Tag Archives: South Africa

Give me President Zuma over King Charles any day

So President Zuma of South Africa is in town for a shindig with the Queen. The media is holding its collective nose and offering sympathy that Her Maj has to endure such an appalling, untrained houseguest.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be so keen to have him shack up at mine either, but then my two-bed flat would ill accommodate his clutch of wives and none of my friends’ daughters would be safe from his libido. I’m also unimpressed by his unfathomable view that post-coital showering is adequate protection against HIV, while the allegations of rape and corruption (he was acquitted) make me distinctly uneasy.

So God save our Queen, eh? Not a bit of it. Because I’d rather have President Zuma as my Head of State any day. I don’t have anything personal against the old dear at Buck House (Windsor, Balmoral, Sandringham et al), and as you may have gathered, I’m not a particular fan of JZ. But you know, at least Zuma is there because he was elected. And he can be voted out too after five years, or removed mid-term, as was his predecessor. When is Liz up for reselection? And let’s not even start on her philandering, meddling, barm-pot of an eldest son. King Charles? You’ve got to be kidding.

What is it with us Brits that in the 21st century there is such collective tolerance of democratic serfdom? We can vote only for our MP, our MEP and our local councillor and we have no say at all in our Head of State.

So next time someone like President Zuma pops across for a bit of a nosh and a chinwag with Liz or one of her chinless progeny, bear in mind that, unlike her, he is in his position legitimately, as a result of millions of votes.

May I have my own vote now, please?

The lost treasure at the end of the Rainbow Nation

In South Africa on holiday, I am struck by how morose my political friends have become. These are not the typical white South Africans often to be found decrying the state of their homeland in London’s bars, but hard-core, life-long ANC activists who were in the underground movement in the decades before political freedom and who are as committed today as they were 20, 30 or more years ago. I have never known them to be so gloomy.

There is understandable dismay over the sexual appetite of the President, Jacob Zuma, a polygamist with, at the current count, 20 known offspring, legitimate and illegitimate, from his multiple wives, girlfriends and sexual conquests. This is also the man who believed that a shower after unprotected sex was adequate safeguard against HIV and who was embroiled in a very public financial scandal and trial shortly before becoming president. The man is not another Mandela.

But the sorrow – because it is a heartfelt sense of loss, not simply of political disillusionment – that my former ANC colleagues and their friends feel is much deeper than their embarrassed discontent at their President. They mourn the loss of the ANC ideal, which bound together all those activists who fought against Apartheid for freedom and democracy.

That ANC ideal was very evident during Mandela’s five-year term of office, when the Government’s core agenda was to provide the basics for the impoverished masses – water, housing and education. Now, they say, Government is drifting, lacking that central purpose that drove frenetic activity in the ANC’s first term.

Effective policy has given way to administrative bureaucracy, change to continuity and idealism to cynicism. Ministers have been corrupted by high office – at the very least by the trappings of office – and Parliament is weak, with the majority ANC MPs lacking both the capacity to challenge the Executive and the inclination, dependent as they are on party lists for their positions.

What do I think, I am asked. It’s democracy, I reply. You fought for and won the right to elect any Government you chose. And with that freedom came the right to be disappointed in it.

Welcome to my world.