South Africa is no country for a frail old man

It is embarrassing to see young people running after a frail old man unlikely be in government in five or 10 years.


The ANC’s post-Polokwane elective conference in 2007 will continue to have dire effects on the country’s political landscape for many years.

People often overlook what happened for Jacob Zuma to emerge as the leader of his former party, the ANC.

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Zuma had legal and political skirmishes that nearly ended his political life, but was rescued by alliance partners the South African Communist Party (SACP), the Congress of South African Trade Unions and wings of the ANC, such as the youth league.

They were fed up with his predecessor Thabo Mbeki’s failing economic policies that kept the poor and working class away from the mainstream economy.

That being said, those who were corrupt and afraid of Mbeki’s now-dismantled specialised investigation unit, the Scorpions, was going to reveal their corruption, quickly teamed up to support Zuma.

Minister Blade Nzimande and his friends from the SACP had never been included in Mbeki’s administration and he continued to disregard them, so they supported Zuma, who included them in his Cabinet.

As much as we can claim Zuma used them, they used him to ascend to real power.

It is often embarrassing to listen to the ignorant Zuma and his disciples, who are proud to hail the manufactured millionaires during his two terms of office.

By doing so, Zuma is confessing that he rewarded the criminals who supported him to oust Mbeki in Polokwane in 2007.

These millionaires are not business people supported through government initiatives. They are political entrepreneurs, known to be lethal tenderpreneurs, who scored government tenders by bribing or killing anyone who threatened their interests.

During that Polokwane conference, there were reports of money being used to buy delegates’ votes. I hold that Zuma single-handedly corrupted the entire political ecosystem in South Africa – today, people openly sell their votes.

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Zuma is getting his financial backing from black political entrepreneurs who have been sidelined by Cyril Ramaphosa.

Their thinking is that they will get more government contracts when Zuma reclaims the Union Building – which is not guaranteed.

It would be myopic not to suspect many people in government are secretly supporting Zuma to paralyse the ANC.

I know in some North West municipalities, officials are awarding tenders to Limpopo and Gauteng companies owned by Zuma’s associates.

The money supporting Zuma does not come from unemployed supporters who are bussed, fed and clothed. It is coming from people looking to ensure their corrupt businesses continue to thrive and they stay out of jail.

It is embarrassing to see young people running after a frail old man unlikely be in government in five or 10 years.

They should be futuristic in their approach, jealous and selfish with their future, by ensuring they build a better society and a capable, world-class country for the next generation.

• Mokgatlhe is a political analyst and researcher at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.

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