ANC: Jacob Zuma deserves better
By Mbango Sithole
The ANC is on knife edge. The upcoming Mangaung conference has threatened the future existence of the 100 years old liberation movement. It is being ambushed from all directions. A clear rebellion fed by greed and selfish ambition has erupted within the rank and file of the mighty movement. It has to be seen if it can wriggle itself from the current embarrassing mess which has also, unfortunately, begun to affect the efficient running of government.
The “Polokwane rebellion” set an evil precedence in the ANC. A foreign culture of disrespecting leadership was gladly accepted if not encouraged. We are seeing the same manifesting again this year. Is this the culture that the ANC wants to cultivate? Somebody must stand up against this un-ANC culture. It is amazing that we see certain senior leaders smile when their names are being used by some unguided elements to mock and attack their own elected leaders. How can we sacrifice the unity of the movements for our own personal gains? If these leaders allow these “king-makers” to continue un-checked it will certainly haunt them should they assume the high echelons of power.
President Jacob Zuma (JZ) has many enemies who would really want him out come Mangaung in December 2012. The critics come from within the ANC and those from outside. Covert and overt tactics are being employed to discredit him. Those within the ANC are led by a group who seem bitter that their king- maker role has been swept away. They had hoped that JZ was obligated to them because they catapulted him to the top in the 2007 “palace coup”. They had expected JZ to be pliable to their whims out of eternal gratitude. The group outside the ANC is an intricate network which includes the opposition, the media, to an extend business and some in the judiciary who have taken it upon themselves to engage in covert manoeuvres to influence the political future of the country. This group appears to have an undeclared war of making the country ungovernable.
Both groups have not missed a moment in their attempt to discredit JZ. But one thing that is common in these groups is the lack of substance in their arguments except mentioning about his polygamous lifestyle. They have also sought to portray him as a weak leader using cunning means that border on sabotage. There seem to be an unprecedented shameful hatred which has no roots in anything of substance.
The polygamous lifestyle argument does not have merit because the President already had more than one wife when he was voted into office. If it wasn’t a factor then what makes it a factor now. South Africans knowingly accepted a polygamous President. Although I do not subscribe to polygamy, I am aware that there are cultures where this practice is dominant. My view is that as long as it is between consenting adults it cannot be used against any leader.
Facts on the ground show that JZ has a sizeable number of achievements during the four years he has been at the helm of government and the ANC which many of his critics have deliberately and conveniently paid a blind eye to. A leader is a leader because he takes decisions. This is what JZ has been doing. The environment that he had to operate in was, to be frank, poisoned. There appears to be a sophisticated system that is funded to oppose any of the decisions taken by his government. In a democracy it is expected that the leadership should be held accountable but one cannot fail to see the obvious bias and outright hatred of analysts who have clearly abandoned their role in analysing facts in favour of manipulating and exaggerating in order to influence the political discourse in this country.
The major priorities as set out in Polokwane in 2007 among many others were Education, Health and the economy. We will look at how he fared as measured by these yardsticks.
To me, the best way to judge a person’s priorities is to see how much they are prepared to spend in that area. Facts on the ground speak volumes in favour of JZ. The 2012/3 budget set a budget of R207billion for education. This is compared to R105.5billion in the 2007/2008. For the benefit of those who have a maths- phobia this is almost a 100% increase in the budget. One of the most critical tools needed to turnaround any institution is resources. The budget boost and the creation of two departments dealing with education bears ample proof that government was serious about delivery. Having said that, we should also remember that JZ took the high office in 2009. Only about four years in office. The fruit of his labour have not yet become fully visible. I am not oblivious of the textbook scandal in Limpopo. But that is an operational issue that exposes the provincial weaknesses in a highly divisive province. We take cognizance that several departments in that province were placed under central administration. It really has been very difficult to act even against clear acts of sabotage by some in the province. JZ was roundly criticized for that bold move as commentators and newspapers sought to link it to the Mangaung succession debate. We have again seen JZ and the minister take very decisive action to rectify the mess despite the huge constraints that exist.
Some may argue that JZ should have wielded the axe on non-performers in the various departments. That is true but one has to take into account that in South Africa you don’t just fire people at will. The constitution allows for lengthy processes that have to be followed before you can act. That tends to limit the authorities’ capacities to rectify any rotten areas in government.
A similar comparison shows for the Health Department, the 2012/3 budget is R121billion versus a R63billion in the 2007/8 budget. Again this is an increase of about 100%. The much talked about public health scheme is sufficient evidence of a keen desire to eradicate the inequalities that exist between the rich and the poor as it relates to access to health facilities. We should all rally behind this noble cause. The fight against the hiv/aids pandemic has started to bear fruit as far as access to anti-retroviral and the reduction in new infections and new births infections. JZ has done well in these areas.
The economy and unemployment
Due cognizance must be taken of the global economic environment prevailing from 2008 to the 2012. The US suffered a major crisis around 2008. The world economy has been limping on. The Euro-zone crisis still rages on. Global unemployment levels have been problematic. We have seen major shakings in a number of countries as a result. But these analysts are blind to the glaring fact that South Africa has, to a very large extent, weathered these storms.
Government’s role as far as economic growth and unemployment eradication is to create an enabling environment that is conducive for business to thrive. Many people seem to think that the role of government is to create jobs. That is wrong. JZ’s government has identified infrastructure development as the bedrock of economic development and have set it as a top priority by allocating a huge budget. His youth unemployment wage subsidy has been a victim of unnecessary politicking. This is a tragedy which has been caused by power struggles with the alliance.
The Gautrain service has seen many breadwinners get part-time of full time employment. This was an excellent way that the government addressed a need without raising the levels of taxation. It has been unfortunate that South Africans have fallen prey to politicians who seen to have an unreasonable propensity to oppose any proposals from government. The e-toll debate has been very counter-productive. How does the government meet a need, in this case the maintenance and decongesting of main roads without raising direct taxation levels? The best way is to get users to contribute to the roads’ maintenance. To me this was another innovative way of meeting a need and score a double by employment creation at the same time.
Crime reduction has been one of the success stories of the current ANC government. Under Bheki Cele crime especially violent crime took a serious knock. The Police were adequately capacitated to deal with crime and it has started bearing fruit. The statistics are there for anyone who cares to check. South Africa is now much safer than it was under JZ’s predecessors. This is a crucial area which people, if they wanted to be fair could celebrate as one of the major feats of the current government.
Under his guidance, the SADC and AU have managed to force reasonable reforms in Zimbabwe. This was not an easy task considering the Mugabe regime’s inertia against any changes that appeared to be weakening their erstwhile grip on all the arms of the country. The recent appointment of Nkosazana Zuma to the African Union commission chairperson was a major victory of South Africa’s diplomacy. South Africa can now influence the political and economic discourse on the African continent better. JZ has scored well in taking advantage of the leverage of size and being the economic powerhouse of Africa.
JZ’s government made recent exploits in the international arena. South Africa won the tender for the SKA ( square kilometer Array) project. This project will see over 8billion euros (about R80billion of external investment in South Africa. The criticism leveled against him regarding the loan to IMF was also grossly misplaced. The vision of being a global player and influencing the direction of affairs internationally was again undermined by myopic analysts. The West has for many centuries controlled affairs globally using their financial clout. Why should South Africa be seen just whining and complaining about the West’s hegemony without seeking to address it. In any case this was not a donation but an interest bearing loan.
Man of the people
The list of positive developments under JZ is long. We could talk about housing delivery where many more people got RDP houses and tax incentives have been offered to encourage developers and employers to participate in low income housing. We could mention the increase in the numbers of ANC members. We could mention how he dealt with xenophobia when it tried to rear its ugly head in 2009. We could mention how he has dealt with proven corruption. This is a man who clearly understands what needs to be done and has given himself to it, be it land reform of or the pertinent debates like nationalization and other issues regarding redressing past inequalities. This is a man of the people. This is a hands-on man who, if the ANC and nation were to be fair, deserves a second term both in ANC and South Africa government.