Zuma's Mandate Is a Poisoned Chalice

Zuma's Mandate Is a Poisoned Chalice

The mandate, just short of a two-thirds majority of the vote in last week's elections, given to South Africa's ruling African National Congress, is a poisoned chalice. It is clear that the election of Jacob Zuma as ANC leader in 2007 has energised South Africa's electorate. Voter turnout was more than 70% in this election. Some white South Africans, who seemingly gave up on politics after the loss of political power in 1994, have returned. Many appear to have voted to prevent Zuma's ascendancy, by casting their ballot for the traditionally white Democratic Alliance (DA) or the Congress of the People (Cope), the party formed by ANC dissidents last year.

Many middle-class black people, also opposed to Zuma, have broken their allegiance to the ANC and voted for Cope. But poor blacks, who had drifted away because of the party's poor delivery record, have returned to vote for the ANC persuaded by Zuma's promises. Party leaders have successfully presented themselves as almost a new ANC that will be more pro-poor, accountable and less corrupt "“ blaming government failures on the leadership of outgoing president, Thabo Mbeki.

Sadly, the election campaign brought few details of how to deliver the promises. Zuma's challenges are formidable: improving public services, assembling competent staff "“ which means not purging senior civil servants critical of him "“ tackling corruption, and restoring the credibility of democratic institutions.

Having turned out in their millions, the challenge now is for South Africans to stay politically active. They must hold the new government accountable, to prevent the abuse of power we have seen in recent years. It is also clear that South Africa has too many opposition parties, with few policy differences. Some of them will do well to merge, or even to become NGOs.

Desperate black voters, who gave the ANC this victory, did so in a last-ditch hope that its leaders will turn their liberation struggle promises and good intentions into action. That calls for Zuma to roll up his sleeves from day one. He is unlikely to have the honeymoon period that previous ANC governments had. If the ANC does not deliver this time, people are likely to plunge back into apathy or protest strongly, even violently.

To capture the presidency, Zuma assembled a disparate coalition and made often diametrically opposed promises to each group. We now face the possibility that disappointed expectations and infighting in the coalition may trigger another fracture of the ANC. In the successful campaign to get the corruption charges against Zuma dropped, democratic institutions were damaged, and their credibility is now in tatters. Zuma must steer clear of appointing uncritical acolytes, and make the ANC internally democratic.

The DA has won in the Western Cape, giving it the opportunity to show it can govern competently and inclusively. Zuma must refrain from withholding resources to this region. Cope, given that it lacked the resources and was only launched last December, did well to capture more than a million votes. These parties now have enough support to hold the ANC more accountable.

South Africa desperately needs a serious party on the left of the political spectrum, with roots in the "struggle". The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist party had planned to form such a party, but were persuaded to back Zuma. The ANC under Zuma is too broad a ­coalition to turn into a leftwing party, as some of the trade unionists and ­socialists backing him hope. Yet dashed expectations and failing to deliver on promises may still trigger a leftwing break within the ANC, and herald a major reconfiguration of party politics

Your IP address will be logged

Your IP address will be logged

Loading 0% complete

Loading comments...

Go to all comments on one page

In order to post a comment you need to be registered and signed in.

Register | Sign in

Go to all comments on one page

In order to post a comment you need to be registered and signed in.

Register | Sign in

In order to see comments, please turn JavaScript on in your browser.

Sorry, commenting is not available at this time. Please try again later.

Apologies, something has gone wrong and this action cannot be completed. Please try again later.

${comment.PostedAtTime|formatDateTime:MessageTime}

${comment.PostedAtTime|formatDateTime:MessageTime}

You have  characters left

Please read our community standards.

 

Loading...............

Closing this window without pressing "Post your comment" will result in your words being lost. Are you sure?

Thank you for your comment. This has been submitted for moderation.

Your comment has been successfully posted.

Sorry, something has gone wrong and this action cannot be completed. Please try again later.

Close

Please choose a problem:

Comment: (optional)

You have 5000 characters left

Logged in as

Your email address: (optional)

 

Loading...............

Closing this window without pressing "Report" will result in your words being lost. Are you sure?

Thank you

Sorry, something has gone wrong and this action cannot be completed. Please try again later.

${blog_item.article.title} (${blog_item.linkcount}{if blog_item_index == 0} technorati links{/if})

Loading …

More

Today's rising blog posts from

Small, lightweight, multi-band world radio, ideal for both home and holiday

From: £21.98

Tom Meltzer: My flatmates reassure me that this is normal. Punching your mum in the face is what being an adult is all about

Jackie Ashley: It looks as though Gordon Brown's grand plan to reform MPs' expenses is dead in the water. I hope so

Taking on the strain

Julian Glover: We deserve a full confession rather than a shallow apology

Peter Preston: Dark side of the road

Browse all jobs

saxton bampfylde. central london. unspecified.

wrap. banbury, oxfordshire. Salary around £40K + benefits package.

prudential. practice makes perfect. and the more you talk - an…. unspecified.

Browse all jobs

staff) information technology manager about the... and recommends new technology. required experience in the following technologies/products: nortel... . ky.

department: technology and consulting services (tcs) group: technology solutions position: technology architect the exacttarget technology solutions team is a... . in.

Read Full Article »
Comment
Show commentsHide Comments

Related Articles