On Zuma and his legacy

By Drum Digital
16 August 2014

Jacob Zuma has spent most of his second term dousing fires when he should be consolidating a legacy, writes Sabelo Ndlangisa.

A president’s second term in office is usually the time when he or she consolidates a legacy.

Having learnt from the mistakes and the successes of the first five years, the incumbent wants to use his remaining years to leave something for which future generations would fondly remember him or her. This is the time to shun past errors, and the time to maximise whatever talents he or she has brought to the administration.

When Zuma crafted policies like his blueprint National Development Plan and pushed through Parliament a raft of laws in the first five years, he must have had his second term in mind. He is after all a man who clearly wants to be remembered for delivering the “radical phase of the transition”—which is ANC-speak for the economic dividend of freedom.

“We are not going to be afraid of anyone or ashamed. We will do what we promised to do when you voted [for us],” Zuma told revellers at the lawns of the Union Building in isiZulu on the day of his inauguration in May, just after the formal proceedings had ended at the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre.

Those were the words of a man whose party’s slice of the electoral cake had marginally shrunk at the general elections, and who knows that popular support for African liberation movements tends to take a knock after 20 years in power. But he didn’t sound like someone who had resigned himself to the fate.

Zuma should be worried that his problems seem to be eclipsing whatever good work his government three into his last term office.

There is the issue of the acrimonious factional fights in the National Prosecutions Authority, and the probe into the fitness of the institution’s head to lead it just over a year after he took office. Critics, rightly or wrongly, put Zuma’s legal woes at the centre of the wrangling in the NPA.

Zuma’s stalling over DA’s demand for the release of the so-called spy tapes, which got him off the hook in 2009 on the assortment of criminal charges he faced at the time, might have helped when he wanted to buy time. But, this means he may now have to tackle the DA’s challenge to then NPA head Mokotedi Mpshe’s decision to drop the charges against him.

This means he is a sitting duck until the spy tape saga somehow goes away.

And then he has to manage the furore that has surrounded a huge portion of the R250-million the state spent upgrading his private homestead in Nkandla. As Zuma’s report to Parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete makes it clear, he does not want to take any responsibility for the escalation of the costs of the upgrades. This is even though some of the millions were spent on frills like the cattle byre, a swimming pool and a chicken run.

It may very well be that the ANC will use its majority in the Parliamentary ad-hoc committee, due to be set up to deal with the matter, to simply rubber stamp Zuma’s response. But this it is unlikely put the Nkandla debacle to rest.

The last thing Zuma probably wants is to squander his second term is dousing fires. Yet this is exactly what he might wind up doing.

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