[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.
Maybe it is time to take stock. On 9 May Mr Jacob Zuma will be elected by the National Assembly as South Africa’s fourth democratic President. As a loyal and proud South African I will show respect to the office of the President, even if I continue to exercise my right and my duty as a citizen to point out the ideological and moral faults of Mr Zuma the person.
It is a remarkable achievement for South Africa that Mr Zuma will be the fourth person serving as President in just over fifteen years of our democracy. We must always be grateful to him and to the ANC for firmly rejecting the notion that one person has a right to continue serving as President of the majority party and South Africa – even after his two terms as President has expired.
When others cowered and shied away from the fight with then President Thabo Mbeki, Zuma stood up to him and provided the ANC with the excuse to get rid of a highly intelligent but deeply flawed man. If he only serves one term as President – as he promised – this will further entrench the principle that individual Presidents come and go – even as the political parties they serve continue to gain support from the voters.
We must always remember that Mr Zuma helped us get rid of Thabo Mbeki, whose faults Fikile Mbalula spelt out so clearly (if visciously) in his recent open letter to the previous President.
As a proud and loyal citizen I will keep an open mind about Mr Zuma’s abilities as President. If he manages to govern in a different way than he ran for office, he might even come to earn my respect – if not trust.
If he takes decisive steps to restore trust in our democratic institutions like Parliament, the Intelligence Services, the NPA and the Chapter 9 institutions, I will cheer him on. If he stops attacking the Constitutional Court and stops questioning the Constitution, I will be quietly satisfied. No more weird statements about “criminals” (by which he means accused persons considered innocent until proven guilty by a court) having too many rights, homosexuals deserving to be beaten up and the evils of sex on television.
If he can get the ANC to turn away from some of its anti-poor policies and can help it to govern in a less arrogant and dismissive way, I will salute him too.
If the ANC-led municipalities like that of Johannesburg can be persuaded to stop installing water meters for poor households, thus in effect cutting off the water supply of some of the most vulnerable members of society, I will be very happy.
If the national housing department reviews its policy to move people like the informal settlers from Joe Skovo to far away Delft under the guise of upgrading their housing opportunities, only to make the new houses available only to those who can pay rent of R3000 a month, I will cheer them on. A housing policy that takes the needs of people as the starting point and not as a nuisance to be managed or wished away, will make a welcome change from the present attitude.
If corruption is seriously tackled – not only in words but also deeds – and corrupt state officials are prosecuted and if they are members of the ANC expelled from the party, I will rejoice. No more shoulder high escorts to prison for criminals like Toni Yengeni. No more excuses for people charged with corruption like Jackie Selebi. Let’s stop this scourge of corruption that eats away at the ability of the state to deliver to the poor.
If he re-appoints a caring and efficient Barbara Hogan as Minister of Health and calls the MEC’s of Health in Provinces like the Free State to account for not managing their budgets, for placing a moratorium on the expansion of the ARV programme, and thus for condemning thirty people a month to death, I will praise his leadership.
If he talks publicly about HIV and AIDS and how we need to care for people living with HIV, how we must all protect ourselves by wearing a condom (no showers necessary then), how this will show that we have really embraced the dignity promised by our Constitution, it will take my breath away.
And if he instructs his Minister of Correctional Services to have the decision to release Schabir Shaik on medical parole reviewed, he would show that he really believes that all are equal before the law and that even his friends have to subject themselves to the law and the legal processess.
If he then institutes a full and independent commission of inquiry into the arms deal, announcing that this arms deal has become a cancer destroying the ANC and the country, and promises a full amnesty for anyone who comes clean about their involvement in the arms deal, it would deeply impressed me. If he then spoke candidly about his own relationship with Shaik and Thompson CSF, it would take my breath away.
Will this happen? Probably not. But I love my country and I hate always having to be so negative, so for one day I am going to dream that all this will come to pass and that in five years time South Africa will be a far better country to live in – especially for the poor and the vulnerable.BACK TO TOP