Second Take: Zuma easy to judge, harder to understand

2012-07-28 10:51

Xolela Mangcu’s piece, “Our invisible lineage is gone” (City Press, July 22), was most disappointing as it did not help us understand what it is intellectuals, in general, and black intelligentsia, in particular, expect of President Jacob Zuma.

It is all well and good to tell us that Nelson Mandela offered the nation reconciliation during his reign, and Thabo Mbeki gave us the African Renaissance, but unless you indicate how successful or otherwise those
ideals were, how does it help?

I have to say, too, that unless both these noble ideals speak to the material conditions on the ground as they
affect the suffering masses, their benefit is, at best, academic.

To say that, of course, is not the same as saying we did not appreciate debating reconciliation and the African Renaissance.

The fact that Zuma’s two predecessors came up with such ideals does not mean that he has to come up with his own, as that would be childish.

What Zuma has to do, just as Mandela and Mbeki had to, is ensure that he, along with his party, delivers on his election promises.

That is the mandate on which he has to be assessed and judged.

Quite frankly, I have less interest in how many wives or children he has, as long as he delivers.

It would seem Zuma, for whatever reason, presents our esteemed intellectuals with serious challenges in
analysing his presidency.

I would venture to say the reason has to do with how he appears to be in touch with the masses in terms of their aspirations and conditions, while our intellectuals seem much more removed from them.

I would go further to say that the wretched of the earth in this country still see somebody they can identify with in Zuma, even at his elevated position as president.

If that is the case, it would help greatly if our distinguished intellectuals, especially the black intelligentsia, would remove their blinkers and begin to offer analysis rooted in reality.

Mangcu would know that Frantz Fanon made a similar point about the intellectuals of a newly African independent state – that they occupy themselves with quoting and mimicking people from elsewhere and fail to relate to their people on the ground.

It would seem many of our intellectuals (newspaper editors, columnists, writers, academics, etc) may have
assumed that just because Zuma is not as well educated as they are, he might be an easy subject to unravel.

Clearly this is not the case.

There are a few public commentators that have made a serious attempt to understand Zuma’s presidency.

The well-known political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni and Nhlanhla Mtaka of the Ingabadi Group stand out.

These two leave out their personal views about Zuma and focus on the issues at hand.

» Ka Mzolo is a media and social commentator

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