Who am I?Where am I?

09 May 2009

The Inauguration of Jacob Zuma

I am sitting here at the moment watching Al-Jazeera. Unlike BBC and CNN, Al-Jazeera is covering the inauguration of Jacob Zuma as the fourth President of South Africa (third elected) of post-apartheid South Africa.

While I am sure my good friend Hlengani is not a man of his word, since he has not emigrated from South Africa as he promised to do if Zuma was ever elected, I am sure he, like many, are bemoaning the fact that Zuma is now leading the most influential country on the continent. While Jacob Zuma clearly does not have the pulchritude of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, as I have watched events unfold from afar over the past few months, I have become more and more convinced that the emergence and election of Jacob Zuma is a good thing

Before you throw a shoe at your computer screen hear me out on this. There are four reasons I feel this way. First, personally, as an American who lived in South Africa from 2002-2008, I had to endure nearly seven years of listening to South Africans denigrate Americans for electing such an incompetent nitwit as President. To be honest, I had no answer. I detested and still detest George W. Bush as a human. It will be up to history to judge him but I digress. However, as of today, I can now proudly smile at all of the South Africans who over the years derided Americans for our voting record. We have Barack Obama. You have JZ, and I do not mean the rapper! Enjoy the next five years of my derision.

My belief that Zuma's election is a good thing extend beyond my own personal relationships though. The second reason I believe Zuma's election is a good thing is that he has weakened the ANC. Although I am not a South African, it should be obvious to everyone that the country needs a legitimate opposition party that is not merely a metamorphosis of an apartheid era party. This has not happened.After the 2004 election, the African National Congress received enough of the vote that it could have legitimately Though this has not occurred, the fact that during this election the ANC received less than 67% of the vote and can not change the Constitution on its own represents real progress. There is hope that legitimate multiracial opposition can emerge over the next five to ten years.

The third reason I am in favor of Zuma's election is that believe it or not, I feel that Zuma's election shows the vibrancy of the young South African democracy. Thabo Mbeki sought a third term, which though technically not in violation of the Constitution, effectively tried to undermine the Constitutional stipulation that a President only serve two terms. The fact that Zuma was elected at the ANC conference in Polokwane shows that many South Africans within the ANC do understand the issues that are affecting the nation.

Zuma ran as the anti-Mbeki. While I supported Mbeki and feel that he is a visionary and has a fantastic Pan-Africanist view, Mbeki missed the boat on four critical issues: Aids, Zimbabwe, crime, and corruption. Mbeki's policies on each of these issues left a lot to be desired. His failures to effectively implement a nationwide AIDS policy to combat AIDS, statements that crime was the figment of white South Africans' minds, lack of ability to pressure Robert Mugabe into real reform, and the rampant corruption within the ANC during his term all contributed to his political demise. Zuma has portended that he plans to change these policies by tackling crime, formulating an AIDS policy, fixing government corruption, and facilitating Mugabe's removal from power. If he can achieve any of these changes, he will have achieved a great feat.

I personally doubt whether Jacob Zuma will be able to deliver on his promises. It would take a tremendous amount of thaumaturgy for Zuma to accomplish this goals and deliver on his promises. Yet I am willing to give him a try, since his presidency is the will of the people. I also believe that the ANC is in fact the best party to rule the country. (Though I would have voted for another party for the sake of trying to reduce the ANC to below 66%). In the meantime, Zuma will have to be re-elected in five years and if the South African public is not happy with what he achieves, he can be replaced. Despite what many say, this election proves that democracy is alive and well in South Africa. So let's all enjoy the moment of frisson when the South African national anthem is played momentarily. Nkosi sikilel' iAfrika!

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