An Mbeki, not Lula, moment for Zuma

2012-12-16 10:00

As you pick up the paper this week, the 100-year-old beast that is the ANC will slouch into Mangaung, the city of its birth and our judicial capital, to mark the party’s 53rd elective conference.

Now the news is loose about ­President Jacob Zuma’s chances of re-election. All sorts of efforts and schemes have been launched to ­ensure he gets his second term.

There’s also a lot of scoffing and heckling at those who are bent on seeing the end of the Zuma years. It’s dog eat dog in the Rainbow Nation.

Now trade union federation ­Cosatu has been among those supporting the man from Nkandla’s hopes. Ironically, Cosatu tacitly ­acknowledged Zuma’s bad run in his first term.

So they’ve been churning out a new mantra called the “Lula Moment” as their rallying call.

They argue that just as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president of ­Brazil, fumbled in his first term and improved during his second, Zuma will do the same.

The federation even invited Lula to a series of talks to learn from him. I find it interesting Zuma is pointing towards Brazil to learn things Lula seems to have learnt from the Thabo Mbeki ­presidency.

Let’s remember the state of our economy when Mbeki started running the country as deputy, with Nelson Mandela as our ceremonial presidential figure.

In fact, Ronald Roberts captures it well in his study of Mbeki’s rule, Fit To Govern: The Native Intelligence of Thabo Mbeki.

“After the wobbly transitional politics of 1990 to 1994, in which the ANC was handed a nearly bankrupt economy seemingly destined for a debt trap spiral, South Africa’s ­finances smartly recovered through a combination of budgetary discipline and improved tax collection ... as the millennium turned, public spending expanded substantially and sustainably.

By 2006, the government’s macrosocial report, A ­Nation In The Making, confirmed that South African social grant expenditure in excess of R22 billion has reduced both poverty and its rural bias since 2000.

Water availability went up 187% in the poorest households, electricity went up 578% and formal housing 42%.” You get the idea.

If you compare the Mbeki presidency with that of Lula da Silva’s, the numbers lay it bare.

If you look at public spending as share of GDP, ­Lula’s Brazil spent 27% in 2005, compared with 29% by Mbeki’s Mzansi.

For the proportion of the budget spent on the poorest of the poorest 40% of the population, Lula spent 21% in 2003 while Mbeki was leading with 45% in 2001.

Mbeki outperformed Lula on things Cosatu wants Lula to teach ­Zuma.

Vavi and his lot mustn’t fear to point Zuma towards Mbeki’s dashiki for some home-grown dialogue among brothers when it’s needed.

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