Zuma as president of the ANC is the most fun we can have with our pants on in years!
On Zuma's election as the new ANC big cheese, I noted the predictably alarmed response from contemporary white society (of which I am a part, I hasten to add), and of new plans to pack for Perth. Am I the only one in the room who is looking forward to witnessing real democracy in action, or am I missing something?
Firstly, I think it's wonderful that, unlike so many countries in the world, the presidency can be challenged and overthrown through the ballot, and not through a bloody coup. It's wonderful, too, that the incumbent Mbeki has been graceful in defeat, and not resorted to other extra-procedural activities to hang onto power (in spite of access to the know-how from his great friend Mugabe).
Secondly, a split in internal allegiances in the ANC signifies a move away from unquestioning partisan support, and therefore room for independent assertions in parliamentary voting sessions, and a possibility of more robust opposition politics.
Thirdly, Mbeki's tendency to support useless cronies (Selebi, Msimang & co) at the expense of what is best for the country; and his extremely poor score-card on health, security and education leave the exit doors beckoning. Mbeki's attempts at immortality though the establishment of a credible AU, with its peer-review policy, NEPAD, and committal of SANDF troops in conflict-monitoring and peace-keeping abroad are to be lauded in some circles, but to the majority of South Africans these noble initiatives are meaningless. Someone should have reminded him: "All Politics is Local!"
Fourthly, many have forgotten just how effective Zuma was in resolving KZN's political killing crisis; how credible his struggle credentials are, and how much respect he commands from the labour movement and ordinary citizens, often the most needy and occupying the lowest rungs of the social ladder. Fifthly, fears of meddling in (especially) economic policy under Zuma are unfounded. Constitutional laws and general legislation protect the mechanisms of business and economics. To change that would require a two-thirds majority in parliament. This is unlikely in light of the afore-mentioned internal 60-40 split in the party.
Lastly is the question of Zuma's corruption and criminality. Well, for now at least, he hasn't been convicted of anything. His sexual conduct and attempts at personal financial gain pale into insignificance when compared with Clinton and Bush. Corporate leaders routinely define the rules by which they award themselves obscenely large bonuses, often in excess of tens- or hundreds-of-millions of rands. Zuma's relatively paltry indiscretion was probably a result of foolish ignorance in these matters.
While Kgalema Motlanthe may make a more dignified president for the country, with Jacob Zuma's victory at Polokwane, I can't imagine a better stage for the lead-up to the April 2009 election.
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