Is it iNkosi Zuma or President Zuma?

2012-08-11 14:13

It would be useful for President Jacob Zuma to remember, if he forgets everything else, that as leader of the ANC he has stepped into the shoes of men whose founding mission was to look beyond their own ethnicity and put South Africa first.

By encouraging the development of Zumaville, a stone’s throw away from his already majestic compound in Nkandla, rural KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma is showing a shocking inability to read public perception.

His supporters have made the emotive argument that rural development is a cornerstone of the Zuma presidency and therefore Zumaville should be encouraged rather than criticised.

At face value, supporters of Zumaville have a point.

An increasing number of South Africans are becoming urbanised.

This leads to the increasing impoverishment of rural communities despite the discovery that the promise of cities is often false.

Developing rural areas so they can sustain themselves as economically viable options is important and adds to the quality of life there without the alienation that comes with the displacement of those who arrive in the cities for the first time.

Rural development is part of the continuum that must include the creation of new towns and cities to meet South Africa’s development and population-growth trajectory.

The problems with Zumaville are manifold.

Zuma has behaved like a headman or inkosi instead of the president of the Republic.

The snaking queues to his homes in Tshwane and Nkandla resemble those at the home of a traditional healer and not a head of state.

It is unacceptable.

Prioritising one’s own backyard for development betrays a lack of class and statesmanship.

It is shameless. He is president of the whole of South Africa, not just of the people of Nkandla.

What is worse is that the planning of the town has been a rushed job and not enough groundwork has been done to ensure its long-term sustainability.

Zumaville continues the president’s tendency to make himself, rather than the state, the vehicle of change and development.

He is behaving like the classic Big Man of yet another clichéd Third World banana republic.

His need to be seen as personally responsible for water flowing from taps, or bridges being built across rivers, renders local government structures superfluous just so that he can appear a messiah.

It is admirable for a president not to lose the common touch, but Zuma is making the Presidency nothing more than an advice office rather than a policy-making institution.

More importantly, it is an office that should unite the nation rather than do what Zuma is doing: sowing the divisive seeds of regionalism and tribalism.

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