So I wrote yesterday that I won’t blog about the African National Congress’ conference ’till it’s over.’ Well, now that Jacob Zuma has soundly defeated Thabo Mbeki to become ANC President, the conference is effectively over.
Unless Zuma goes to prison because of long-standing corruption charges (his legal team has used all kinds of delays to prevent the trial from going ahead), he’ll probably be South Africa’s next democratically elected President in 2009.
As I suggested before, one conclusion of the ANC leadership election is that even the ANC, like political parties everywhere else, is now primarily about leaders and presidential contests.
So who is Jacob Zuma and what can be expected from him?
Unfortunately we won’t learn a lot from the man himself.
Zuma does not write a lot or give memorable speeches (unlike Mbeki who maintains a weekly ‘Letter from the President‘ on the ANC’s website and whose admirers praise his public speaking). A quick scan of Zuma’s public utterances on the ANC website’s ‘Zuma Page‘ or the website set up by his supporters, ‘Friends of Zuma‘ will confirm this.
We do know he can certainly sing.
But another reason for not knowing what his plans for South Africa is, is that Zuma does not give lots of media interviews (he has it in for South Africa’s media) and when he has spoken publicly, he often talks about himself in the third person.
Recent media reports indicate that he lets those in his ‘camp’ speak for him (these include ‘sources,’ as well as the brother of convicted fraudster Shabir Shaik, and former Cabinet Minister Mac Maharaj, Zwelinzima Vavi of Cosatu, ANC leader and now businesman Tokyo Sexwale and the Communist Party leader Blade Nzimande). But even from them you don’t get any clue about Zuma’s politics or policies as they mouth stock phrases and spent most of their time criticizing the ‘Mbeki camp.’
But they and Zuma may start or will be compelled to spell out their policies now.
Meanwhile if you live outside South Africa (or if in South Africa, care what is said about the country outside), there’s also not much available except color pieces and recycled views from South Africa’s mainstream media and now blogosphere.
* James Sturcke profiles Zuma in the UK Guardian, here
* Alec Russell, the Johannesburg correspondent of the Financial Times, profiles Zuma here. This profile was done before he became ANC President, but I am referencing it here as it contains the memorable lines: ‘Unquestionably, he [Zuma] is a more authentically African leader than Mr Mbeki who gives the impression of being most at home at economic summits. He repairs regularly to his home in Zululand, a collection of rondavels (traditional round African huts), and holds court like an old-fashioned chief. He appears in traditional ceremonies in a leopard-skin. He has between 16 and 18 children‘).
* A profile in the BBC today who refers to Zuma as ‘South Africa’s Comeback Kid,’ here and;
* Jonathan Clayton in the London Times here.
* Finally, there is also this older interview with Zuma in Der Spiegel. (This is quite illuminating.)
By the way, the ANC website has been slow to report the news that it has a new President. It will also be interesting what Mbeki will write in his ‘Letter from the President’ this Friday; that is if he will write it, or will be allowed to.
It is also not clear whether Zuma will continue this tradition.
Read Full Post »