Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Irony of a Zuma Presidency

From the African executive:

Jacob Zuma, South Africa's new cantankerous African National Congress (ANC) president has a political destiny already sealed with fate. Lending any credence to the fact that his electoral victory will emit 'shock waves' in and beyond South Africa is a convulsive misinterpretation of the political game plan in the ANC. A Zuma victory that reflects a figure beyond 0.001 on the African political Richter scale relegates that gadget to the Museum of Calibrated Instruments. Not least because 21st century politics is immune to socialist rhetoric, but that South Africans are wise enough to know that sacrificing hard-won regional and continental dominance on the altar of simplistic populism come 2009 will be suicidal.

James Shikwati (Director, Inter Region Economic Network) believes that he and his fellow tribesman are of Zulu ancestry, this puts him in the tribal lineage of Tshaka Zulu, Gatsha Buthelezi and Jacob Zuma. James’ assertion is founded on knowledge that Tshaka's military authoritarian antics conceived Umfencane, a large-scale migration of the Zulu.

What we know is that Chief Gatsha Buthelezi tried to impose the political influence of the Zulu on contemporary South Africa through his Inkatha Movement, but his effort was met with dismal failure....

For South Africa, the phenomenon of a new national president emerging out of an ANC political process is nothing strange, after all it is the party that produced great characters like Albert Sisulu, Oliver Thambo and of course, global icon Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. But to say that Jacob Zuma will substitute a 'great name' in the person of Thabo Mbeki would be an illusion....

There is a catch to this irony however. If, according to the ANC constitution, Polokwane 2008 has 'produced a future president' in Zuma, South Africans, technically, must ready themselves for a populist Zulu cadre as national leader.

If Zuma survives, South Africans will find themselves head on with fate - a president with a 'criminal' history, but then, will all the members of the Africa Union that are 'clean' please raise their right hands!

We poor Zimbabweans would be caught between a rock and a hard place. Mark Gevisser's biography: Thabo Mbeki, The Dream Deferred reveals that Mbeki has a favour to return to habitual autocrat Robert Mugabe. The ruling party ZANUpf had 'bad' relations with ANC during both countries' liberation struggles, not least because of ideological differences, but that Oliver Thambo simply preferred the friendship of the more aristocratic Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe's fierce and credible political rival. After Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, ANC's Umkhonto weSizwe, whose fighters had been on duty with Nkomo's ZIPRA cadres in Rhodesia, needed a military rearguard in Zimbabwe, so Mbeki was assigned the delicate task of negotiating for this critical passage with Mugabe.

For Zimbabweans who have been clamouring for South Africa to take 'drastic' action as a catalyst for rapid political change, Mbeki's inevitable departure is a blessing in disguise, because Zuma not only has strong Umkhonto weSizwe tendencies, but his Zulu ancestry tallies with the late Joshua Nkomo 's Matebele lineage. Mind you, Zimbabweans have all the reasons to be more optimistic about Zuma's 'hard-line approach' on Mugabe because the latter is not only accused of having massacred twenty thousand Zuma's 'Zulu descendants' in Matebeleland, but also that ZANUpf resents strategic alliances between COSATU - Zuma's key ally - and MDC, Mugabe's arch enemy. However, were Zuma's brand of populist politics to destroy the South African economy, three million Zimbabwean economic exiles, who to date sustain Harare's fragile economy, would be 'dead and buried'. But for Africa, it is another feather in the cap of leaders who have blood, semen and funny money on their hands. Do the SADC and AU really care?

By Rejoice Ngwenya

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