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.  

4 thoughts on “zuma victory a loss for africa

  1. The decline from Mandela to Zuma is a potential calamity! The new elite black population is uncomfortable with this. Is this justified? Zuma’s popularity cuts across South African ethnic groups hence his victory over Mbeki. Are we witnessing the curse of democracy? The people of South Africa have made their choice. We are now faced with the possibility of a Zuma presidency.
    South Africa boasts of a sound legal system, good infrastructure and World Class companies. It is bigger, richer and more sophisticated. They also have the only world class stock exchange in Africa. This country has truly outperformed it’s expectations for the last 13years with a stable and growing economy. To maintain this momentum, sound market dynamics have to come into play. As most of us are aware, capital markets do not like uncertainity and least of all left wing economic policies. South Africa could be on the slippery slope.



  2. If that is the case sir, how come the leadership within South Africa was based on cultural, ideological backgrounds and individuals who had failed to challenge Mbeki’s policies even if they were wrong?
    How is it that one of Africa’s most educated leaders
    is amongst its worst despots today? He infringes upon
    the basic human rights of the constituency that challenges his policies, yet our so-called “Man of the African Renaissance” turned a blind eye on the
    plight of Zimbabwe’s people? Why should a man whose country has the highest incidence of AIDS maintain the services of a health minister whose bumblings in Toronto showed the capacity of the leadership that made up Mbeki’s cabinet?
    Why should a well-read, intellectually adept leader fire anyone who challenges his leadership skills and allow incompetence to stagnate his cabinet?
    What are NEPADS successes in Africa?
    Why did Mbeki fire Zuma without consulting the political party that put him in power, yet continue to use the services of the Commissioner of
    Police who has been implicated in the possible assasination of a mining magnate and his involvement with underworld figures?
    Why would the naive constituency of the A.N.C. opt
    for the leadership of a semi-literate personality instead of the services of a British-educated statesman who paid more attention to conflicts outside his borders than the impending poverty and
    AIDS that ravaged his country, while the world extolled his impeccable leadership style? Read the Mail & Guardian dated for October 5, 2007 about the German government’s investigation into the consortium, ThyssenKrupp that had paid $25 million dollar kickbacks to some senior politicians still serving in Mbeki’s cabinet with impunity from the local prosecuting authorities. As a result T. Mbeki fired Vusi Pikoli who was head of the National Prosecuting Authority because of his further investigations into the arms deal. Mbeki still has some questions to answer to the German authorities concerning the arms deal.
    So sir, if you write stories about Zuma’s ineptitude for leadership, firstly, take some time
    to research on your champion of African conflicts, then sit down to peruse on Zuma’s ability as a statesman,(Rwanda) and then write an informed article about the abilities of both individuals, not a sugar-coated synopsis about a man who abuses
    state-mechanisms to vilify and incacerate any who might pose a challenge to his leadership. You seem to have a short memory of how Mugabe, (our most educated statesman) was instrumental in the GENOCIDE of the Ndebele people in the 1980’s. I have 4 university degrees from two continents and I can frankly tell you sir, that the mark of great leadership is not measured by the number of degrees that you hold in your pocket.


  3. blog stats.
    if that is the case sir, how come the leadership within south africa was based on cultural, ideological backgrounds and individuals who had failed to challenge mbeki’s policies even if they were wrong.
    zuma victory a loss for africa « Opalo’s weblog
    opalo’s weblog search:


  4. Pingback: South African Elections « Opalo’s weblog

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