of Juba’s future geopolitical leanings. The same weapons might be used in the future against say America and its allies – AfPak style.

For the most part I agree with Laura. And like her, I am on record as having concerns over the alarmist celebrity diplomacy/mediation effort that has been orchestrated in South Sudan, Darfur and eastern DRC by Prendergast and his buddy Clooney.

In addition, I think that the debate over whether or not to arm Juba forecloses on other options that might also help secure South Sudan. Make no mistake, South Sudan has real domestic and international security challenges that occasionally will require the use of military force. Addressing these security challenges will necessarily require some form of military aid to South Sudan.

Here’s my take:

  1. If South Sudan is to avoid the fate of Zaire/DRC, the pacification of the whole country must happen ASAP. While negotiating with rebel leaders is the best approach, the truth is that in some cases military force might be needed. To that end providing SPLM with the necessary capacity to win the fight against fringe groups that do not want to sit at the negotiating table may be a necessary evil. Yes, we should be cognizant of the fact that there are legitimate internal differences within South Sudan. But we should not legitimize any groups that might want to air those differences using the force of arms. Real democratic competition can only take place in a peaceful environment. Armed challengers to SPLA (the legitimate army of South Sudan) must bear the burden of proving the legitimacy of their grievances. South Sudan’s Savimbis must be deterred. Also, the international community must not be under any illusion that democracy will come soon to South Sudan. It will take a long time.
  2. The arms race between Khartoum and Juba is already underway. The question is not if it will happen but what it will lead to. Furthermore, after “losing” the South and its oil Bashir will be hard pressed for distractions from his domestic woes, especially if the economy of Sudan experiences a sharp decline. Starting a border war with South Sudan would be a welcome distraction. Although arming the SPLA is not the best way to deal with this possibility, an alternative would be to bring in the EAC through a regional defense pact. Uganda, in particular, would be interested in such a deal since it would help reduce its own defense budget. The involvement of Eritrea in South Sudan’s internal conflicts makes the need for a regional security arrangement even more urgent. Most recently the UN accused Eritrea of plotting to bomb an AU meeting in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.
  3. Concerns over Juba’s future geopolitical leanings can be allayed through continued military aid and professionalization. This can be achieved by getting the generals out of politics following the Kenyan model – a combination of awesome perks and professional training – and through greater political and economic integration of South Sudan into the East African Community.

War is nasty and should be the last option. That said, there is a need for genuine debate over how to achieve the twin goals of state monopoly of violence within South Sudan and the deterrence of a trigger-happy Khartoum.

If it were left to me I would quickly move to decouple the SPLM and SPLA as a condition for any military assistance. The last thing the region needs is yet another regime with a fused political and military leadership as is the case in Rwanda and Uganda.

jacob zuma: why crash so soon?

Update: President Jacob Zuma agrees that he fathered a child out of wedlock with the 39 year-old daughter of one of his friends. Mr. Zuma is 67. In his statement the President said that he had done the “cultural imperative” of admitting to having fathered the child. A few suggestions for Mr. Zuma and those around him:

- having three wives is bad enough. Concentrate on the job. South Africans are looking up to you

– please fire your communications director. You are really bad with PR

– you are embarrassing the entire Continent. Not just yourself and your immediate family but the entire Continent. The whole 700 million of us.

The BBC reports that Jacob Zuma may have fathered a love child last year. The South African president just recently got married for the fifth time (he has three wives). He is estimated to have about 20 children. Recently when confronted about his rather colorful matrimonial situation Mr. Zuma shot back with the claim that anybody who was against polygamy was a cultural bigot.This is total horse manure. Mr. Zuma should know that culture is not static and that an attack on his wayward habits is not an attack on Zulu culture.

Until recently Mr. Zuma had exceeded expectations. His cabinet appointments (i thought) signaled his pragmatism. He stayed clear of the incendiary demagoguery that characterizes the ANC’s youth wing leader, Julius Malema. Even the media had warmed up a bit to the man who had to wiggle out of corruption and rape charges to become president. For a moment I thought that Mr. Zuma was going to be the nice blend of populism and realistic politicking that had so much eluded the intellectually aloof Thabo Mbeki. South African land reform, a fairer redistribution and creation of wealth (through a more transparent BEE and faster job creation), a reduced crime rate, etc etc seemed somewhat doable because the core of his base was the working class. But as is fast becoming apparent, it appears that the man has decided to let his personal life interfere with his job. I hope this latest incident will embarrass the ANC enough for the party to ask Mr. Zuma to go easy on the distractions and concentrate on his job.

Update: This is the last thing that SA and its ailing economy needs. The tabloid-like headings are soiling the SA presidency.

mbeki’s legacy

Partial results of Thabo Mbeki’s beetroot response to the South African AIDS epidemic are out. Life expectancy in South Africa declined between 1990-2007 (from 62 to 50). It is expected to decline even further over the next few years. Read more about this here.

It is worth noting that the new South African administration took an about-turn from Mbeki’s bizarre AIDS policy, as was articulated by his health minister. The South African Ministry of Health has on its website an HIV and AIDS and STI strategic plan designed to tackle the HIV problem. Over 5 million South Africans, out of a total population of 49.3 million, are infected.

zuma may turn out to be ok

Jacob Zuma, the man poised to be South Africa’s next president, has been getting a lot of bad press. This much married man has had to deal with pages after pages of news concerning his corrupt past and his adventures with the South African justice system. The truth be said, he is not a clean man. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and in Zuma’s case there is just way too much smoke for there not to be a flame.

That said, the fact is that he is going to be president of South Africa and by virtue of that become the most powerful man in Africa. I would like to join the few editorial pages out there who in the past week have indicated possible positives of a Zuma presidency. I am not convinced the man is as blindly populist as he wants the South African masses to believe. He is a calculating politician. He knows that he needs a viable South African economy just as much as he needs the masses to sing and dance in his name. It is no coincidence that he matches every populist statement of his with a reminder that he does not intend to radically change South Africa.

But I am not concerned with South African domestic issues. My concern is what a Zuma presidency will mean for the Southern African region and the Continent. And on this front I am hopeful. Eager to please the international community, I think that Zuma might just be the man to bring real change to Zimbabwe and some sort of sanity to the African Union. His predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, was too professorial to deal with the half-wits that run most of the Continent. Most of them did not take his (Mbeki’s) calls for an African Renaissance seriously. But Zuma, being a man of the people, might just be the one that charms them into seeing the light and actually changing the way they run their countries.Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

South African Elections

On the 22nd of April South Africans will go to the polls to elect their new president. There are no prizes for guessing who the winner will be. Everyone expects Jacob Zuma, a man facing corruption charges, to win easily. Despite the much hyped challenge from Cope, a party of ANC dissidents, the ANC with its immense ‘struggle movement capital’ will still win a healthy majority in the South African parliament.

zumaAs I have indicated before, I am not particularly enthusiastic about Zuma’s forthcoming presidency. The much-married man has a predilection for buffoonery. He is a known populist who may mishandle South Africa’s sluggish transition from the insanity of apartheid. Perhaps most worrying is his corruption record. The last thing South Africa needs in these hard economic times is a president who sends the message that it’s OK to be corrupt, as long as you have the right political connections.

That said, it is almost ineluctable that the Continent will have its leader in Jacob Zuma after the April elections. And because of that we are left with no alternative but to search for any positives that might come out of it. For starters, Zuma’s lack of formal education and the accompanying intellectual arrogance may make him more predisposed to alternative views – especially when it comes to the AIDS situation in South Africa (Mbeki strangely refused to admit the link between HIV and AIDS).

Secondly, given that he is coming in with little international legitimacy, he may feel compelled to do the right thing about Africa’s dictators and their many human rights abuses. Lastly, even his populism might be a plus. No sane person would disagree that South Africa NEEDS land reforms. Zuma may just be the one to do it, unlike the Mbeki-ist moderates who instead have chosen to focus on empowering middle class Black South Africans while forgetting the landless masses.

Let’s wait and see……..

zuma victory a loss for africa

Even Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Price laureate dubbed as South Africa’s conscience during the apartheid years, could not persuade the delegates at the ANC Congress in Polokwane not to elect Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma as their party’s next president. The eminent Nelson Mandela opted to stay above the fray on this one, citing impartiality but may be also because he saw it as a foregone conclusion. The mistake that was Zuma’s election is the full responsibility of Thabo Mbeki. This is a man who throughout his presidency has remained aloof and insensitive to South African street and village talk. Even at the congress he found it proper to bore the crowd with a more than two hour long speech on policy issues instead of pandering to their populist instincts. This was a vote against Mbeki in the same vein that many reasonable people had hoped that it be a vote against Zuma.

The implication of a Zuma presidency for South Africa is an issue that South Africans will have to deal with themselves. It may even be (hopefully) the era that finally corrects the injustices of the apartheid period. What worries me is how his presidency will pan out in the wider region. Mbeki, like the Ghanaian Nkrumah, was a lousy president at home but a great pan-Africanist. He was a key architect of the African Union and the NEPAD initiative. Mbeki was also an ideologue – of the tempered kind that Africa woefully lacks – who took time to seriously think of solutions to Africa’s problems. Mbeki had the courage to dream of an African Renaissance even as poverty and underdevelopment still plague the continent.

Of course the wishes of the South African people should supersede those of other Africans when they choose their leaders. I am also glad that Zuma’s election happened in a democratic manner. Institutionalization of democracy within the ANC, as I have pointed out before, is important since it is this party that will be electing South Africa’s president for many years to come – barring any major break-up. This said, I think it is important to acknowledge that South Africa, being the regional hegemon, has considerable influence in Africa. Because of this, people in Harare, Dakar or Nairobi have a reason to care and think of how outcomes in South African politics affect them.

Zuma, a man without much formal education, lacks the intellectual abilities that Mbeki has exhibited ever since his heydays as an ANC exile. He has proven to be a populist and to the best of my knowledge has not shown much interest on the region as a whole. If he chooses to be a domestic leader, like he seems he will, his election will indeed end up being a loss to the African people who desperately need visionary continental leadership to correct the evils of poverty, disease, ignorance and bad leadership.  

the anc, has the movement outlived its purpose?

There is no question that the ANC, Nelson Mandela’s party, will rule South Africa for many years to come. Like most independence parties on the African continent, the ANC has immense political capital because it claims almost all credit, and rightfully so, for the success of the liberation struggle against apartheid and its evils.

But does South Africa still need the movement-style organization of the ANC? Movement parties are populist, unpredictable and are not suitable for a stable country on the path to economic development. Post-apartheid South Africa needs not a movement party but a party driven by issue oriented democratic ideals. If the country is to realize economic growth and social stability the ANC has to put its house in order and embrace institutionalized internal democracy and transparency.

South Africans should be watchful of the populist politics that is driving the upcoming ANC elections – which will effectively choose their next president. Jacob Zuma, a man who has appeared in court on corruption and sexual offense charges and who has no formal education is poised to clinch the party chairmanship from the embattled Thabo Mbeki. Zuma’s only credentials are that he feels the mood of the crowd and panders to their dissatisfaction with Mbeki’s rather lackluster performance on issues of wealth redistribution and tackling of the aids disaster.

To some extent this is all Mbeki’s fault. His presidency has not met the needs of the largely poor party masses and their vote for Zuma will be nothing but a protest vote against him (Mbeki). Zuma does not represent change. He has no concrete plans for wealth redistribution to the black majority or to tackle social evils like high crime and the country’s astonishing HIV infection rate. He is a man who is on record to have said that his only form of protection after he had had sex with an HIV positive woman was to take a quick shower.

Hopefully the ANC delegates at the upcoming congress will see the light and settle for a compromise candidate that is not as polarizing as either Mbeki or Zuma. But if the party chooses to continue wallowing in mindless populism, the main casualties will be the South African people.