I’m looking forward to the Zuma era in South African politics. We’re all wallowing in the mire right now, and have been for years. It’s bad, bad, bad out there. Jacob Zuma, for all his worrying foibles, could be just the breath of fresh air we all need.

Usually we South Africans lob some guy into office and then sit back and take a let’s-see attitude. “Let’s give the guy a chance and see what happens, hey? Shame, man, he seems so nice.” Now we have a guy who almost everyone (except the millions who voted him into the ANC presidency) thinks is an embarrassment-in-waiting. And almost every word written about him spells out the dire future awaiting us all once he becomes the country’s president, which we presume to be a fait accompli. But isn’t there another way of looking at the man?

If a change is as good as a holiday, there could be something to be said for pitching our lot in with Zuma and seeing where it all takes us. It’s never gonna be dull, is it? And there’s so much stupefying boredom in our politics at the moment that anyone, anything, can only be more diverting than the present. We’re just like the Americans in this sense. They’d take anyone, the milkman, the cleaner, just as long as George W Bush would go away. And they’d probably do a better job than Dubya.

Zuma, for all his faults, appeals to the maverick in me. And let’s face it, we’re a nation of mavericks. We party too hard, drive too fast, drink too much (often at the same time), we’re obsessed with sport to the point that shrinks should be asking questions, we whinge like no other nation on Earth, we put up with any amount of crap from our politicians and still, somehow, we manage to keep on keeping on.

We all break the rules, as a matter of course, almost as a point of honour. So what’s the problem exactly with having a president with questionable morals? The guy is as South African as boerewors and slap chips.

What, the guy has too many wives? So what? Bill Clinton had too many girlfriends. While he was married. What did his wife do? She forgave him, as did the entire American nation. Now the man is a hero, and had it not been for Barack Obama his presence at the side of Hillary Clinton would have made her a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. Personal morality evidently has little bearing on a man’s ability to run a country and an economy.

Zuma could become our very own Bill Clinton, a guy full of flaws but one helluva dude to have around when you’re feeling down. And there’s his entire good side that we have yet to start discovering. There could be loads of wonderful, happy surprises. What a fantastic prospect.

The guy is an alleged fraudster? He’s a politician! The man has a voracious appetite for women? He’s a man!

JZ’s flaws, supposed, alleged or otherwise, are all well-documented, and no doubt will be still more fully documented in the fullness of time. How bad a thing is this? Most politicians, anywhere in the world, with horrifyingly few exceptions, are self-serving scoundrels. Most of them attain high office without us having yet cottoned on to their real nature. Then the scandals start breaking and we all shake our heads and say: “If only we’d known.” With Zuma, we already know. How refreshing is that? How cool is that? He’s an utter original, a mould-breaking new man for a new age.

Politicians, with hardly any exceptions, seek and achieve high office because they want stuff — prestige, power, expensive cars, free travel. It goes with the territory. You want a paragon running the country? Look outside of politics. Try a place of worship. And we all know what kind of an authoritarian future that could lead to.

He’s a smiling, charming, party-loving guy who clearly wants to be liked, loved and, who knows, even respected. He’s charismatic, and charisma has to come from somewhere.

Come on, give the guy a break. He’s gonna get the job anyway. Let’s show him a smile, give him the nod, make him a happy man. We could all use a smiling countenance right now.

And if, once he’s been in office for a while, a whole lot of new, really nasty stuff emerges, well … well then …

Ag, let’s see, hey?


Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman is a journalist, budding playwright and sometime chef. He's written two plays, An Influence of Ghosts and Blue Train Coming, and back in the day wrote loads of songs. He paints a bit in watercolours...

38 replies on “Why Jacob Zuma could be our very own Bill Clinton”