Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, March 26, 2007

Zuma positioning himself
Jacob Zuma has officially begun campaigning. And it seems he's following a very Western-democracy commnication methodology.

Over the past week, Zuma has invited prominent media for fireside chats to highlight his personality, made positioning statements on morals, and called for greater 'political tolerance'.

The latter is the most interesting. Zuma is batting off a good wicket (excuse the lame metaphor, 'tis the season after all!) with his allies in Cosatu and the SACP. Over the weekend, SACP leader Blade Nzimande made a speech warning of the "emergence of features in South Africa similar to those that led to repression in Zimbabwe". Now before the Chicken Littles run for the hills, this is a thinly veiled stab at Thabo Mbeki's lack of tolerance for criticism, and a timely entry to the debate over Zuma. Zuma is using his allies to prise open the door of the presidency under the guise of a need for more open debate within the ANC, and within wider society, of the succession debate. It's simply not a coincedence that both Nzimande and Zuma made speeches over the weekend with the exact same message. In his speech, Zuma said the "nurturing of political tolerance" and "open debate and discussion" were essential for the alliance to work.
"A climate in which we resist open engagement on issues of national interest due to political intolerance or fear will never allow the growth of political consciousness," Zuma said.

"It is fatal to the democratic values and culture of debate on which our movement is built, and on which the SACP in particular thrives.

"We are witnessing in the world around us how the lack of political tolerance and debate lead to the disintegration of democratic values and the destruction of nations.

"That should not be allowed to happen in our country and in our broad movement."

Interesting indeed.