We have ourselves to blame for Zuma

2016-11-19 10:17

President Jacob Zuma’s scandals and political squabbles in his administration continue to overshadow his presidency since he came to office in 2009. Ever since he came to this remarkable office, once held by the great Nelson Mandela, his back has been against the wall, continuously engaged in court battles. In the process, he has used his presidential powers to appoint people who will ensure that he never, by any chance, finds himself standing in the court of law for his alleged sordid deeds.

The recent fight against Pravin Gordhan, the minister of finance, the public protector’s state capture report and the findings of the report, was again, a sign that by the time this incompetent and confused president leaves the Union Buildings, the damage that will be done will be so massive that it will take years to repair. How long we take to repair our nation will be dependent on Zuma’s successor. If the successor is of Zuma’s character, then we are doomed for decades.

Whatever happens though, going forward, whether under Zuma or his successor, I believe we have ourselves to blame for the sinking of this once promising nation. We voted for this Jacob Zuma, twice. And in both occasions, we knew that he was a crippled man and in trouble with the law. Now that he uses his powers to repress dissenters in his administration, and to evade courts, we pretend as if we aren’t responsible for his destructive governance.

It was our democratic choice that brought us President Zuma, and democracy, is imperfect; in fact it is flawed. Because of its imperfections, it has produced President Donald Trump in America, Nicolas Maduro and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and many other despotic heads of states around the world.

As hard as it may be to some to believe, Adolf Hitler, perhaps the most destructive, monstrous public figure of the 20th century, was democratically elected. Many dictators around the world today, were democratically elected. That is how imperfect democracy is.

That’s not to suggest today’s flawed political leaders are comparable to Hitler of the 1930s and 40s– they are not. Hitler was, by far, the worst and most brutal despot of the 20th century. It would be obscene to compare Hitler to any of today’s leaders. The aim here is to illustrate the fact that sometimes democracy produces unpleasant results.

Yet, with all its imperfections, democracy remains widely practiced around the world, and it remains a system where the majority of citizens can shape the course of their country. People choose their leaders. This is true in Venezuela – where people voted for Chavez multiple times – and true in Zimbabwe where people in large numbers still support the dictatorial Robert Mugabe and have voted for him more than once.

It was the German people who voted Hitler and the Nazis into power. What followed after their disastrous democratic choice, was horror. Were there no signs that they were voting for horror? Sad.

When Zuma took power in Polokwane, Limpopo, in 2007, he had earlier been acquitted of rape, and had more than 700 corruption charges against him by the National Prosecuting Authority. Because of political duress, the NPA later dropped the charges as it became clear that Zuma was on his way to the Union Buildings. Still, the majority of South Africans voted for Jacob Zuma into the presidential leadership.

Scandals, incompetence, corruption, have marked President Zuma’s presidency ever since. Yet he got into his second term with a conclusive victory. Millions, even today, still support President Zuma and the African National Congress (ANC) – which means millions approve of his governance. That, highlights our ignorance as a nation.

In a democratic society like ours, with a free press, politicians do not vote themselves into power – we the people vote them into power. President Zuma is a reflection of the character of our society.

Over the past ten years, we’ve had all the information needed to make a wise mark on the ballot, and we’ve repeatedly chose to endorse the ANC. During these ten years, some of us have relentlessly fought tooth and nail to defend Jacob Zuma’s horrible governance. Embarrassing.

Last week’s failed vote of no confidence against Zuma in parliament was a reminder that what comes first to the ANC’s elite is the party. When Gwede Mantashe, the general secretary of the ANC appeared on television this week, he was blunt and honest – that only the ANC will decide about Jacob Zuma, at its own time, not a vote of no confidence engineered by opposition parties.

This elitist view by the ANC and its staunch affiliates has prevailed since Jacob Zuma took power. It has cost our economy billions and our reputation tarnished. By the time President Zuma leaves the office – which will clearly be in 2019 – when his second term expires – the economy will be in tatters.

When that time comes we should not only blame the ANC and its corrupt elite for the calamity, we should also blame ourselves. Because we are the people who gave this Zuma and his allies the power to govern. We had a chance to take it away from them numerous times. We did not. Why? Because clearly, we are an ignorant nation.

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