I don’t know about you, but I prefer my leaders smart. I don’t want their intellectual capacity to be open for debate.

Even if a leader is a jackass, I want to be able to say: “Sure, he’s a jackass, but he sure is smart,” like many people thought of good ol’ Mbeki. I don’t want my leader to be making George Bush-like misstatements when he speaks in public. It fills me with a great deal of comfort when I know that my leader is significantly smarter and wiser than I am. I’ll be the first to admit that that bar is not very high, so I’m not asking for much.

I know that some people will think that I’m questioning Zuma’s intelligence. I would have to be an idiot (not that I am not) to think that he is on the slow side. You don’t become the second-most-powerful man in the land by being stupid.

I just get the sense that his top supporters don’t respect him. Or they just think that they are smarter than he is. All they respect is what they can get because of him. I can’t shake the feeling that they will discard him like used toilet paper; once they are rid of him, they will go on the hunt for some other poor soul who is hungry and desperate enough for power, for whatever reason. Unfortunately many will claim much love for him, but I suspect they would rather nurse their expensive Johnnie Walkers while he burns, since he would have achieved his purpose. For them.

I had a conversation with a former chairperson of a certain region of a certain trade union a few months ago. I will name this individual Mr Someone as he told me in no uncertain terms not to reveal his name when I told him that I was going to write a blog regarding our conversation.

It was not until I saw headlines with the Congress of South African Trade Unions contradicting statements made by Zuma that I paid attention to the conversation I had those months ago with Mr Someone.

Mr Someone shared with me the reason the leaders of the trade unions were so passionate about Zuma. He made a call to a regional chairperson, Mr Somebody, of a large trade union while he was with me. After their conversation ended, Mr Someone revealed to me that the reason the likes of Mr Somebody supported Zuma so passionately was because he was someone the trade unions could control. They did not have that luxury with Mbeki and they punished him for it. He trusted his intellect far too much for their liking.

At times I wonder who calls the shots in the ANC. Is it Phosa or Gwede? I never wonder if it’s Zuma. Perhaps he is too busy preparing for the trial. Since the conference I have never felt that Zuma is leading the ANC. I don’t buy the collective argument. My suspicion is that the leadership of the ANC does not think that he would make a good president. If anyone is a lame-duck president, it’s Jacob Zuma.

We see the lack of power in small humiliations, so small that they go unnoticed. In the future they might become more blatant. Time will tell. He is made to retract a statement here and another one there. He is forced to say he was misquoted. Can you imagine that happening to Mbeki?

If all this is true, then it fair to say that Jacob Zuma does not lead; he is being led.

Zuma is becoming a sad and tragic figure. No one can deny that he is a likable and charming man. These two virtues do not a leader make.

He fought so hard for power that when he got it, he discovered he had it in name only. He is told how to wield it. We know that he would argue and say he is a consensus leader. The truth is that Mandela was such a leader, but we knew he had power; we never doubted it. The same can be said about Tambo. Mbeki was a different story, apparently. If this is Zuma’s way of rebelling against Mbeki’s style of leadership, then he is taking it too far. He just seems weak. Perhaps that is what Mr Somebody meant when he said that Zuma is someone that can be controlled.

This is what I expect from my leader:

I want to know what my leader stands for. I don’t want to hear him say one thing today and the opposite tomorrow.

I don’t want a leader who stands just for his own survival. I want a leader who will make sure that I, along with 46-million odd South Africans, don’t just survive but thrive.

I don’t want a leader who follows the public mood, but one who shapes it.

I want a leader who will tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.

I don’t want a leader who thinks that he can get away with answering tough questions by laughing. He should be arrogant enough to say, “I refuse to answer this question,” or, “This interview is over, Mr Journalist Person. Your question crossed the line.”

Zuma, man up! Be the president we know you can be. Stop trying to appease every interest group out there and take your power back!


Khaya Dlanga

Khaya Dlanga

Khaya Dlanga* By day he perpetuates the evils of capitalism by making consumers feel insecure (he makes ads). For this he has been rewarded with numerous Loerie awards, Cannes Gold, several Eagle awards...

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