Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, October 28, 2005

Zuma playing the fiddle
As much as it grates me to admit it, Jacob Zuma is playing out his 'second coming' like a true political architect. He has so firmly attached himself to the grass roots support of the ANC, and thus ensured that any other prospective presidential succession option will seem aloof and out of touch, that he is fast becoming a real danger to the ANC's, and South Africa's, status quo. For the last two months, Zuma has been campaigning around the country, singing revolution songs and whipping up the crowds. Yesterday was almost a zenith for Zuma, speaking at a wreath laying ceremony for one of the ANC's highest luminaries, Oliver Tambo. Zuma used it to further distance himself from Mbeki in small snide references in stories:

"Tambo read the speech [that Zuma wrote] and asked: do you - the ANC leaders present - think this speech is really suitable for the president of the ANC? (President Thabo) Mbeki offered to spruce up the speech, but Tambo refused.

"When the audience gave a standing applause after the speech, I went to him and said: I wrote that speech which you turned down, but the audience clearly didn't agree with you."

He also used it to build his own legend, highlighting the similarities between himself and Tambo, and incessantly noting his 'grooming' by the former ANC President.

In my view, Zuma is a creating an incredibly inflammatory situation for our democracy that will culminate at his trial. Should he be found not guilty, he will be swept on a wave of populist support that will undoubtedly take him into the presidency and infer that he will be forced to make certain populist decisions. Should he be found guilty, it will no doubt unleash a popular uprising against the judiciary that may threaten to pull the democratic principles of the new South Africa apart. Neither of which seem to bode well...