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on leadership


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now at risk of being described as one having a political career on AG (cue: newbiesrule). just thought this might be something to pa** on. only because i just appreciated this guys tone. just the manner in which he has approached this whole thing. just thought maybe those who havent seen it might like to. it was just something different.

its very long so please do feel free to ignore (cue:newbiesrule).


If, as a young South African, I were to hold a deciding vote on whether Jacob Zuma becomes president of this country, I would abstain. Maybe many young South Africans would.

This is because of the manner in which Zuma himself, and the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) have (or have not) marketed him to me.

The ANCYL's "unwavering" stance is that Zuma must lead the ANC (it has won in this regard) and consequently, South Africa, when Thabo Mbeki's presidential term ends in 2009.

Given the intensity and continuity of this support, I was expecting that the ANCYL would have, by this time, constructed a clear, coherent set of reasons why Zuma is by far the most suitable candidate to lead the republic.

What appear to be justifications for why Zuma should be the head of state are irrational, inflammatory, and question the current ANCYL's capability to ponder rationally, strategically and profoundly about any particular course of action. It does nothing to explain Zuma to a society grappling with the intricacies of consolidating democracy.

Over the years, the ANCYL has told the country's youth that the ANC is rich with leaders of particular qualities and competencies from whom it selects a "king". The league's history confirms this.

But, among the current large pool of the ANC's international and local leadership, the league has yet to explain Zuma's distinct leadership qualities.

The league's tendency to explain itself only within the ANC structures while it wishes Zuma's leadership to extend beyond these structures is irrational and can only be motivated by anxiety that its candidate may not be approved by the majority of South Africans.

The league commands privileged access to Zuma; most young people only have access to Zuma's perspectives through the media. The league must know this. But instead of reasoned arguments that elaborate on why Zuma should lead South Africa, the league opts for empty polemical rhetoric, the last example of this being, "We will kill for Zuma".

Surely a youth-political organisation, aware of youth's increasing alienation from mainstream politics and concerned about how this phenomenon threatens our young democracy, should be more detailed on why a particular political leader has to be a head of state?

How does Zuma stand above the rest in the ANC and country? Put differently, what is it that the ANCYL saw in him and then, how, after long and thorough processes of consulting youth within and outside ANC structures, did the league conclude that Zuma was in a cla** of his own in terms of leadership? After all, we are electing a leader who will lead leaders, are we not?

One of the justifications, it appears, is that Zuma's impeccable struggle credentials and personal sacrifices in the context our country's history qualify him for the presidential post.

Frankly, this is to argue the obvious and it is embarra**ing. Nobody (even those who despise him) disputes Zuma's noble and gallant fight against apartheid; nobody doubts that this was at the expense of himself and his family.

The question is, how does this horrendous experience differ from that of other anti-apartheid heroes? Why are other leaders in the ANC not selected and campaigned for on this basis?

The continued use of this argument in reference to Zuma (not only by the ANCYL) is nothing but an opportunistic ranking of black people's historical suffering, not as an end in itself, but to attain symbolic and material power for strategically positioned individuals.

It is reductionist and inadvertently insults Zuma himself: it suggests that Zuma cherished and fought for noble ideals only to seek a well-paying bureaucratic post.

The ANCYL points out that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)/Scorpions have mistreated Msholozi for a long time. I do not necessarily dispute this argument.

My issue is that the ANCYL treats Zuma's (mis)treatment by the NPA and his suitability to lead the country in a causal fashion.

That Zuma's dignity has regrettably been trashed by the NPA is, for me, not a sufficient condition for him to lead the country.

The youth league, and every decent citizen, has every right to protect Zuma if and when his rights are trampled upon.

What concerns me is that the ANCYL fails to explain how Zuma's treatment by the Scorpions is different to the way other people have been handled by the same agency.

The Scorpions' Hollywood-style of handling alleged high-profile law-breakers was the same when Zuma was deputy president of South Africa as when he was investigated and subsequently charged.

Is he on public record as having complained on behalf of other citizens? Where was the league then? Or, was it unnecessary to protect our democracy then? Since when in this country is mistreatment by a statutory body a sufficient condition for one to be seen as deserving to lead the country?

A subtext of the ANCYL's argument on the Zuma-NPA tug-of-war is that Zuma is a man of particular ideological outlook or with a set of strategies that the NPA and "those politically manipulating it" do not want to see benefiting South Africa.

But the ANCYL is unable to tell us how Zuma is strategically and ideologically different from Mbeki.

Zuma himself tells us and the world that there will be no policy changes under his leadership. Why is Zuma then singled out to be the most deserving to lead our country?

By fighting so vigorously to have Zuma as South Africa's head of state, the ANCYL has appropriated for itself the right to design our political future, but it still fails to share its vision. I expected from the league a meticulous diagnosis of the state of the nation and how Zuma could take us forward.

Well, nothing so far. What moral abyss, for example, will the country plunge into if we do not have Zuma as a president? What economic, cultural, political, etc quagmire will Zuma save us from, and how?

In a nutshell, what is it about South Africa at the beginning of the 21st century that deserves the leadership of Zuma?

Given that Zuma is relatively young and healthy, that there are very serious legal issues around him, and that the ANCYL already has a precedent of having given the country an older head of state - Madiba - what is the national emergency, now, that requires Zuma to lead the country?

As much as Msholozi is constitutionally innocent until proven guilty, does not the country need "young lions" who roar with outrage at the possibility that their candidate might have betrayed the ANC's stance on corruption?

Should the ANCYL not wait and see (while sustaining pressure on the NPA to get it over with) if Zuma has not, like some African leaders, been corrupted by a Western arms company - surrendering to the stereotype that we Africans are easily corruptible?

Screaming at Mbeki for his failures is not an illustration of Zuma's leadership qualities. It is just that: screaming at Mbeki. For all the shortcomings that Mbeki is now (single-handedly) blamed for, it is the ANCYL that facilitated his ascendancy to power.

Never was there a time when the ANCYL was collectively on leave; Mbeki has been operating under its watch. All of a sudden the very same league thinks that its once preferred candidate, the president that it returned to power twice, is a disaster. Should we still trust the league's ability to choose a leader for this country?

I would like the ANCYL to provide evidence that its preferred candidate is a profound thinker on a variety of issues that affect this country, an astute politician, and a sophisticated economist; that its candidate leads calmly, in a conciliatory manner and decisively; that he inspires; that his personal and moral conduct is to be emulated by every youth; that he gets outraged by corruption and incompetence and he will fire a comrade on the spot for these; that levels of poverty, crime, Aids, patronage and racism disgust him.

I would like the league to give evidence that the ANC could not have chosen a better leader for its forthcoming centenary; that South Africa could not have a better head of state to open the next soccer World Cup event.

But all of a sudden leaders, thinkers, ordinary citizens and comrades who raise critical questions about Zuma are called "forces".

How does Zuma himself want us to read him?

As a person of humble beginnings, I have always been inspired by Zuma's personal quest for education despite being deliberately denied an opportunity to attain it.

Here was a man, without formal education, who cherished the same noble ideals of freedom and greater good for all.

He was imprisoned for his beliefs in the liberation of both the oppressor and the oppressed. I saw in Zuma a leader who helped in the creation of peace in KwaZulu-Natal and facilitated peace deals in our war-prone continent. But I was to lose hope in the way that Zuma presents himself in public.

It is not what the media says about Zuma; it is what Zuma himself says about his character. I do not think, with all due respect, Zuma has carefully asked himself this question: what is it about my nature that makes me attract the type of people who pa**ionately support me? What is in it for them?

Such self-analysis would have created a leader prepared to lose the presidency of the ANC and that of the country in the preservation of his dignity, country and political party; a leader with the courage to tell Zwelinzima Vavi not to sacrifice the history of the Congress of South African Trade Unions in the cult support of an individual and to tell Julius Malema to grow up. Self-analysis would have created a leader who does not try to please so many ideologically differing constituencies in the global public sphere that he ends up contradicting himself on various critical subjects (death penalty, labour policy) in the process.

It is only now, when things are getting out hand, that Zuma has committed himself to rooting out thugs in the ANC.

That Zuma would consciously welcome support from a combination of the excellent, the good, the bad and the ugly means he is ambitious enough to want to be the president of the country.

I see in him a leader mesmerised by his ability to take on Mbeki, even at the expense of the bigger project - the preservation of our country.

Which structure of our society is not divided in his name and that of Mbeki? The Tripartite Alliance? The SABC? Parliament? Our security agencies? The judiciary? Civil society?

If Zuma and Mbeki had not "created" a situation where the ANC was inward-looking and did not pay attention to what it was elected to do - running our country - would we have had xenophobic attacks?

In this context, what evidence is there to suggest Zuma is a leader who will sacrifice himself for the greater good of the country as he once did?

What has Zuma said in public (before being misinterpreted by the media, of course) to make me think highly of him? Does he not sell himself as man of the status quo, a man who needs to defend himself all the time?

Why does he sell himself only as a leader of the "emotional sphere" - a leader who is only personable, approachable, humble, warm and charming? Yes, things are hard in this country, but I sure do not need a nanny for a president.

What also gets to me is that the adjectives that Zuma renders possible to describe his demeanour are the ones that whites mainly use to patronise black leaders. The next thing you are going to hear is that Zuma speaks good English.

Where Mandela would resonate in history as having said "Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another"; and Mbeki as having said "I am an African", Zuma has said: "awuleth' umshini wami" (bring me my machine gun).

This is not misinterpretation by the media or by intellectuals who aim to undermine Zuma, but an image of himself that he voluntarily entrenches in the psyche of the broader public.

What can one make of a leader who, despite his organisation being a repository of images that can be used to mobilise people into good actions, chose awuleth' umshini wami?

What can one think of him when he says South Africans who carry out xenophobic attacks should not use this ANC struggle song when he himself sang this song in his rape trial? Words are not just words; they carry bigger meanings.

What is it, Julius Malema, that made it very possible for Africans to easily appropriate the meanings of awuleth' umshini wami in the attack of fellow Africans? What is it about the meanings of "I am an African" and "Never, never and never again " that rendered them unusable in these barbaric xenophobic attacks?

What can one make of a leader who perverts culture and customs for his personal survival? What Zuma called Zulu culture in his "rape" trial was as contemptuous of Zulu culture as making a few women pregnant before you marry them and then calling it polygamy.

I am uneasy about the way that Zuma, as a senior political leader in this country, seems to immerse himself in the Zulu royal house.

When the media said Zuma got blessings from the Zulu monarch to win over Mbeki in Polokwane, should he not have roared with anger at this ethnicisation of his candidature? Is the country to have another senior political figure that treats the Zulu royal house, not as an institutional custodian of culture and history, but as a platform from which to mobilise ethnic support?

What can one make of Zuma in relation to black women - the most marginalised, in many respects, group in this country?

Well, if I were to hold a deciding vote on whether or not Zuma should become president of this country, I would abstain.

- Ndlovu is a lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Cape Town's Centre for Film and Media Studies and PhD candidate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. -

- soul activist. poet. flower. fairy -

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Lucid, well written and a very well put arguement, the problem with something like this it's always the wrong people who agree. No one hates Zuma. I don't hate Malema, but we don't deserve them.
My children don't deserve them and most importantly they are making a mockery of the people that lost their lives for this country.
Ours is a country built on millions who died from just because they were black (inadequate health care) , to being parcel bombed in exile to the kids in Thokoza who had to protect the hood from the IFP and Sandf.
Zuma is not a bad leader because he was accused of raping an HIV positive woman and then taking a shower, or that he allowed himself to be corrupted by a family atchaar peddlers and their French cronies.
No, he is a bad leader because even after all this he did not walk away. He put his personal goal over that of a nation. That's the disgrace.                 
"I just want to enter my house justified" Bloody Sam


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in much the same vein.. below is a really good analysis
we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light

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a family atchaar peddlers

This is funny. I can't wait for an oppurtunity to call one of my indian friends this.

Wrong but funny.


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Once in a while the truth ought to be said....I hope all the journos claiming that Zuma is being "persecuted by the powers that be" can get a peek @ this, good ish (I only read it cos u said I shouldnt :D)
Ha o mpona oska.....nkatumela!!!!


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Wow :-\.... wow......... i read that WHOLE thing. wow. um gimme a few to let that settle then il comment...... wow.


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we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light


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The ANCYL has succeeded in removing ACCOUNTABILITY and MEASURABLES in their campaign for Zuma.
Nobody now has any clue "how to a**ess whether Zuma is a worthy candidate or not, hence we are just dealing with public favour and playing with peoples emotions!"

They have succeeded in making Zuma FASHIONABLE.

In reality, if Zuma is to become president,they will further do away with any Measurable objectives(Job creation,Economic Growth,etc) and focus on his PUBLIC IMAGE(How does he interact with people,his support for ANYTHING THE PUBLIC DEMANDS as long as it cannot be measured how effective his input is, ie. making comments about ZIm or other countires which will be to his advantage) - Like with the Zim situation he is saying Mbeki must take more action, but exactly how much action has he taken?

Its a great way of marketing a dictatorship!
I dont wish to see this scenario playing out in the next coupla yrs, but this just might be the way its going to be!

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That not good enough for ya?


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Great read indeed, a fresh view from this "Pro Zuma, Anti Mbeki" nonesense jounos seem to regurgitate over and over these days.

Nice One ;)
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good read,thanks

"As much as Msholozi is constitutionally innocent until proven guilty, does not the country need "young lions" who roar with outrage at the possibility that their candidate might have betrayed the ANC's stance on corruption?"

All this stuff about innocent till being proven guilty is all fine and dandy in the standard context but when it comes to someone who will call themselves the leader of a nation, I think that question should be ruled out. Based on suspicion alone I dont think Zuma can represent as an amba**odor for my country...its just wrong. Aside from the issue of corruption, as a woman Zuma has lost my vote and sympathy for his past doings

They have succeeded in making Zuma FASHIONABLE.