Zuma’s prick in time saves lives

2010-05-08 13:52

The most common cry against journalists is

that we fail to tell the good news, instead presenting South Africa as a country

of ­mayhem and slippery slopes.

An uncle of mine used to say I edited a

“wrist-slitter” – a read so devastating in its critique that it made you want to

kill yourself.

The plea across society, from ­politicians to business people, is

that the news media need to tell a balanced story of a country with challenges

but also of one which is ­trying very hard.

I am going to try my very best.

Let’s start with Jacob Zuma’s first ­anniversary as


My first assessment was that this has thus far been a chaotic and

quixotic ­administration where decisions are made on the hoof.

I’m not quite sure who is in charge since watching Zuma basically

hand the ­national agenda over to ANC Youth League president Julius


In doing so, Malema determined that we spent most of the past

year speaking about ­nationalisation, ­inter-party matters and, of late, the

­limits to media ­freedom.

But a second assessment has found several points to commend.

The ­administration is, despite the ­political narrative, a

pragmatic one.

For proof, take a look at Zuma’s first budget, which was at once

recession-busting and fiscally responsible.

The national health insurance plan, which no South African can

argue we do not need, has been given a longer gestation period while Health

Minister Aaron Motsoaledi moved quickly to fix the torrid public health


Motsoaledi has been a particular highlight of the past year as he

worked with a rare frankness and a big heart to acknowledge problems while

telling us how he will fix them.

The split of education (our single ­biggest failing as a nation and

therefore the greatest challenge) into basic and higher administrations is

already ­showing greater coherence.

But the single biggest reason why I will not join the pessimistic

brigade as we assess the president’s first year is that he took an HIV/Aids test

and ­disclosed his status.

Our last president claimed not to know anyone with Aids as a

generation of young adults perished around him and hundreds of thousands of

babies were born infected while he dilly-dallied with loony science.

That one small pin-prick for Zuma meant a huge step for the

humanity he leads. None of us should forget that as we assess the president’s

first year in office.


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