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Holding President Zuma accountable

May 7, 2009

Making sure South Africans hold their new government accountable is essential if the country is to succeed under Jacob Zuma, believes Mamphela Ramphele, an anti-apartheid activist and prominent South African businesswoman.

“We underestimated what it means to govern a modern democracy,” she told Reuters. “In that context we have made many  mistakes. The first mistake was to conflate the leader, the party, the government and the state. That conflation leads to the undermining of state institutions … and abuse of state resources for party political reasons.”

Ramphele, a doctor and former World Bank official, is among a group of professionals who helped draft three potential scenarios for the country into 2020.

There is a healthy one, of course, in which the government works with business and civil society and is held accountable for its actions and service delivery. After that is one in which the African National Congress government takes a strong role with little opposition – it leads to authoritarian rule. The worst case scenario points to corruption and decay.

Key to success under incoming President Zuma, she believes, is accountability.

“We need to keep the pressure, not pressure to oppose them, but pressure to support, encourage and hold them accountable to deliver on the promises of their election campaigns,” she said.

Although full of complements for Zuma and his abilities, Ramphele also sees positive aspects in the emergence of COPE, the opposition party formed by breakaway ANC members before the election.

She sees is at as a force that will put pressure on the ANC to deliver on problems such as poor education, poverty, the AIDS epidemic and violent crime.

“I can’t imagine any other society with the diversity that we have failing. I can’t imagine any society with the passion that we have as South Africans failing, except if that society refuses to make sure that it’s got leaders that are held to account.”


Ms Ramphele is absolutely right the key to South Africa’s future is in holding the country’s leaders accountable. SA has definitely done a world better than most other African countries; even then, SA will only get 6 out of 10. President Jacob Zuma, his democratic credentials are nothing compared to those of Mandela, will undermine the country’s democratic institution for his own political gains given half a chance.

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