Zuma interview: His master’s loud voice

2012-02-11 17:57

This week President Jacob Zuma delivered a confident state of the nation address. Previous addresses were sullied by personal crises – in 2010, the address was made soon after news he had had a baby out of wedlock with the daughter of his friend. Last year, the lacklustre address came as questions were asked about whether the tail was wagging the dog.

The ANC Youth League was at the apogee of its influence and its positions on nationalisation and expropriation set the agenda.

This week he asserted himself. Julius Malema was in effect axed last Saturday while nationalisation was taken off the agenda. By Thursday, Zuma was the man in charge. Carien du Plessis and Ferial Haffajee quizzed him

After a long hard day on Thursday, you danced up a storm late into the night with two of the first ladies.
Clearly, you have energy and stamina. Would you like to stay for a second term?

(Guffaws). In the ANC, the question of staying doesn’t depend on individuals no matter how much people might express wishes.

But the plans you outlined will take a long time to come to fruition. Wouldn’t you like to be around to see that happening?
These plans must be followed for a long time. If this is acceptable, then I am satisfied. While I am in government, my purpose is to ensure that those plans are implemented.

Paint us a picture of what success will look like? What will the Waterberg in Limpopo be like if the plan to develop and integrate rail, road and water infrastructure in the minerals belt is successful?  Will there be cranes and construction, real signs of an infrastructure boom which we haven’t yet seen though it has been promised for three years now?
By 2014, I’d want to see the cranes, building, digging everything. I’d like to see people employed. We are looking at a new kind of city at Waterberg. That’s how Johannesburg began, as a mining town. It’s
an area of strategic minerals which we begin to connect with a road and rail link that goes to the east through Swaziland. You can’t only depend on a single transport corridor.

You have moved away from setting employment targets in hard numbers. What percentage of unemployment is manageable for South Africa given that we do have a social safety net of some size?
I’d like to see unemployment moving down. t’s difficult to put a number on it. Not everybody who is in the social safety net should be there. The social safety net should be shedding some people. It’s a huge challenge.

We take extraordinarily long to do things in South Africa. Government has been talking, say, about the infrastructure plan for years, ditto the beneficiation of minerals, which is only now at strategy level. Does it concern you that we don’t move quickly like the Chinese?
Things should not take so long. That’s why I’ve established the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission. We’re just talking and talking. We have arrangements in the bureaucracy that allow matters to just drag on and on as if these matters are not urgent.The commissioners don’t need to come and report to the minister; we need people to make the decisions.

You are an intelligence man – what are you going to do about the disarray in the intelligence services?

I’m not sure if it’s in disarray. It’s a serious matter. You know that people talk about intelligence as if it is just another outfit. I always take it as a very serious kind of outfit which needs not be a subject of discussions in one form or the other. Intelligence is working but there has been some difficulty.

Not for the first time, as you know, some people were expelled at some point for some issue or the other.
We are now trying to work out how to put intelligence together so that it operates in the way it should.

What are your plans to resolve the impasse on the Protection of State Information bill?
South Africa is a very interesting country. It’s more open than other countries. Nobody can interfere with classified information in the US. They’ve got heavy laws in that direction. Nobody says they are bad or that they are undermining democracy.

But South Africa has a different culture– it’s the nature of us (to think we can interfere with everything). There isn’t a country in the world without classified information.

But here we are introducing a culture that looks at things differently. We must not think we are the worst – in Parliament we even discuss intelligence – that doesn’t happen in other democracies. We are a unique democracy.

But there’s an acceptance that South Africa needs a classified information law. The debate now is about whether the law should have a public interest over-ride clause to protect whistle-blowers.

To condemn government is the wrong premise. People can debate public interest but classified information is classified information around the world. Where do you draw the line between the national interest and the public interest?

We have to define these things for ourselves as South Africans.

Police chief general Bheki Cele and national prosecuting head Menzi Simelane are suspended, and spy boss Gibson Njenje has resigned. How does this influence our fight against crime and corruption?

I don’t think it’s a question of individuals, it is a question about responsibilities.

If we did not act while there was a report et cetera, there would have been a lot of (journalists) saying there is indecision and he didn’t act.

And when we decide (the media) say you are weakening (the criminal justice system). You have to take appropriate action.

Do the provinces worry you with the financial meltdown in Limpopo?
Limpopo is a worry and provinces are a crucial level of government. We are looking at it and we have a fair idea of why that has happened and we are dealing with it to ensure we don’t have one province after the other getting into it.

Is Limpopo the only province with these problems?
No. But other provinces have taken remedial measures. KwaZulu-Natal, for example, had problems and rectified them.

Do you think that corruption has become endemic?

I think we can root out corruption. We are one among few countries tackling corruption. We are doing something. The fact that we identify and take action is important. We are looking at the tender system. The Treasury is useful in finding and dealing with corruption.

I’m not sure we are getting nowhere – you wouldn’t see people being charged and suspended.

South Africa is not a small country. It’s important to have sufficient instruments to deal with it. (Zuma had been asked whether there were too many organisations dealing with corruption)

Enoch Godongwana recently resigned as economic development deputy minister and MP, and under a bit of a cloud. Do you think he’s done the right thing?

People have different views on that matter. At the moment you are talking about allegations.

Allegations doesn’t mean you are guilty, until you are found guilty. But I think (there are) individuals who feel it is better to stand aside to allow the process, but (there also are) individuals who could not stand aside because they’re not guilty and they have not committed a crime either.

So it is a matter of how people would react to situations.

What does the word Mangaung mean to you? People speak about it in such hushed tones.

(Laughs). Mangaung will come and go.

Some conferences of the ANC come with more excitement than others. It doesn’t help if people get emotional. One should not lose sleep about Mangaung.

I think this should be an ANC thing that should be determined at an ANC pace. The ANC is a democratic organisation that

is capable of discussing its leadership in a democratic way.

A lot of your infrastructure plans rest on co-operation and partnership with the rest of Africa. Yet South Africa has just failed in a bid to secure the head of the African Union position for Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Is our influence and leadership role on the continent fading just at the moment we need it most?

I’ve not understood the hue and cry about divisions.

How else does democracy play itself out but through contestation.

The first time the AU has a genuine contest, why must it be a question of South Africa’s interest being on the wane?

We put forward a candidate who could take forward the interest of the AU.

We should instead be looking at the AU: is it effective or not effective?

Are you having fun?
(Laughs) Always. But always. Absolutely.

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