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By Morak Babajide-Alabi
There were sighs of relief when Mr Jacob Zuma, the troubled former President of South Africa, finally decided to resign his post last week. The news reverberated all over the world and the Wall Street reacted swiftly with the South African Rand “jumping” to its highest ever since 2015. This signified good news for a majority of South African citizens, some of whom are unemployed, broke and hopeless as a result of the leadership style of the 75-year-old Zuma.
While there were muffled celebrations and jubilation on the resignation, there were, however, hopes that the beacon of hope for Africa, once again has an opportunity of a new beginning. The resignation, we know, was long overdue and when it finally came, it was not a shock nor was it a pleasure for anyone. It was not for the fact that Zuma has lost political sympathies, but because people were just tired of his scandal-ridden leadership.
No one was expecting a Zimbabwean-style of celebrations after his exit. We can still recall the excitements, jubilation, and back slapping on the news of the resignation of Zimbabwe’s maximum leader Robert Mugabe a few months ago. It was epic. But this is how far the comparison goes, as it would be too harsh to equate Mugabe with Zuma. They are two individuals in different classes – Mugabe “thoroughly” overstayed his welcome in the seat of power, while Zuma was just a bad student of politics.
With recent events in the country, we knew it was a matter of waiting game for Zuma to either be pushed off the cliff or forced to jump. He is a deft politician, but one of the qualities of a good fighter is, realising when you are out of steam and time to throw in the towel. Zuma realised his time was up and there were no more games, and he said – “I have to come to a decision to resign with immediate effect.”
It was a brutal call by his party – the African National Congress (ANC) – on him to resign. His first instinct was to dare the party leaders when he claimed ignorance and questioned their audacity to call him to resign. It didn’t take him too long to retrace his steps when he discovered the party leadership had already drawn out a grand plan to “march” him out should he chose to be “stubborn”.
He couldn’t have been soberer when he said: “It is my party that placed me before the representatives of the people to be elected. It is my party that availed me to serve on basis of the Constitution. I respect the prescripts of the Constitution on how we enter and exit political office. I must accept that if my party and my compatriots wish that I be removed from office they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the constitution.”
So on Wednesday, Zuma left the stage rather unceremoniously for a flamboyant and expressive politician who enjoyed traditional dances with naked women. Dancing was clearly far from his mind on this day, rather he was more concerned with how history would judge him. Would history place him in the “naughty corner” or overlook his many misdeeds and write him a chapter of his developmental contributions to the country he went to jail for? We all seem to know how he will be judged, as his handiwork while in office seem not to speak positive volumes.
No other president in the history of the country has been openly criticised and accused of corruption, adultery and rape as Zuma. Some of these allegations preceded his tenures in office as president and had overshadowed his role in the anti-apartheid struggles. He had never had a quiet or glorious time in the public sphere. His tenure as Deputy President ended abruptly in 2005 when he was sacked by Thabo Mbeki, the man he later succeeded, anyway.
His infamous rape trial is still fresh in the minds of South Africans. For many people all over the world, it was a painful trial to watch. Unfortunately, his supporters, mainly the youth wing of the African National Congress (ANC) saw the trial as an avenue to show the world how big his “political base” was. The solidarity visits and songs at the venue were never in short supply to the anger of the international community, especially anti-rape charity organisations.
Although he was acquitted of the rape charges, his infamous defence for having sex with an HIV positive woman will forever warm our hearts. He admitted knowing the health status of the victim but said he had a shower after the exercise, implying that he washed away whatever could have infected him.
This was how “seriously” not to take Zuma serious. But the South Africans seem to hold different values for their political leaders, or they were just too forgiven, as he was elected President some years down the line. The world was shocked that someone with Zuma’s history could be elected to lead the country.
There is no denying the fact that South Africa is troubled, as it seemed it had completely derailed from the dream of its “founding fathers”. These are the great nationalists who fought hard battles to ensure the country gets its freedom. No one can really say where and how they lost it, but it is glaring that something got broken along the line, between the dreams of the freedom fighters and the reality on the ground now. The great Nelson Mandela is probably turning in his grave and wondering if his dream for South Africa is not gradually turning into a nightmare.
The South Africans are disillusioned and hoping this would be another beginning for them. Their lots have not improved from what it used to be in the apartheid days. Poverty is still rife in the country, as political observers believe the situation in the country has taken a turn for the worse since the handover from the white minority government. The country is recorded as one of the most dangerous in the world with little or no economic development since the ANC took over the governance.
Under the ANC, the economic and social lives of the citizens have not witnessed any significant change. The agitation for a transfer of power from ANC is understandable, as the party seem to be bereft of ideas to move the country forward. There is no doubt that Mandela paved the way for his successors. The goodwill his name generated towards the country is, however, beginning to fade off in the minds of people. This is not in any way Mandela’s fault, it is the fact that the leaders seem to care less or they are just lacking in ideas of how to move forward.
The new President Cyril Ramaphosa has been touted as a businessman with good ideas for the country. Considering the fact that Ramaphosa had been a part of the Zuma administration, one is tempted to be cautious and ask if he actually has any new ideas to follow through. Zuma’s reign has ended unceremoniously, while Ramaphosa has smiled his way to power, but the world waits in anticipation of a better South Africa.
So long Zuma!
As published in the Sunday Vanguard of February 18, 2018