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S.Africa Election: Zuma’s enigma


Professor Thandwa Mthembu is Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the  Central University of Technology, Free State. He writes in his personal capacity.

Based on current information on Jacob Zuma’s beliefs, ideas and practices, what are the prospects for his soon-to-be installed administration in South Africa?
My overall thesis is that Zuma is no less enigmatic than former President Thabo Mbeki, his old rival.

But Zuma is more eclectic in thinking and approach. Books have been written about Mbeki’s enigmatic character. But, one thing certain in the socio-economic governance and administration model he ushered in is that he exhibited neo-liberal and pro-capitalist inclinations that made him appear dogmatic and monolithic. This is evident in his macro-economic policy, Gear. It is also evident in his micro-economic policies. BEE policies, for example, were designed to create a new black middle class and “filthy rich” black people, too.

I believe Zuma is no less enigmatic; but is progressively eclectic. At the personal level, whilst he is incontrovertibly traditionalist, he mingles with the Church, modernists and the like, effortlessly.
Zuma has a deep sense of respect for elders, which is, ironically, an integral part of our moral values. Even though Archbishop Tutu has expressed resentment of Zuma as a person, the ANC leader has avoided any retaliation. That is a marked contrast to Mbeki’s response to Tutu’s criticisms of ANC practices in 2004 (not Mbeki himself) – the then president branded the Nobel peace laureate a self-serving ignoramus, a liar and a populist.