Saturday, April 25, 2009

Analysis of Zuma's Risky Promises

Jacob Zuma got elected by being (and promising) all things to all people. Now he has to deliver.

Like Obama, he will find that practical realities soon overshadow lofty campaign promises and ideological positions. It was Abraham Lincoln who said, you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Zuma is not an educated man but he has experience and that may be his saving grace - initially.

Keeping everybody happy will be impossible and my guess is Zuma will be overwhelmed in no time. If that becomes the case, Zuma must keep his mind and look towards the South African public for answers and NOT rely on his alliance partners for guidance. He owes too many debts in that regard and most only want payback for their support. If he chooses to heed those people then I fear South Africa is doomed.

To begin with, his first order of business should be to elect competent people to cabinet to achieve some of the main goals of combating crime, unemployment and Aids and hope that the smaller issues (like taxi strikes) take care of themselves.
We'll see.

(Reuters) - By making promises to everyone from foreign investors in boardrooms to millions of poor black South Africans in shanty towns, Jacob Zuma may have set himself up for a fall when he becomes president.

Zuma's ruling African National Congress has won another landslide victory after this week's election, which was the toughest test for the ANC since apartheid ended in 1994. On an exhaustive campaign trail, Zuma's strategy has been simple. He was every man's man. But after he leaves the victory stage and the chants of his anti-apartheid anthem "Bring Me My Machine Gun" fade, demands will start pouring in to tackle problems such as AIDS, crime and above all poverty.

The former freedom fighter promised trade union allies he would boost spending on the poor.

Dressed in an expensive suit, he assured foreign investors he would maintain financial stability and told them their money was safe in South Africa.

In his rural homeland, Zuma switched to Zulu regalia and reminded his elders they would never be forgotten by the former goatherd.

"It's a juggling act. So now he is going to be a juggler and you can only juggle up to a particular extent," said Shadrack Gutto, a law professor at the University of South Africa. "There is a limit to juggling particularly when you are dealing with real life issues."

There are plenty. South Africa may already be in its first recession in 17 years. Violent crime is raging and Zuma will be under pressure to make the streets safe before South Africa hosts the 2010 soccer World Cup.

Corruption is rife and Zuma's reputation was not improved by graft charges that were dropped this month on a technicality. He always denied any wrongdoing and blamed the accusations on political enmity. Zuma's followers also saw conspiracy in rape charges of which he was acquitted in 2006, but not before telling a court he took a shower after unprotected sex with his HIV-positive accuser -- not something to help in shaping AIDS policy.

"It's one thing to be in campaign mode...and another to hold executive office with the responsibility of statehood upon one's shoulders," said Marc Schroeder, sub-Sahara specialist at global intelligence company Stratfor. Zuma's success may depend on whether he can keep the power-struggle prone ANC fully behind him. Party heavyweights backed Zuma in the election but they may disagree on policy issues that could break him.

"I do not believe a Zuma government will be able to deliver on all their promises," said Aubrey Matshiqi of South Africa's Centre for Policy Studies. "The euphoria of the ANC's decisive victory must not make us think the magic by which they have won is an indication of the extent to which they will be able to deliver."

But Zuma seems to thrive on pressure and getting himself and others out of tight spots. In the 1990s, Zuma mediated between the ANC and the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party to end political violence which left thousands dead. A former member of the ANC's military wing, Zuma rose to become the party's head of intelligence. That experience may help Zuma determine who his friends and enemies are as he picks a new cabinet.

One man who is likely to keep his job is Trevor Manuel, the widely respected finance minister who markets see as the best qualified person to navigate South Africa through the global economic crisis. Zuma may even be able to make the meltdown work in his favour -- using it to restrain trade union allies who want him to steer the economy to the left as payback for their support in a power struggle with ousted former President Thabo Mbeki.

Ultimately, Zuma's survival may depend on his ability to avoid the risky charm offensives of the election battle. His involvement in a Johannesburg taxi drivers dispute just before the vote raised some concerns. To win the taxi union's agreement to call off a strike, he suggested a possible suspension of an already advanced plan to replace their vehicles with buses critical for the transport plan for the 2010 World Cup.

The dispute is another problem still to be resolved.

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