Zuma for president

2007-11-21 00:00

I am not an African National Congress member so I can comment freely on the process of nominations and election for the presidency of the majority party. It is good to see the democratic way in which it is proceeding.

Apart from the damage done to our nation by Thabo Mbeki's maverick Aids views and a nasty streak of racist herrenvolkism, he has done a good job, but 10 years is enough. For him to stay on as president of the ANC while Parliament elects somebody else as president of the Republic of South Africa, is a recipe for conflict.

Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale have maturity, struggle credentials and political experience and will have more balance because they have moved outside of the realm of elected party politics during the past five years. Either would be a fitting president. However, it seems that the only bulls in the kraal are Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. So we have to make a choice, unless one abstains, which would be a cop-out.

I would vote for Zuma. My assessment of Zuma is that he is not corrupt but was naïve and too trusting. The “struggle” earned Masinga, as he was known, some shaky friends, but Nelson Mandela also has had those kinds of friends even though, in an understandable effort to retain Mandela's iconic status, the issue has been swept under the carpet. I think Zuma is wiser now.

What politicians, or anybody for that matter, do in the privacy of their bedrooms is none of my business. What was hugely impressive throughout that sordid rape trial, which was an ordeal for Zuma, and indeed for everybody involved as well as the nation, is the respect which he accorded the court process and the judge in his meticulous attendance and his dress. At his rallies he never railed against the system but submitted to its authority. He demonstrated the virtue of ukuhlonipha (respect, dignity, courtesy) under very trying circumstances. As a president, I believe he would respect the institutions and laws of our society.

As somebody who served on the Estcourt/Wembezi Peace Committee and saw the terrible reality of the inter-party violence, I am enormously grateful for Zuma's work as peacemaker (umlamuli). I think he was the only serious leader of the ANC who could gain the confidence of the Inkatha Freedom Party. South Africa owes him an enormous debt, which is probably why Mandela asked him to take over for a time as the mediator in the Burundi conflict.

Zuma has not had a formal education, but he is intelligent, shrewd, courageous and is able to make decisions. He is not a great administrator, but that is not important in a president. Winston Churchill was not a good administrator either. Zuma will look for help and he will get it from the nation. When he was the Minister for Economic Affairs in KwaZulu-Natal, he welcomed the assistance of the business community in administering his office.

Zuma is a man with a real appreciation for the rich and diverse talents of the rainbow nation because he is secure in his own cultural background. One of our problems in South Africa is that there is a small minority of our people, including blacks, who are not at peace with themselves and their identity. He would appoint South Africans of real ability and only afterwards look at the colour of their skins. That has not been Mbeki's approach. Zuma would be a real nation builder.

The struggle song Umshini wami should not be seen as a threat. Just as Bok van Blerk's song De la Rey stirs white South Africans, but not into aggression, so does Umshini wami appeal to black people. Zuma is a liberated human being, he is not politically correct, has a great sense of humour and can even make “K” jokes. He is not ideologically driven and is no communist as Jeremy Cronin has observed with alarm, and as the Johannesburg Stock Exchange discovered last week.

Despite his faults and contradictions, which all of us have, Zuma is a man who fears God and acknowledges it. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. South Africa would be a much more relaxed country under a Zuma presidency.

• Graham McIntosh is a former Democratic Alliance member of Parliament.

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