New term, new slate

2014-05-25 15:00

There were world leaders: democrats, monarchs and dictators.

There were ordinary citizens: tens of thousands of them. There were clerics from the big faiths, there to give blessings to the nation and its leader.

Then there was the man of the moment: Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma.

He seemed genuinely moved that the people of South Africa had given him a second term as president despite his lamentable first five years at the helm. The occasion was one to be proud of.

All the pomp and ceremony sent out a strong message that this country remains a strong democracy that embraces diversity and progress. This show of force said that the republic is secure.

In his oath of office, administered by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, Zuma pledged that he will be “faithful to the Republic of South Africa and will obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Constitution and all other laws of the republic”.

He also “solemnly and sincerely” promised to “promote all that will advance the republic and oppose all that may harm it”.

Those were big words coming from a man who took the same oath five years ago and then went on to preside over a presidency that was mired in scandal and who, on several occasions, questioned the sanctity of the Constitution.

Nonetheless, he uttered the same words yesterday before the nation and representatives of the international community. It will be up to the South African public to hold him to his pledge.

When Zuma returns to his office in the west wing of the Union Buildings tomorrow, it will be as leader of an ANC that received a reduced majority at the polls and is facing pressure from the left and right.

Both the Economic Freedom Fighters and the DA made inroads into its support base, particularly in the country’s major urban areas.

With the certain launch of a workers’ party by next year, Zuma’s ANC will be under even greater pressure in the 2016 local government elections and the 2019 general elections.

These electoral threats will place lots of pressure on the second Zuma administration to deliver on existing policies and programmes, and to accelerate the revision of others.

The tone was set in his inauguration speech, in which he referred to transformation six times.

He promised “radical socioeconomic transformation policies and programmes” and promised that “economic transformation will take centre stage”, and that “the structure of the economy will be transformed through industrialisation”.

If anyone is looking for any shifts in Zuma’s second term, it will be in the form of a more activist and interventionist state.

Rather than withdrawing from the economy, as business and other allied lobbies have argued, government will be a more active player in the next few years.

South Africans can expect ministers in the economic cluster to be much more vocal about business issues.

Expect lots of noise around the implementation of black empowerment, employment equity and land redistribution.

Even if the noise amounts to nothing more than hot air, these issues will be big in our national discourse as the Zuma government tries to live up to the “radical” promises it made on the election trail and as it fights off radicals on its left.

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