LIKE JONATHAN, LIKE ZUMA
The outgoing administration of Goodluck Jonathan and that of Jacob Zuma share a lot in common. Both men’s rise to power was dramatic and had raised a lot of expectations and hopes of their country men and women.
Both men preside over two of Africa’s biggest economies and most strategic nations. Both men were vice-presidents to bosses who were unfortunate to have left power before the end of their tenures, before taking the plum jobs of president.
In the case of Jonathan, he was the victim of a cabal who prevented his ascension to power following the physical incapacitation of his boss, Musa Yar’Adua. He would later become president after the death of Yar’Adua in May, 2010 and completed the tenure of Yar’Adua before standing for election.
Jonathan was literally “the breath of fresh air” Nigerians had waited for. The humble kid who once “had no shoes” represented the yearnings of Nigerians for change and offered hopes of a better future. “I once had no shoes, if I could make it, you too can make it”, he had told Nigerians as he was propelled to a new term of four years.
Jacob Zuma was vice-president to Thabo Mbeki who gave him the boot in June 2005, following allegations of corruption. Zuma fought the fight of his life battling corruption charges even after an acquittal on rape charges in May 2006.
Zuma got a reprieve when the court in September 2008 ruled that the corruption charges were politically motivated. That led to the ouster of his estranged principal Thabo Mbeki from power following a resolution from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to that effect. With Mbeki out of the way, there was no stopping Zuma who zoomed ANC to power.
Zuma cut a picture of a humble man the ordinary South Africans could relate with unlike Mbeki who was said to be too far from the people. Zuma the darling of the trade unions, had his task cut out for him; solving South Africa’s economic and social inequality, soaring crime rates and the ravaging HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The international press favoured Zuma’s election as he admitted South Africa’s enormous challenges with the HIV/AIDS pandemic and rape crisis which the Mbeki administration had downplayed and claimed to be exaggerated by the international press.
However, it didn’t take long for both nations to have the institution of the presidency reduced to a kindergarten level by both men. Zuma and Jonathan only enjoyed the trappings of power but shied away from the enormous responsibility it entailed.
Zuma rolled from one sexual scandal to another and his government rolled from one corruption scandal to another. Life got worse for the ordinary South African as Zuma’s public rating nose dived. Jonathan did not fair better and appeared unprepared for the challenges of being president of a country like Nigeria. “Hopelessly corrupt”, “weak” and “clueless” became common epithets for the Jonathan’s administration. The hair that broke the camel’s back for the Jonathan regime was the lackadaisical handling of the Boko Haram insurgency.
As the South African general elections neared, Zuma had become very unpopular. Zuma was humiliated by the booing crowd of his countrymen at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013 in Johannesburg. Julius Malema, the enfant terrible of South African politics and former ANC youth leader had become a constant critic of Zuma’s leadership style.
The massacre of the striking Marikana Platinum mine workers was thought to be the lowest the ANC and Zuma could go. Reminiscent of the Apartheid era brutality, Zuma’s led government even charged the colleagues of the massacred miners for their murder under an Apartheid era legislation but backed down due to pressure. However, for the ANC and Zuma, the heavens will not fall.
Jacob Zuma would lead his party to another victory in May 2014 to begin a second term in office. Unlike South Africans, Nigerians never made the mistake of returning Jonathan for another term.
There lies the paradox of political behaviour. Nigerians rejected a Jonathan who is a near clone of Zuma when they had the chance but the South Africans would rather boo Zuma, strike against his government but later re-elect him and transfer their aggression to innocent Africans through xenophobic attacks.
Jacob Zuma was reported to have received over £1, 200, 000 as spousal support for his 6 wives. Zuma was also accused of using public funds to upgrade his personal residence to the tune of R2, 000, 000, 000 as well as building other luxury facilities within the area of his personal residence. Yet the South Africans unlike Nigerians turned a blind eye to the disastrous rule of Zuma and the ANC.
The ANC on its own part has failed to address the issue of the economic inequalities which continues to haunt South Africa. The ANC no doubt must be given credit for leading South Africa through its precarious moment of uncertainty after the fall of apartheid, to a peaceful transition to a rainbow nation. However, the party has totally failed to manage the challenges of post-Apartheid South Africa which is winning economic freedom for the majority black population.
The ANC must be gloating in its good luck with its victory at the polls once again and migrants getting whipped for its failures. The xenophobic attack is simply a fall out of bottled up anger and frustration felt by the black population of South Africa over poverty and economic strangulation though the anger is misdirected.
The South Africans who believed the end of Apartheid would be the beginning of an Eldorado have found out too late that political freedom without economic freedom is only a dud cheque. The ANC ought to take responsibility for its failure in negotiating a good economic deal for the majority blacks in post-Apartheid South Africa. The ANC has also failed to better the lot of ordinary South Africans since it took the reins of power 2 decades ago.
Just like Jonathan and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who stoked ethnic and religious sentiments to cover up for their failings virtually in all aspects of governance, Zuma and the ANC have a worthy alibi for their failure in their countrymen’s xenophobia. Like Zuma’s arch-critic Julius Malema opined, Zuma has neither investigated the Zulu King whose alleged charge to foreigners to leave South Africa set the ball rolling for the wanton killings nor his own son who was alleged to have fuelled the crisis with his alleged xenophobic utterances.
Even Zuma defends his countrymen by accusing other African leaders of not doing enough to keep their people within their borders and thus burdening his country with migrants. Zuma forgets that these migrants establish businesses, employ South Africans and pay taxes.
His minister even takes it to the absurd by saying that foreigners should be willing to share their trade secrets with their host who are less innovative. I wonder whether they should also share their wooing secrets since foreigners are also accused of “stealing their women”. The Zulu King further states that though South Africans were accommodated and helped by other countries during the apartheid era, they (South Africans) were not opening businesses in those other countries and thus reiterated his earlier call for African migrants to leave.
By these comments from supposed leaders of South Africa, I now have an understanding of the xenophobic predilections of the South African society and the descent of a segment of the South African society to an abysmal level of barbarism shown by pictures of unprovoked attack and murder of defenceless Africans or looting of shops and businesses. The only early voice of reason was Julius Malema.
My message to the South African society is that even if they forget the contribution of the rest of the continent to give them their freedom, they should never forget that no one does the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.
Keep attacking immigrants and voting Zuma/ANC, that would not eliminate the rampaging poverty or glaring social inequality in South Africa. Take a cue from Nigerians and vote out the ANC at the next election and get a better deal from any opposition party that offers anything better.