There is a sense that Zuma’s interest in office is very narrow. It is essentially about retaining power in order to avoid the alternative; in Zuma’s case prison!
He is, in both ideological and political terms a vacant space – a medieval ruler surrounded by a dry mood, in which various interest groups, organizations and factions jostle for space and domination.
Zuma’s interest is far less extensive than Mbeki’s ever were, constrained as they are by his own limited horizon. He has no major policy ambitions, no great ideological frame of reference, and no grand idea a la the African Renaissance and therefore no sense of vision.
His laissez faire attitude is the ‘flavour of the day’.
What is even more curious about his management style and Zuma the politician is that there seems to be scant attempts to ‘package him’ or to improve his ‘package’. His annual State of the National Address is an exercise in rhetorical mediocrity. He has no speed and or nuance.
Zuma is indeed South Africa’s Ronald Reagan – expressing simply what the government was doing so that the maximum number of people could understand it.
Too many people look at Zuma’s body language and then guess about what they think will make him happy and the doing exactly that. It is a huge problem.
In recent times, public servants have taken to referring to the president as ‘Number One’ with thinly disguised contempt and amusement, after the phrase appeared in the absurd investigation into the unlawful landing of the Gupta plane at the Waterkloof Air Force base in April 2013.
It was a public relations disaster for Zuma and his administration, in which he looked weak and beholden to a rich foreign family who had clearly been highly successful in wheedling their way into his affection, probably through secret donations to him and or the ANC.
Conflict of interest is at the heart of the Zuma presidency. They gnaw away at the integrity of the governance system.
Zuma never engages intellectually with the policy or the diagnosis, but with the practical solution. That is the way of non-ideologues – they seek to turn their weakness into strength by focusing in practical matters. Zuma never reads cabinet documents or briefs – he relies heavily on his instinct.
With Zuma it is all about safety and unity in numbers, where during his tenure the Ministers increased from 29 during Mbeki’s tenure to 35 under his leadership. But the problem lies in that the Deputy Ministers increased from 14 to 32, and this being far too many ministers, but it all is to do with patronage – a completely bloated government.
South Africa even has 10-3 embassies, 14 consulates, and 64 honourary consulates, which creates ideal dumping grounds and creates ample opportunity for him to dispense patronage, and he does this so vehemently and uses the opportunity of deploying ‘failures to foreign missions while being paid handsomely for it. What a ridiculous way for a president to dispose of problems while sticking to patronage