William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

The good ship Msholozi needs Captain Courageous, not Pugwash

Just over three months ago President Jacob Zuma was sailing towards the African National Congress leadership conference with only clear water to be spied ahead of him. Now the good ship Msholozi is battered, yawing from side to side, and its skipper panicked.

What happened? After all, a home province membership drive promised KwaZulu-Natal a solid edge in delegates at Mangaung. Zuma’s bête-noire, Youth League president Julius Malema, and his cohorts had been neutralised. The only one with a chance of unseating Zuma, Deputy-President Kgalema Motlanthe, had failed to break cover to join the Anyone But Zuma forces.

Marikana is what happened. The police killing of 34 striking miners is a seminal event and will dog Zuma long into the future, much as the presidency of Thabo Mbeki became defined by HIV/Aids denialism.

At the moment when South Africa most needed leadership, Zuma’s failings on that score were laid painfully bare. He seemed lost, indecisive, almost fearful.

Zuma failed even to attend the official Marikana memorial service. He was ‘tending to other issues’ and the occasion was promptly hijacked by Malema, turning into an anti-Zuma free-for-all from which his Cabinet colleagues were sent scurrying for their lives.

From the outset of his presidency, Zuma has taken a drubbing for his supposed lack of leadership. It’s not entirely fair. What the ANC wanted after Mbeki’s authoritarianism was a more collaborative style, which Zuma has delivered, albeit it to the degree that he often stands accused of having no genuine personal beliefs, agreeing most with those whom he spoke to last.

But one shouldn’t underestimate the challenge of leading the ANC. Behind its apparently unassailable popular support and huge parliamentary majority is a constantly shifting alliance of disparate, competing groups. Sometimes they are more at one another’s throats, than that of the political opposition.

This is why South Africa, perhaps uniquely among the world’s democracies, doesn’t insist on Cabinet solidarity, the convention that policy differences between ministers are resolved in Cabinet and that if a minister won’t stand behind the final Cabinet position, he or she resigns.

In SA, as the dispute over the Traditional Courts Bill most recently highlighted, ANC ministers can and do with impunity publicly contradict and lobby against Cabinet decisions. Although the consequent process of endless reconciliation makes for halting and ineffective government, it is essential for the ANC, so as to minimise the risks of splits.

Zuma understands this and has proved adept at glossing over internal differences, so by this measure arguably has been an excellent leader of the ANC, if not the country. He has delivered exactly what the Polokwane rebels wanted from the one to replace Mbeki, a man who rode roughshod over any whisper of dissent.

It’s dawning though on some of the rebels that this is not enough. When organisations or nations are reeling under the body blows of capricious fortune, they demand also inspiration from their leaders. Collaboration morphed into simple appeasement is not inspirational.

Nor do Zuma’s personal circumstances inspire: the stench of corruption charges avoided but not refuted; the blurring of the personal and public purse; and the president’s ever expanding but secret obligations to millionaire benefactors.

Through judicious leaks to the media – the damaging spy tapes and Nkandla home renovations – Zuma’s enemies within the ANC have reinforced the impression of many South Africans that the driving forces of his presidency have been to stay out of jail and to prepare the ground for a comfortable retirement. Meanwhile, Zuma’s critics are being bullied and the only solution to the unremitting flood of bad news is a proposal for legislation to ‘protect the dignity’ of the president.

While he will almost certainly carry the day at Mangaung, Zuma will remain vulnerable to eventual shipwreck unless his leadership improves. What’s needed is more Captain Courageous, less of the clownish Captain Pugwash.

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

      When will our rabid DA supporters realize that blaming President Zuma for the Marikana massacre is just a deflection of the real culprits that set the stage for this tragedy – LONMIN MANAGEMENT!
      William,being a mouthpiece for corporate media mafia like the Sunday Times, keeps strangely silent on the Lonmin’s CEO sudden mysterious hospitalization, the very day of the massacre nogal or their role of Lonmin’s management in feeding the rivalry between unions resulting in numerous violent confrontations.

      Unlike Williams autocratic apartheid state, our democracy encourages robust discussions on the long overdue Traditional Courts Bill that will go along way toward creating a more human justice system for our rural folk.

      The continued attempts at character assassination of President Zuma over Nakandla clearly shows how our media mafia operates with total impunity with zero accountability for their destructive actions.

    • johnbpatson

      But if Mangaung endorses Zuma in his role, he will have a full five-year second term after the elections in May 2014 because there is not a possibility that anyone, other than the ANC candidate will be elected.
      That takes us to 2019, and who knows what the world will look like then?
      What South Africa might look like is that it has a very rich, brooding, paranoid president presiding over a country in economic melt-down and railing against colonialist plotters in London, who he is convinced spend every day thinking about the country and how to bring him down….
      Sounds like a plot from a film doesn’t it — it could never happen in real life.

    • Charlotte

      Dave … Hey, man. You came in first again! Were you waiting with baited breath?
      But unfortunately, ‘same-old, same-old’ and seriously boring.

    • Reducto

      Harris: “our democracy encourages robust discussions on the long overdue Traditional Courts Bill that will go along way toward creating a more human justice system for our rural folk.”

      You do anything but engage in honest discussion about the TCB. Take into account:

      > The TCB does not make provision for the participation of women.

      > The TCB allows traditional leaders to make and apply customary law with little to no consultation, which runs contrary to legitimate customary law.

      > The TCB allows traditional leaders to impose punishments such as forced labour, in some instances without possibility of appeal.

      > Many of the traditional leaders owe their positions today to complicity with the apartheid state, often being put in place of legitimate traditional leaders who were removed for not cooperating.

      > The TCB reinforces apartheid-era boundaries! How do you not get this?

      Don’t tell us you care about rural people. You don’t. You’re an ANC propaganda troll, who doesn’t care that this Bill will reinforce the apartheid bastardisation of customary law, with chiefs not being truly accountable to their people. It is all about winning patronage with autocratic chiefs, not helping rural people.

    • jandr0

      @Dave Harris: Rubbish!

      Your “democracy” DOES NOT “encourage robust discussions,” preferring ad hominem attacks like “cockroach” and snide remarks like “white madam.”

      Making statements like “Williams autocratic apartheid state” is pure, unsubstantiated insinuation – give proof. Otherwise, you are simply spreading FALSE innuendos.

      Calling the Traditional Courts Bill “a more human justice system” does not seem to agree with what many traditional women say. So you are misrepresenting the truth by advocating your own biased view.

      Stating that “the real culprits that set the stage for this tragedy” is “LONMIN MANAGEMENT” is simplistic in the extreme, as you yourself identify at least other contributors such as “rivalry between unions.” And what role did INEPT government play in not acting when innocent lives were being taken in the lead up to the day of the Marikana?

      How blinkered can Dave Harris be?

      I’m not saying that the Lonmin Management was NOT a role player, but your one-sidedness borders on being irrational.

      You and your BLIND sycophancy is the real threat to our democracy. Your type will destroy democracy in South Africa. You actually WANT South Africans to stay poor, uneducated, while the money that should go to upliftment is robbed from the poor to pay for Blade’s BMW, Nkandla, et al. The poor is being kept poor by the ANC!

      Oh well, maybe I should just ignore you like others… you’re too blind to see the truth.

    • Max

      Charlotte unfortunately Dave Harris never learnt to think creatively or self-critically. You can’t blame him though. Shame man the guy’s just a sad old apartheid relic trying desperately not to be boring. He’s a product of apartheid christian national education. Being a propaganda troll with one dimensional thinking is all he knows.

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

      Lets not engage in another futile argument over the TCB. You and your ilk, can only view justice from your myopic eurocentric lens, which favors the rich. African tradition is a rich one that has survived and thrived since the beginning of time, in spite of white supremacy in the last few centuries. You see Reducto, your apartheid indoctrination has created blindspots in your perspectives of African culture. William’s mean-spirited blog, using comedic Disney characters, shows how out of touch the DA really is and why they are just a white tribal party with a hidden agenda that shamelessly engage in fronting to seek credibility.

      Saying the DA cares about rural people is just as ludicrous as saying Mitt Romney (remember him) cares about the middle class, or the Nazis really cared about the Jews.

      You batty comments shows that you really do hate free speech, don’t ya! 😉

    • Peter L

      -So Lonmin management fired the shots that killed the “Miners?” (many of whom were not employed on any mine) did they.
      I think not.

      -So if indeed Lonmin contributed to the tension between the rival Unions (zero evidence offered by Dave, as always – pure speculation), it was Lonmin who savagely hacked the rival members to death in acts of pure barbarism (cutting out the victim’s tongue), was it?
      I think not.

      Lonmin have, however exacerbated the situation by caving in to unsustainable wage demands that will cause mine closures and massive lay-offs.

      -So the traditional courts bill offers a “motre humane justice system for the rural folk, does it?
      Let’s see – No property ownership rights on freehold, people governed by non-elected “leaders”, no votes for women?
      I think not.

      BTW – the TCB will not pass constitutional muster anyway, so stop fretting.

      So the media are assassinating Zuma’s character over Nkandla, are they?
      Actually, they are simply printing juicy titbits and facts supplied by the various anti-Zuma factions within the alliance.
      What serves to assassinate Zuma’s character are the facts and the truth.

      How about debating the facts, DD?

      You are entitled to your own opinions and interpretation of the facts, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

    • Reducto

      @Harris: The fact of the matter is you cannot refute the following:

      > The TCB does not make provision for the participation of women.

      > The TCB allows traditional leaders to make and apply customary law with little to no consultation, which runs contrary to legitimate customary law.

      > The TCB allows traditional leaders to impose punishments such as forced labour, in some instances without possibility of appeal.

      > Many of the traditional leaders owe their positions today to complicity with the apartheid state, often being put in place of legitimate traditional leaders who were removed for not cooperating.

      > The TCB reinforces apartheid-era boundaries!

      So, instead of actually engaging with arguments against the TCB, you resort to debating like a child and ignore all these points.

      I never said the DA cares about rural people. You are putting words in my mouth, because you cannot refute the fact that the TCB is so flawed that it would not survive constitutional challenge.

      I pointed out the fact that you and the ANC do not care about rural people and you’ll sell them out to score points with autocratic, patriachal traditional leaders, while re-inforcing apartheid-era boundaries and the bastardisation of customary law under apartheid.

      Dave Harris, supporter of laws that reinforce apartheid boundaries and sell our rural people for the sake of patronage. Defender of the indefensible.

    • Charlotte

      Max is right Dave. Even if I were ‘batty’ (I am not), what has a stupid, old-fashioned word like ’batty” got to do with’ free speech’ or your being such an utter boring old relic?
      Do what I suggested, Dave. Go out and get a breath of fresh air. It’s Spring. It’ll clear your brain.You might even find a world out there that you never even knew existed in your offensively bitter-and-twisted, jump-to-conclusions, racially biased and make-believe mind. Try it Dave. You can thank me later.

      @ Peter L. Didn’t you type DD instead DH? No matter. Even had you put nothing, we would known exactly to whom you were referring.

      @ WSM. Good character assessment of Zuma. He agrees with everyone and anyone – whether he understands them or not He hears everything and everyone from Jesus Christ to traditional healers. He listens to everything except intelligence, logic and anything that makes sense. He does nothing of any worth, says nothing of any truth and has achieved nothing except accumulate immense personal wealth for himself at the expense of the tax-payer and the poor – from both of whom the money has been stolen.
      He is ‘a man for any season depending on what the weather looks like’ – with no scruples, leadership ability, vision, principles or reason. Actually, he looks a lot like Capt. Pugwash as well.

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

      “I never said the DA cares about rural people. ”
      So why is it then, that rabid DA supporters like you and William, continue to spread misinformation and hysteria about the TCB that affects mainly RURAL folk?

      @Peter L
      Are you claiming that the Lonmin’s CEO Ian Farmer’s, who probably had a hand in sanctioning the use of deadly force against miners, sudden hospitalization on the day of the massacre was a mere coincidence?

      Are you claiming that Lonmin’s management had no hand in stirring up rivalry between unions to gain the upper hand in negotiations?

      Why do you, like William, keep silent about Lonmin’s role in the massacre but choose to blame the President of all people?!!

      By engaging with William in the juvenile name-calling of the office of the President, shows your utter disdain of free speech of others and for the office of the president which is protected in democracies across the world. Even the US, has numerous laws to explicitly protect the office against writings “with intent to defame … or to bring them … into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against” the president. We are badly in need of similar laws here in SA, where our local “bloody agents” continue to hide behind our free speech rights – ironically the very rights that the ANC fought so hard to obtain for the first time since colonialism.

    • Len

      To the people that still read and respond to @Dave Harris…
      You deserve what you get.

    • maggielou

      @WSM – keep it up. Let the truth be known. Only a rabid ‘trough feeder’ will defend the facts by breaking down the opposition. I love the way you are irritating the daylights out of that rabid, idiotic commentator. He is obviously afraid of losing his feeding space.

    • Reducto

      Harris: “continue to spread misinformation and hysteria about the TCB”

      Care to tell me how the following is wrong?

      > The TCB does not make provision for the participation of women.

      > The TCB allows traditional leaders to make and apply customary law with little to no consultation, which runs contrary to legitimate customary law.

      > The TCB allows traditional leaders to impose punishments such as forced labour, in some instances without possibility of appeal.

      > Many of the traditional leaders owe their positions today to complicity with the apartheid state, often being put in place of legitimate traditional leaders who were removed for not cooperating.

      > The TCB reinforces apartheid-era boundaries!

      Oh wait, you can’t, because you are a shameless propaganda troll who doesn’t care that you are selling rural people out to autocratic, patriachal chiefs while reinforcing apartheid era boundaries.

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

      You’re once again luring me into your web of deception. Just this once, I’ll indulge you in this futile exercise, only because I can highlight your deceptive tactics:
      “does not make provision”
      What does this really mean? Last time I checked, women play a pivotal role in decision making in EVERY aspect of the African culture. You’re confusing this with the oppression of women, quite common in SA white culture.
      “with little to no consultation”
      Again, what does “little to no” really mean?
      “in some instances without possibility of appeal”
      All justice systems have limits to the appeals process, less they are abused and clog up the system! DUH!
      “traditional leaders owe their positions today to complicity with the apartheid state”
      Again, you’re confusing traditional leaders with the real beneficiaries of apartheid who now support the DA so that they can continue to enjoy their ill-gotten gains.
      “reinforces apartheid-era boundaries”
      Absolute lie, these boundaries have changed significantly, just like the boundaries of our provinces are still in flux. 😉

    • Zeph

      I’m with Reducto on this one! I am curious to see how Dave answers to what the TCB basically says:” We, the ANC – the Ruling Party, do here by declare that the Nats’ Apartheid policy was right to enforce Separate Development. To this end we are passing a new bill, the TCB, which will, in effect, bring back that old Apartheid bugbear…The Homelands. Thank you and goodnight…”

    • Reducto


      Educate yourself: http://www.lrg.uct.ac.za/usr/lrg/docs/TCB/2012/legal_submission_lrg_2012_final.pdf

      1. “Lastly, instead of the Bill providing specific protections for women to address the particular problems that they often face, the Bill puts the onus on the senior traditional leader to ensure the participation of women. This means that rural women would have to challenge the actions of the senior traditional leader to invoke their rights – a daunting task, given prevailing power relations in rural areas. Moreover, according to the limited conditions of review set out in section 14(1), they would have to meet the high bar of showing that the traditional leader acted ‘ultra vires’, outside the scope of the Act, was guilty of a gross irregularity in the course of the proceedings, or was in some way partial, biased or malicious.”

      2. It means there is no onus on the chief to consult with others, which there is suppose to be in legitimate customary law. It perpetuates the apartheid bastardisation of putting too much power in the hands of chiefs.

      3. Forced labour, without ANY possibility of appeal. That is unconstitutional in so many ways.

      4. You haven’t attempted to refute the fact that many of these traditional leaders were complicit with the apartheid state.

      5. Fact: the TCB by and large uncomfortably resembles apartheid-era borders and reinforces them.

    • The Creator

      No, Mr. Sanderson-Meyer is wrong. Marikana was not the source of Zuma’s predicament. Zuma’s predicament stems from the fact that some of the people who put Zuma in power are starting to realise that the Zuma administration is mismanaging the country much more destructively than it is mismanaging the ANC.

      In other words, the country will dissolve before the ANC loses power. This is, in my opinion, a problem for the businessmen who backed Zuma for Polokwane; their idea was that Zuma would run the ANC into the ground and it would disintegrate, and then some kind of coalition headed by the DA would take over. Some of them are still backing Zuma because his corruption is so profitable for them, but others are worried and trying to support other candidates.

      Within the ANC, I don’t think that Zuma is at all popular. The anti-Zuma movement existed long before Marikana; its problem is simply that the totalitarian behaviour of Zuma and his allies is able to crush opponents and rig elections, so therefore people are afraid to speak out against him because this will destroy their political careers. It’s quite likely that even in allegedly solid Zuma centres like KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, Zuma doesn’t really command a whack of real support — it is largely a thin screen of cronies on the surface.

      Zuma will win at Mangaung, but he will be a lame duck President. This is the worst possible outcome, of course — not only an incompetent leader, but a weak one too.

    • Reducto

      In fact Harris, even an ANC member like the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities recognises how flawed this Bill is: http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/law/2012/09/18/department-of-justice-favours-fixing-traditional-courts-bill-not-scrapping-it

      “Ms Xingwana and a host of civil society organisations, most notably those working in the area of women’s rights, have slammed the bill as creating a second-class justice system for rural South Africans and for entrenching old apartheid bantustan boundaries.”

      But it seems you just don’t care that old apartheid boundaries are being reinforced, just so long as the ANC wins the patronage of autocratic, patriachal chiefs.

      Nobody is saying there should not be legilsation to give effect to traditional courts. The South African Law Reform Commission in fact in the past drafted legislation after extensive consultation with rural people. But the current Bill is one which has only been drafted with consultation with chiefs.

    • Cabin Crew

      Description of ‘Captain Pugwash’ on Google:
      “The pompous but likeable captain of the Black Pig. Although he boasts being the “bravest buccaneer”, he is actually quite cowardly and stupid. His greed often gets him into trouble. Nevertheless he usually wins the day – either with the help of Tom the Cabin Boy or by sheer luck. Despite being a pirate, he is rarely seen committing any acts of piracy.”

      What a remarkable analogy and personification! … likeable, cowardly, stupid, greed, a pirate ….

      However, by comparison, Zuma is running the country into the ground faster than Captain Pugwash could ever dream of running a ship aground.

    • Cabin Crew

      It is his cronies and crew in the ANC, who will succeed in running the country into the ground. A ‘failed state’ awaits us with them at the helm.

    • chincherin chee

      Joke now viral:

      Zuma walks into a bank to cash a cheque. He says to the cashier: “Please cash this cheque for me.”
      Cashier: “Could you please show me your ID., sir?”
      Zuma: “Well I didn’t bring my ID as I didn’t think there was any need to. I am Jacob Zuma, the President!! Everybody knows who I am..”
      Cashier: “I’m sorry, Mr. President, but with all the regulations and monitoring because of imposters, fraud and forgers, etc., we insist on proof of identity. These are the bank rules and I must follow them.”
      Zuma: Just ask anyone here at the bank who I am and they will tell you. I need to have this cheque cashed.”
      Cashier: “Look, perhaps there’s another way: One day Ernie Els came into the bank without an ID. To prove he was Ernie Els he pulled out his putting iron and made a beautiful shot across the bank into a cup. We knew he was Ernie Els and cashed his cheque.
      Another time, Naas Botha came in without an ID. He pulled out a rugby ball and made a fabulous drop kick; and the ball landed in my cup. With that spectacular kick we knew it was him and cashed his cheque. So sir, what can you do to prove that it is you, and only you, as the President?”
      Zuma stood there thinking and finally says: “Honestly, I can’t think of a single thing I’m good at.”
      Cashier: “Will that be large or small notes, Mr President?

    • http://paulwhelanwriting.blogspot.com Paul Whelan

      The ANC anoints rather than appoints a leader. He is presented and promoted publicly from a narrow candidate range all of whom are required to say nothing about policy and are difficult to distinguish from one another in any other respect as they must also make clear they are all faithful servants of the party. As WSM says, in JZ the party got exactly what it, or its tiny governing caucus, wanted after Thabo Mbeki – a man who understands his role perfectly and is content not to step out of line.

      But it is a mistake to suppose Mangaung will mean another five years of Zuma if he wins there. Given all the circumstances that in fact seems most unlikely.

      This may be of interest: http://paulwhelanwriting.blogspot.com/2012/11/why-you-neednt-lose-all-hope-if.html

    • Peter L

      @ Charlotte
      DD was not a typo – is stands for “Dingleberry Dave”. Being presumably of the female gender and less hirsute than us males, you might be unfamiliar with the term or concept. I am sure that Mr Google could enlighten you.

      @ DD
      I have no factual information or data on Farmer’s alleged medical condition (possibly clinical depression?), nor of any actions taken to stir up inter-union rivalry.
      The timing of the hospitalisation / medical quarantine does indeed look suspicious, so it is to be expected that people will presume or conclude he is doing a Shaik / Selebi.

      If you have facts and data to share, please do so and cite your sources.

      In the absence of such facts, your statements can be conjecture, hypotheses or flights of fancy.

      Or all of the above.

    • Charlotte

      @ Peter L.
      I did google it. All I can say is :”Wow” and “It figures”.

    • Tofolux

      Oh dear, the middle-class is really suffering from verbal ”diarrhea”. All this obsession is really not a good remedy for their ”sickness” @ William, try and elevate your debates. Try and put something substantive. I mean, all the priviledged schooling, priviledged employment or lets just say, with all the priviledges, this surely cannot be result.

    • Gavin Storrie

      The difficulty I have with Dave Harris, and I hope writers think about this, is his intellectual cowardice. And it might be more than intellectual. Anyone can Google Saunderson-Meyer or Julius Malema or Helen Zille or Gavin Storrie and get information about who they are. But Harris is, in the way of all cowards, INVISIBLE. But he is destructive. He offers NOTHING for constructive debate and is consequently of no value, except as a parasitic flea.

    • Tofolux

      @Gavinsorrie, the problem you have with Dave is that you are unable to respond to him. You are unable to elevate your debate to a substantive level other than to insult. In fact, inasmuch as you accuse others of copy n paste you havent added anything new to the debate. When one engages on social medium, you are suppose to at the very least show some tolerance. Being disrespectful and throwing insults is an indication that you have exhausted yourself and now have to intimidate. Its an old tactic. Hence it is diabolical that this amount of disrespect and insulting behaviour is passed off as “debate”. The substandard information that is flaunted might be believable to some who are disrespectful people anyway, but to accuse others shows the hyprocrisy of your intolerance.

    • Mr. Direct


      Erm, I did not see your contribution to this debate, other than the disrespectful insult the author for the lack of substance.

      Not sure which one you are, the kettle or the pot……

      Mr. Zuma is quite similar to Captain Pugwash, the only problem is that he does not have a decent cabin boy to sort out the problems he causes…