Thursday, March 04, 2010

Zuma must answer his critics with statesmanship

By Micheal Trapido

South African President Jacob Zuma was given a warm welcome by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, upon his state visit to Britain on Wednesday, with a Horse Guards’ Parade followed by a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace.

It was a royal spectacular with all the tradition, pomp and ceremony that only the British seem to manage with such aplomb that it somehow seems appropriate rather than over the top.

Zuma was met by members of the royal family, together with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband, with no effort spared to ensure that the visitors understood that the visit was considered important to the host country.

On Thursday the serious business begins with discussions focusing on Zimbabwe and nationalisation, along with trade, climate change and the upcoming global non-proliferation conference in the United States. Undoubtedly South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup will also be on the agenda.

In terms of the sage words of advice of South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, the time has come for Zuma to forget about the nonsense and demonstrate that as well as being a populist, he can also be a statesman of the highest order.

Of course, this may prove rather difficult with the current media storm in Britain focusing on the president’s polygamy and the recent love-child scandal, and with Zuma hitting back and accusing the papers of colonial attitudes.

And as always, the African National Congress Youth League was up in arms over the treatment being meted out to Zuma, claiming that “the British media is one that is characterised and defined by the worst form of barbarism, backwardness and racism”.

So no change there.

Of course as usual they have failed to factor in the way that former president Nelson Mandela has been hailed by the British media and the iconic status he has achieved in that country. Moreover the way in which former president Thabo Mbeki was received and the state visit laid on for Zuma himself.

Accordingly the issue, as far as the British media are concerned, is not the fact that Zuma is black, but rather his unfortunate tendency to put his foot in it before giving careful consideration to the consequences of his actions. In this regard, it is the negative effect he has had on the ANC’s own critical HIV/Aids campaign and the continuing failure to turn South Africa away from becoming a kleptocracy.

In this regard, too, the president has received just as much criticism, if not more, over these issues in the local media as he has in the British press.

In terms thereof the time has come for Zuma to accept that he is the president of South Africa and that he has a duty to this country, and even the region, to maintain and project the highest standards.

That means allowing criticism to wash over him without retaliating and getting down to the business at hand.

It serves no one’s interests for South Africa to respond to legitimate criticism with nonsensical generalisations like “these British racists continue to live in a dreamland and sadly believe that Africans are still their colonial subjects, with no values and principles”.

If South Africa has accepted that Zuma is a polygamous president and the British believe that this is unacceptable to their approach to culture, it does not make them racists. It smacks of an intolerance and a fair degree of arrogance in the case of certain journalists, but that they have the right to that opinion is indisputable.

Lest we forget there are many South Africans who aren’t wild about polygamy either.

President Zuma has it all to do, and if he emerges from this state visit with tangible success in the form of strengthening the ties with one of South Africa’s major trading partners, then he will be doing the job that he has been elected for.

That is the way to answer his critics.

2 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

He will nod his head and say what they want to hear; and as soon as he's back on African soil, he'll revert to type. When will people learn that you need to count your fingers after you shake their hands?

Piet the Pirate said...

"President Zuma has it all to do, and if he emerges from this state visit with tangible success in the form of strengthening the ties with one of South Africa’s major trading partners, then he will be doing the job that he has been elected for."

In my opinion, if he can get through the whole state visit without trying to rape the Queen sans condom, he will have done well. LOL.