Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The first 100 days of what?

Llewellyn Kriel got 5 stars from me for this piece.


Who needs PR agencies or spin doctors?

Certainly not Jacob Zuma, judging by the breathless adulation of the media yesterday. Even the opposition parties went a little gaga over the guy. You would have sworn Zuma had actually done something praiseworthy in the past three-and-a-half months.

He has talked a lot, but he has done squat! Sweet Fanny Adams!

Probably the best thing Zuma has done was to take office at precisely the time he did. One can’t help but wonder what the normally astute and incisive media were smoking. For heaven’s sake, Zuma has got to be the president who has done least to deserve such blind adoration since the golden calf caused the Israelites to fall down in worship to their self-made idol. It fell to our political analysts to ride to the rescue of reason and save us from becoming a nation of Wacko-Jacko acolytes.

Let’s examine Zuma’s timing — and believe me, he did not plan it this way — it was pure serendipity.

The first “good thing” he did was to succeed the Ineffectual Intellectual. Even the impossibly immature Foolish Malema would look profoundly presidential coming after Thabo Mbeki, the man credited by Harvard researchers with having been responsible for almost 400 000 “preventable deaths” of his own people through his tragically myopic yet stubbornly stupid Aids denialism. Mbeki left such an ignoble yet glorious vacuum in his derision-worthy wake that the clearly charismatic Zuma was a shoo-in. It’s what the man was made for — the Lyndon Johnsonesque lapsed moral beacon of Mzanzi.

All Zuma had to do was intone the oath of office in that somnolent and tediously measured baritone and he was guaranteed demagoguery, like a latter-day prepubescent Tutankhamen stepping into the Egyptian throne room and, abracadabra, there was a new god at the Union Buildings.

Secondly, the global economic crisis (note: “global”) and SA’s first fully democratic recession gave Zuma a ready-to-use get-out-of-jail-free card. And the media has fallen for this heap of rancid codswallop like dazed denizens of the mosh pit at a Metallica concert.

The only rational response to the sycophantic fawning about Zuma “inheriting” the “worst recession in 17 years” is: “Ag shame!”

So what if we’ve been on the downward slip-‘n-slide since October last year? So what if other world leaders have had to face the same problems, if not far worse ones? So what if our vaunted banking and insurance infrastructure was well entrenched come Zuma Day? So what if he had the likes of Trevor Manuel, Tito Mboweni, Pravin Gordhan and Gill Marcus, seasoned old salts, to steer the ship of state through “the squalls of need” (as Leonard Cohen might call them)?

All Zuma had to do was listen and look statesmanlike as he mouthed the script off the video prompter into the cameras. Easiest job in the world!

Contrary to the media hype around Zuma’s first 100 days (which, by the way, is longer than most new employees get during their probation in a new job) he has done very little and achieved even less. Blissfully, it has resulted in a toning down of his asinine pre-election projections of job creation, infrastructure development and housing targets. And most other plaudits he’s received would have happened anyway — someone had to step into Selebi’s tarnished tekkies sooner rather than later anyway and the whole undignified Constitutional Court rumpus was already in motion anyway. All Zuma did was fall into the trap of making the wrong choices. And we all know how easy that is!

Granted, Zuma has made some promising appointments but their value has still to be sniffed, tasted and swilled before we, the over-promised and under-delivered populace, can really pass judgement on whether they’re good wine or just the usual cheap ANC plonk.

While Zuma has come across more like a refugee from the Betty Ford Clinic in his public appearances — which, to his credit, have been thankfully more frequent than those of the eternally absent landlord before him — there has yet to be concrete delivery in any way, shape or form.

While Zuma has been doing the talking, his adoring faithful followers have been doing the walking — or more accurately, the trashing. Scenes of ghetto riots, burning street barricades, police firing rubber bullets and insane red-shirted blobs overturning garbage cans in the streets of Johannesburg and Cape Town have dominated TV screens worldwide. But Zuma dodged even that bullet.

Instead it was Danny Jordaan who had to bear the brunt of answering for this communist lunacy on BBC’s Hard Talk yesterday — and let’s hope Bafana Bafana’s footwork is fancier and more goal-orientated than was the awkward bumbling of the man sports hacks have dubbed “Job“ (after the Old Testament character whose faith knew no bounds). It’s rumoured too that after next year’s Soccer World Cup, Job Jordaan will assume a new post as CEO of a yet-to-be announced task force to prove the existence of the Big Five — Sasquatch, Nessie, Yeti, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny — such is the faith of the man.

But I digress. Back to President Jacob Zuma. Media adulation, serendipitous quirks of fate and some fortuitous timing aside, Zuma has had a rather ordinary first 100 days as fearless leader of a fear-filled nation.

I suppose that’s as good as can be expected from a sworn communist who doesn’t see the contradiction in asking his supporters to bring him a machine gun and asking God to bless Africa.

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