William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

Zuma wallowing in the shallows

Politicians, business and the media have been squabbling among themselves the whole of the past week. Yes it’s right, no it’s wrong. It’s so unfair, no it’s not.

All this fretful introspection was triggered by the cover story in the Economist, headed “Cry The Beloved Country: South Africa’s sad decline”. It argued that South Africa, once the continent’s bright hope, now lags behind other African nations, which are generally on the uptick.

The presidency issued an immediate rebuttal, while the South African Institute of Race Relations hurried out a press release concurring with the magazine. Commentators lined up predictably: the Afro-optimists to debunk and excoriate, while the afro-pessimists taking perverse pleasure in the Economist’s flagellation.

As paroxysms of indignation often do, all this somewhat misses the point. We don’t need a magazine to alert us that we have a problem.

The Economist, as is the wont of good journalism, believes it has discerned a phenomenon that it identifies to the potential benefit of its readers. Being one of the world’s leading publications doesn’t, of its own, make the magazine’s conclusions accurate. Indeed, the Economist a decade ago infamously dismissed Africa as “the hopeless continent”, which it with blushing contriteness corrected recently under an “Africa rising” cover.

While the Economist’s assessment of South Africa might give pause to some investors, it will be treated sceptically by others. Opinion is just opinion. It only shapes national destiny if it accords roughly with the true lie of the land.

The trouble – hence the fury of some local reaction – is that South Africa undoubtedly is floundering, albeit not yet at a tipping point. The ANC inherited a toxic potage of social deprivation and psychological damage, but nevertheless made steady initial progress. Under President Jacob Zuma, however, it is wallowing listlessly in the shallows.

We don’t need the Economist to tell us that. Nor the Financial Times, or the BBC, or The Christian Science Monitor, or the array of media with a history of reporting authoritatively on South Africa, who have all recently sounded similar warnings. It’s not a secret. It’s apparent to anyone not wilfully blind.

Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus knows it. Referring to recent outflows of foreign capital, Marcus talks about a huge ‘deficit of confidence’ and an outlook that is deteriorating rapidly. SA must address the concerns of the international ratings agencies over the government appearing to have a “diminished capacity” to handle political and economic challenges.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan knows it. Instead of railing, as Zuma has, against an “unfair” and “negative” media and opposition who “talk the country down”, Gordhan warned the ANC’s national executive about the need to handle political affairs in a manner that benefits the country’s image.

Former president Thabo Mbeki, delivering the OR Tambo memorial lecture at Fort Hare University, knows it. Breaking a self-imposed silence dating back to his recall in 2008, this was vintage Mbeki – a speech steeped in literary allusion and ideological illusion, with the barbs cannily concealed in the philosophical shrubbery.

He spoke of a need for leadership, of being “deeply troubled by a feeling of great unease” over a looming “costly disaster of protracted and endemic general crisis”. There was a “dangerous and unacceptable situation of directionless and unguided national drift”, about he which knew not what to do.

Following the events at Marikana and in the face of a growing economic storm – figures released this week showed foreign investment flows to South Africa dropped by 43.6% in the past year – Zuma seems lost and way out of his depth. While the ANC is not about to ask Mbeki to saddle up and come to the rescue, and Zuma will very likely prevail at Mangaung, don’t bet on him being at the helm all the way through to 2019.

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    • Tofolux

      @Just a thought, you should throw away your dictionary becos not only is it embarrassing you, it is of very very low quality.
      You ask for only one politician, how about Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma but let me also for good measure give you our Mr Aaron Motsoaledi.
      @Culture Club, who fought for democracy in this country, certainly no chorus-singer and certainly no jonny-come-lately who wants to teach those who fought for freedom and democracy the principles of democracy. Ok you are confused.

    • David

      @ Tofolux: “You personalise your issues and you launch unpolitical attacks on ppl becos you are unable to do anything else….” Er…. Hello pot, meet kettle.

    • just a thought


      There is definitely no seperation between party and state in this country, which is why ANC policy becomes THE policy for this country. The ANC has been freely and fairly elected into power by the South African population, BUT, the decisions that get made after that should be taken in the best interests of everybody.

      So the ANC stood by and said nothing about the mining strikes because it wouldnt want to alienate the SACP and COSATU just before mangaung. So by allowing these strikes to become violent and last forever it seems, our whole country suffers through massive loss of revenue (inclusding the states ability to draw taxes) and downgrades to our status in the international markets for investment.

      So when JZ stands up at this late hour and asks miners to return to work and let the unions negotiate wages all we can say is that the barn door got closed after the horse has bolted.

      And that is customary of every tier of government because they are too afraid to go against policy. Susan Shabangu said no to wholesale nationalisation of the mines and the reaction….she must be removed.

      That is why our country, which is full to the brim of people with skills and the potential to gain more skills, is not progressing nearly as fast as it should be.

    • Coloured Candidate

      @ M.K. Fassbinder
      The rest of Africa is not ‘so wonderful’. They may probably be worse. Consider Zimbabwe for instance – just north of our borders. Nothing has been done by the S.African governement to ‘shut Mugabe down’. They have allowed countless illegal immigrants to enter our country to escape his meglomaniacal madness and brutality.
      In fact, the ANC will lead us even faster than he did into a failed state.
      As WSM says, Zuma is way out of his depth. He is past ‘wallowing’. He is diving in headfirst when he cannot swim – and taking the country with him. And the ANC are letting him – and doing nothing to save us.
      We need to thow outselves a lifeboat by ridding ourselves of the disasterous political party disguised as what the ‘A.N.C.’ asserted itself to be in 1994.

    • just a thought

      @ Tofolux.

      A statesman is a politician who places himself at the service of the nation. A politician is a statesman who places the nation at his service. – Georges Pompidou (French President: 1911-1974).

      The ANC don’t learn from history, because all those in power who ignore the population under their leadership are overthrown eventually. That’s why the level of violent protests are as bad now as they were towards the end of Apartheid. Because the public are unhappy with constant non-delivery.

    • Coloured Candidate

      @ M.K. Fassbinder
      Incidentally, it has just been announced that S.Africa holds the lowest position on the continent for maths and science literacy. No one can compete with us when it comes to buggering up education (apart from a myriad of other applications) and making a complete mess of it.
      The non-delivery of text-books debacle must surely find a place in the history books of this country. And the minister of basic education still holds her position.
      Another disgrace. One can’t even count them – even if you passed mathematics.

    • Coloured Candidate

      … and.regarding the non-delivery of text-books debacle and learners supposed to be writing exams already
      athough the minister of basic education is still getting our tax-payers money for screwing up – and may screw up just as badly again next year, we are told by president Zuma that he will then get the army to deliver the text-books!
      … He refused to call the army to help with the gang and drug warfare and killings which Helen Zillle requested twice. He did absolutely nothing about calling the army in for the out-of-control, illegal mine uprisings, protests and killings.
      But now the president has apparently found something that he deems necessary to call the army in for: deliver textbooks.

      The responsibility for putting a man into office such a president Zuma lies solely with the ANC.

    • Tofolux

      @Just a thought, noting that you are clearly deluded let me give you one hint, multi-party constitutional democracy. Can you make sense out of that? If and when, then lets debate this democracy seeing that you guys are always talking about it but now it clearly proves you have absolutely no idea what it is. (wow)
      Also, noting that you are consistently regurgitating misleading information fed to you by your party, I wonder how you would feel if one tells you that the information you are throwing are downright lies. Also, could it be a remnant of the apartheid practitioners who grossly misled you of the herrenvolk. Are you and yr friends on this forum programmed to fit for purpose?

    • ConCision

      ‘Zuma wallows’
      The tax-payer swallows
      Subsidized supporters follow
      To give ruling-party-poachers another tomorrow.

      In the enormity
      Of the absurdity
      Of what conceivably
      Again might be…
      We might as well already be
      In Zuma-babwe.

    • Charlotte

      @ just a thought Let me compliment you again.
      You appear to be a very sane, sensible and sensitive human being; and one can see how hard you were trying to ‘get through’ to Tofol.
      She, as we know, is always trying. Very,very trying! ….. and time-wasting.

    • just a thought


      The more this debate goes on, the less your paragraphs make sense. if we continue in this any longer your sentences will just be a string of “Xs”and “Ys” with random spaces in between.

      Democracy is a form of government where the people have a limited say in the decisions that are made. I would like to move on from government and strive towards governance. This is where the rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, focus on efficiency and debate are critical in achieving a successful society. if you recall my example of the parks in Cape Town where the communities are incorporated into the planning, design and management you might see my point.

      But the ANC are heading in the complete opposite direction by closing shop and not resonding to any issues hoping they will go away. I guess thats why pushing stuff under the rug is now on the cards for being legal. We all know that efficiency has hit rock bottom given the education crisis and countless service delivery protests.

      I dont think any person who is still poor and disenfranchised today would willingly let the president spend R200million on himself while they continue to live in poverty. But perhaps JZ is protecting himself from the people he is ignoring rather than counter revolutionaries or that pesky unknown “third force” that is plaging our sports.

    • Tofolux

      @Just a thought, for purpose of clarity, you introduced yourself to this debate as a beneficiary who designs parks and recreation centres. Now that you have been exposed, please explain who and what am I debating with? Much like your madam, you think that lying is acceptable. Well it isnt, so pray tell and I debating your cut-n-paste ideas or not? Cos I would really like to get into your cut-n-paste and expose the real sources thereof.
      Oh and by the way, we live in a participatory democracy. Not that you guys had anything to do with it. In terms of the LAW, you MUST ALLOW PUBLIC PARTICIPATION. ie it is written in the law. (not sure if you can understand this simple explanation)

    • just a thought

      Cut and paste from my masters thesis maybe…So I dont think an expose will do anything other than show up your argument for being flawed. Secondly I do not design parks or recreation areas, I am an environmental scientist. So i was there to ensure that environmental legislation ahnd policy was being adhered to.

      I was just amazed at how much extra effort the Cape Town government put in. But if you are inferring that i shouldnt have an opinion because i dont have the skill set (political studies etc) to comment, then most of government officials in office should resign for being underqualified for their portfolios.

      Furthermore, there are 8 levels of public participation, which range from non participation, through tokenism to degrees of citizen power. Through all my research at a local government level it showed that the public is a best engaged at a level of consultation. Which basically means that the plan has been drawn up and in its final draft before it gets sent off to the public to review and comment on. So what impact does the regular south african have on how the city, province or state is managed (outside of an election year). I would suggest nothing. An example of this is the public resorting to violence because they have no other hope of getting their point across. take the example of “we need services, please government”.

      I enjoyed the condescending tone though, but I dont think I am the one who needs to be educated on this subject.

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      @just a thought
      C’mon, who are we kidding hey! Your job sounds like a glorified bureaucrat beholden to the corrupt DA government who redirects the bulk of taxpayer rands for the upkeep of wealthy residential areas in the WCape while the apartheid ghettos get the crumbs. The growing protests around these neglected ghettos surrounding CT are proof of the dangerous powder keg Capetonians are now sitting on, thanks to the shameful policies of the DA over the last decade.

    • just a thought

      @ Dave Harris

      I am based and have always lived in KZN. And secondly the majority of my work is based around applications for the construction of houses/services for the poor to middle income people. So wealthy developments I think not.

      And all i do is implement enironmental legislation, compiled and authorised, by yes, you guessed it, your shiny golden ANC.

      I also didnt know that the average capetonian’s actions had such a reach. I’m sure their lifestyles and the DA enraged the inhabitants on Tembisa, Thembelihle, tafelkop (Limpopo), Ngcobo (Eastern Cape) and Durban into taking to the street and demanding service from the DA. Even through the ANC is in power in all of those provinces, the DA’s failure to run these provinces correctly is such a travesty.

      If knowledge grew on trees, you would be a bush. Your blinkers to every organisation other than the ANC is laughable.

    • Graham

      LOL, Dave chips in with his 2 cents and gets OWNED.