There is a saying that a country is as good as its leader. South Africa was an example to the world during Nelson Mandela’s presidency during the 1990s when it showed the world how to reconcile different ethnic groups in a new democratic rainbow nation.
Sadly, South Africa’s current president Jacob Zuma is showing the world how a patronage system of bad governance can send a whole nation into a dangerous downward spiral.
Zuma plunged the country’s economy into a tailspin by firing a competent finance minister for no apparent reason, replacing him with a complete unknown, then backtracking and re-appointing a previous holder of the key portfolio.
South Africa is a land of many paradoxes, having brought forth some of the world’s best leaders such as Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi and Jan Smuts. It is a land of pristine beauty and at the same time a country ridden by extreme brutality in the form of spiraling murder and rape statistics.
In the vibrancy of this melting pot of many cultures and traditions, a tension arises that either catapults a nation to glory or sends it into the cesspit of disaster.
The country’s wise leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mandela and others realized that it is the thin thread of good moral leadership by example that keeps the fabric of such a nation together.
Zuma and his inner circle have been playing with fire, seeing the presidency as a means of power to secure government posts and lucrative contracts for friends and family. A patronage and entitlement culture has taken root from the central government to local councils where state institutions are manipulated for personal ends, the judiciary and free press threatened. State-run institutions from hospitals, schools to police are in an appalling state. Much of this has gone unnoticed by world media, focusing on other “more important global events” as South Africa’s moral fiber has been torn apart.
The South African press and social media has been bravely reporting on many of these scandals including the building of a palatial private home for Zuma with state funds. The populace was grumbling and perhaps hoping quietly that Zuma and his cronies would be pulled to heel as they were slowly but steadily ruining the country.
But as the South African currency and stock market took a nosedive in the wake of Zuma’s irrational decision, something seems to have happened. A low grumble is turning to a loud roar of “Zuma must Fall.”
In following the social media from a distance, its seems that the South African populace finally has had enough. Several weeks ago the country’s youth took to the streets in massive protests against a fee hike, but there is much more to it than that. There is general frustration and discontent about the high unemployment and poor state of the economy.
Mandela’s words at a 1994 trade union congress ring so true:”If the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.”
I would venture to say that Zuma’s days are numbered.