Monday, May 26, 2008

'Two centres of power create a vacuum'

South Africa’s big business community, once Mbeki’s most ardent supporters, is losing confidence in him and throwing its support behind ANC president Jacob Zuma.

The markets do not like uncertainty and these two centres of power create that vacuum.

Zuma successfully managed to ease the business community and to assure them that there will be no major changes.

South Africans are far too worried about political leadership; they don’t realise that just because leaders change, it is not the end of the world. Yet even if the same party stays in power, a new political leader is in actual fact a change in government.

There is too much insecurity in the ruling party to call an early election and they need to sort out Zuma’s trial before they can go to the polls.
Maybe between now and April next year, with the wisdom of Solomon, the problem will sort itself out.

There needs to be an elegant way for Zuma to get out of this.
If Mbeki himself wanted to step down, that it is something else. But forcing him to step down will not solve much. It will dissolve the two centres of power dilemma, but it might cause instability because although Mbeki is a deployee of the ANC, he remains president of the country [and is accountable to the country, not only the party].

People held it against him that he tried to be elected for a third term. He shouldn’t have allowed that. You should not stay in power for more than two terms in any political office.

There are fears that Zuma’s supporters in the SA Communist Party and Cosatu would have a large influence on his thinking. These fears are not something new, but the influence that certain factions have is overplayed.

The ANC is a broad church and it is difficult to say who has the overriding influence. Zuma’s election was a surprise for several reasons — I always thought Mbeki was a good strategist and would not allow something like this to happen.

But Zuma made history by doing a very unAfrican thing in managing to unseat a sitting leader.

People were disappointed by the mistakes Mbeki made with Zimbabwe, Aids, crime, [Vusi] Pikoli and [Jackie] Selebi. Some people are disillusioned with him. In their view, his bad handling of a lot of things showed that he allowed the wall between state and party to crumble. The situation with Zimbabwe is difficult and has no easy answers, but you cannot be seen walking hand around the waist with [Robert] Mugabe.

The problem with Mbeki now is that he seems to have no friends, he seems like he has no one close to him.

Having Zuma does bring that “new broom” element. Zuma today has a better image than he did six months ago and that can be attributed to some of his comments which are viewed as refreshing.

We have an excellent Constitution which makes provisions for differentiation between the party and the state and divides the state into three parts: judicial, legislative and executive. These need to respected.

Mbeki is perceived to have used state institutions to deal with his political opponents, including Zuma, and to protect others, as in the case with Selebi.

So what people would want is for Zuma to stay true to the Constitution.
I think the most important in people’s minds is how we address the crime situation.

Zuma has made very strong and positive statements in this regard and he certainly shows every sign of accepting that this is a serious problem that needs urgent and drastic attention. He has also indicated that he is quite willing to discuss sensitive issues such as the possibility of a sunset clause for affirmative action, the need for which every fair South African will understand.

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