Jacob Zuma has made no meaningful stamp on the history of South Africa.
I am reminded of Winnie Mandela’s response when asked for comment about Thabo Mbeki’s re-election bid in 1999 - she said he “deserved another chance”. I am sorry - “deserve” is a strange modern word like “it’s not fair!” -creation of a concept that did not exist 100 years ago. When running for election the more important concept is what the electorate “deserves”, not the incumbent running for re-election.
I have tried hard to justify Zuma’s election to the highest office in South Africa - his struggle credentials, his common touch (in contrast to his predecessor), his stance regarding Robert Mugabe to the north. Even his proud Zulu ancestry.
I have also blogged before about the Zulu culture of polygamy - Zuma is now dubbed “Africa’s most famous polygamist”. But his latest child, the result of an affair with the daughter of a good friend Irvin Khoza (six years his junior) means that I have lost the faith.
Where do we start ? I pick his notoriety as a father - I see nothing else of substance that he has done as president. During the ANC succession debates, Thabo Mbeki warned against the cult of personality - and reminded his comrades how hard the ANC as an organisation had tried to avoid that. Zuma has become that personality.
Let us count the children. On his official site, www.thepresidency.gov.za he is listed as having 19 children. That page was written before the latest revelations, so I will up that to 20. By all accounts, he has no children by his first wife, four by his second, five by his third, two by his fourth, two by his fifth, and two now by other women. We are still short by five.
As Nomboniso Gasa writes in the Sowetan, we expect someone who holds public office, whose salary we pay, whose children are educated at state expense, to be held to a higher standard than the common man.
He admitted to another extra-marital affair, unprotected sex, in December 2005, also with the daughter of a struggle comrade - AIDS-positive to boot. He was cleared of rape charges, with the encounter deemed consensual. Much was made in the media of a shower he took afterwards, supposedly to minimise his AIDS risk.
After that trial he admitted that he had erred by not using a condom with an HIV-positive partner. Just four years later, we note that again he did not use a condom in an extra-marital affair. In December 2009 on World AIDS day he exhorted” But that does not mean that we should be irresponsible in our sexual practices. It does not mean that people do not have to practice safer sex. It does not mean that people should not use condoms consistently and correctly during every sexual encounter.” This two months after his latest child was born to Sonono Khoza.
As Patricia de Lille said, Zuma is asking people “to do as I say and not as I do”.
In the course of my work with computers in South Africa, I get to see many different township schools. There are excellent schools, and others less so. The common denominator I have found is the principal - the fount of discipline at the school. A clean, tidy, motivated school environment invariably indicates the same of the principal.
South Africans need a president to be proud of, a president to emulate. They “deserve” better than Jacob Zuma.