South Africa: Will Zuma’s end mark a new beginning?
Jacob Zuma has finally stepped down as president of South Africa, said the Mail & Guardian in an editorial, but he’s still playing the victim. Just before he announced his resignation last week, Zuma questioned why the ruling African National Congress was pushing him to quit, asking, “What have I done wrong?” Let us spell it out: Zuma was a tainted figure before he became president in 2009. He survived a 2006 trial for rape by claiming that his alleged victim, an HIV-positive family friend, wanted the encounter. During the ANC’s centenary celebrations in 2012, he alienated whites by singing the anti-apartheid song “Shoot the Boer,” and his entire presidency was dogged by allegations of “corruption, racketeering, and money laundering.” Zuma replaced the boards of state-owned enterprises with his own flunkies, who then gave lucrative contracts to his friends and backers. He “suborned state bodies such as the intelligence services, using them to further his ends,” and corrupted the judiciary. All the while, South Africa slid deeper into economic decline, and the ANC hemorrhaged supporters.
Zuma has no one to blame for his descent into disgrace but himself, said Richard Poplak in DailyMaverick.co.za. He was a hero of the fight against apartheid and was imprisoned for 10 years at Robben Island, alongside Nelson Mandela. As head of the ANC in the Southern Natal region in the early 1990s, he helped broker peace after years of violence between the ANC and the mainly Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party. If he’d exhibited some patience and self-restraint as president, Zuma would “have been a millionaire a month after leaving office,” with “$50,000.n-hour speaking engagements at Goldman Sachs brunches and yacht time with Bono.” Instead, he went for the easy, corrupt money. That’s why the sober moderation of new President Cyril Ramaphosa is such a relief, said Stephen Grootes, also in the Maverick. The 65-year-old former businessman is trusted by blacks because Mandela wanted him to take over as president when he stepped down in 1999—Thabo Mbeki outmaneuvered him for the job—and by whites because they believe he “is going to govern for the interests of the entire country.”
South Africans want to place their trust in Ramaphosa, said Anele Nzimande in Business Day, but even he has conflicts of interest. He was a shareholder and director at Lonmin, the multinational owner of a platinum mine where 34 striking South African miners were massacred by police in 2012. He had called the strikers “criminals” and demanded a strong police response. Even if Ramaphosa did not direct the crackdown, “it was in his interest to protect Lonmin’s profits.” Businesses linked to Ramaphosa were also named in the Panama Papers, thousands of pages of leaked documents exposing firms and individuals that stash their cash in tax havens. At this point, “the novelty of having a black government” has worn off. We need “leaders who are truly on the side of the people.” ■