The Many Faces Of South Africa’s Zuma

South Africa‘s African National Congress appears to be on its way to a resounding victory in the country’s fourth democratic election, paving the way for the party’s controversial leader, Jacob Zuma, to become South Africa‘s next president. His popularity was unaffected by corruption allegations and the ignominy of enduring a trial on charges of raping a friend’s daughter, of which he was found not guilty.

What will a Zuma presidency mean for the country?

He is a more charismatic and likeable figure than his technocratic nemesis, former President Thabo Mbeki. He will be a more inclusive leader, more accessible to ordinary South Africans.

When it comes to policy, however, Zuma is something of a blank slate, and has exhibited little interest in the detail of governance. He often tells interest groups exactly what they want to hear, even if, as in the case of business and the labor movement, his utterances to each are polar opposites. In order to succeed, Zuma will have to be more decisive in addressing the significant challenges that South Africa faces, despite invariably alienating segments of his diverse support base in the process.

There is greater inequality in the South Africa of 2009 than there was under apartheid. At least a quarter of the population, almost all black, live in poverty. Formal unemployment is well over 20 percent. The health care system is in an abject state, with 6 million people living with HIV or AIDS and TB on the rise. Violent crime, characterized by 50 murders a day, remains intolerably high and the criminal justice system is dysfunctional. Since the signing of a controversial $5 billion arms deal and the neutering of attempts to investigate it, corruption has risen inexorably.

Zuma is not well placed to lead the moral and institutional renewal the country desperately needs. He has been embroiled in allegations of corruption linked to the deal and has undermined the judiciary, investigative bodies and the prosecutorial authorities in his attempts to get off the hook. The director of prosecutions recently dropped the charges against Zuma in a controversial decision that was the result of immense political pressure. The decision is being contested in court. More worryingly, Zuma has attacked the judiciary, suggesting recently that the status and functioning of the country’s highest court should be reviewed. Parliament, which is constitutionally bound to hold the executive to account, will continue to be little more than a rubber stamp for the ruling party.

It will be crucial to the success or failure of the new administration whether Jacob Zuma fills key government posts with his own, largely mediocre, confidantes or is prepared to draw on the wider talents within the ANC. Some fear that his supporters see his election as an opportunity to feed at the trough from which they were excluded during the Mbeki years.

The only insurance against a regime of patronage and mediocrity is the vigor and independence of the constitutional checks and balances. The country’s vibrant civil society has a vital role to play, as do the battered opposition parties, which will hopefully contemplate joining forces to create a more vibrant nonracial challenge to the dominant ANC.

Andrew Feinstein is a former ANC member of parliament and author of After the Party: Corruption, the ANC and South Africa‘s Uncertain Future.

More about the book…

The first-ever insider’s exposé of the African National Congress

Corruption, the ANC and South Africa‘s Uncertain Future
by Andrew Feinstein

"This important and brave book illustrates the extent to which South Africa‘s multi-billion-dollar arms deal has undermined the rule of law, accountability and constitutionality in the country… It also speaks to the virtues of a transparent, accountable politics of principle that is needed in South Africa and so much of the world."- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

South Africa‘s national elections were held on April 22, 2009. But ANC leader Jacob Zuma-who is expected to become the next president-faces charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering related to a $10 billion arms deal. While South Africa threatens to fall into political turmoil, Zuma refuses to step down and could face trial while he is president. In AFTER THE PARTY (Verso Books; Pub Date: April 17, 2009), Andrew Feinstein presents smoking gun evidence of high-level corruption in the ANC, including Zuma’s involvement in the infamous arms deal.

A respected media commentator and former member of parliament for the African National Congress, Feinstein details the inner workings of the party that has ruled South Africa since 1994, revealing an organization that has become rife with high-level corruption and inner turmoil. Feinstein lays out compelling, meticulously-presented evidence culled verbatim from ANC party meetings-the same evidence that led to his own high-profile resignation in 2001, earning him the label of "the ANC’s Mr. Clean." He details Jacob Zuma’s involvement in the multibillion-dollar arms deal-for which Zuma faces trial in August this year- estimating bribes and kickbacks associated with the deal totaling over $200 million. Feinstein, who has spent years investigating the ANC, also details the rivalries between Zuma and former South African president Thabo Mbeki, Mbeki’s role in the fraudulent arms deal, and the ongoing tragedy in Zimbabwe

The definitive book on the state of the ANC and the future of South African politics, After the Party tells the story behind the power struggles currently keeping South Africa in the news.

About the Author:

Andrew Feinstein is a former ANC MP. He has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Newsweek, among others, and is a regular commentator on CNN. He lives in London.

AFTER THE PARTY: Corruption, the ANC and South Africa’s Uncertain Future
by Andrew Feinstein
Verso Books, distributed by W.W. Norton
Publication date: April 17, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-84467-356-8
Price: $26.95 HC, 301p.

Leave a comment