Obama says Zuma struck him as 'amiable enough', bemoans ANC corruption as squandering Mandela legacy

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Barack Obama jokes with Jacob Zuma, who was talking on the phone, during a luncheon hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Barack Obama jokes with Jacob Zuma, who was talking on the phone, during a luncheon hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
  • Former US president Barack Obama described former South African president Jacob Zuma as "amiable enough".
  • He referenced South Africa in his new book A Promised Land.
  • Obama noted the rampant corruption under ANC leadership.

Former US president Barack Obama said former president Jacob Zuma struck him as "amiable enough" and spoke "eloquently" on development and the equitable distribution of wealth.

But, writing in his new book A Promised Land, which has been released this week, Obama bemoaned that the ANC government was squandering the legacy of Nelson Mandela through corruption and incompetence.

In the over 900-page autobiography, he reflected on the Brics bloc, made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

"South Africa at the time was in a transition, with interim president Kgalema Motlanthe soon to be replaced by Jacob Zuma, the leader of Nelson Mandela's party, the African National Congress, which controlled the country's Parliament. In subsequent meetings, Zuma struck me as amiable enough. He spoke eloquently of the need for fair trade, human development, infrastructure, and more equitable distributions of wealth and opportunity on the African continent," Obama wrote.

READ | Barack Obama opens up about how the presidency caused 'tension' in his marriage to Michelle Obama

Obama raised the issues of corruption and incompetence under ANC rule.

"By all accounts, though, much of the goodwill built up through Mandela's heroic struggle was being squandered by corruption and incompetence under ANC leadership, leaving large swaths of the country's black population still mired in poverty and despair."

Obama made his first visit to South Africa as president in 2013 and was hosted by Zuma on a state visit.

He also attended the funeral of Mandela later that year. Obama subsequently visited South Africa in 2015 and again in 2018 when he delivered the annual Mandela memorial lecture.

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