NEWS & ANALYSIS

Why I will defend Zuma to the grave

Chelsea Lotz says the ANC President has outperformed his predecessors, Mandela excepted

Jacob Zuma is most probably the most hated man in South Africa, at least as far as the white constituency is concerned. Over the past few years, the media has portrayed him as an evil villain and monster, availing him to be the "downfall" of South Africa and yet I beg to differ.

Looking at South Africa's economic development over the past four to twenty years, the ANC has made pronounced and massive achievements for our country. Even more recently many of the achievements, laws and legislations fare much better than other African countries. In fact, I will go as far as saying that Zuma has outdone the previous presidents of South Africa, with exception to Tata Madiba of course.

Speak to almost any South African, or particularly white South African and the first thing you witness is the snarling of the lips, and the comment that Zuma himself does not have an education.

Despite popular belief that Zuma has no education, Zuma does have a political education. In the days of apartheid where black persons where prohibited from studying, Zuma as a young boy had joined the ANC at 17 years old, which at the time and still to this day offers political education to future leaders. A few years later Zuma joined Umkhonto We Sizwe as the ANC had been banned.

The cadres of Umkhonto We Sizwe travelled through Africa, spending most of their days training in the army whilst also religiously studying South African history, African Politics and also global politics such as the Russian and Cuban revolution. Challenge any ANC veteran on their political knowledge and you will find it stands more developed and advanced than any political degree could offer.

Who else would be more suited to run South Africa, than a man who spent his entire youth in political education and then proceeded to gain more than 50 years of political experience? Perhaps, just one of the many reasons why our president has made such remarkable achievements for South Africa.

However, despite Zuma's evident Political knowledge that remains to be contested, it cannot be said that Zuma does not care deeply for the education of South African children. Zuma stated recently "It is our strong view that poverty must not prevent South African children from gaining an education". In Zuma's term of governance, more than 370 new schools were built, more than eight million children have been given a free education and a further nine million children receive free meals at school. This direction and path in respect to the education of the youth is a step in the direction of first world countries such as the United Kingdom, where education is guaranteed. Zuma also has indicated plans to ensure that education is free for all youth by 2020.

Yet as with all humans, no human being is exempt from flaws. ‘Human error' is a term often used to describe the imperfect nature of every person and that at some point a person is bound to make mistakes in both their life and career. Somehow South Africa has projected this expectation for Zuma to be a flawless and perfect leader incapable of error, akin to an angel.

This ridiculous expectation is played out daily by both the people and the media which seeks to nefariously twist and undermine every word that Zuma utters. It was only recently that Zuma made a plea to people to not treat their dogs better than their domestic workers, when the media quickly and deviously spun his words citing that "Zuma says people should not own dogs".

Whilst Zuma has made certain errors, I can promise you that each and every individual on this planet has also made errors in the proportion and scale of their career position. It cannot be denied that Zuma has tried in every way to rectify his errors. The one most famed, spoken about error often that is used as a weapon by people in justifying their hate for Zuma, is the shower saga.

The words "He had sex with a women who had AIDS and said it was fine because he took a shower" can be heard across every village and town across the country. Yet, it cannot be said that Zuma has not realized this error as he has done extensive work since in combatting AIDS, which in turn has received global acknowledgement. Through the successful HIV ‘prevention of mother to child transmission' programme, which was initiated and launched by Zuma, the results were bought forward that the number of babies born HIV positive was reduced by 66% by 2011. Obama, the UK and the United Nations as well as other leaders around the world have lauded this achievement.

In addition to Zuma's rather heroic fight in combatting the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, is the issue of gender equality in which Zuma is always heard advocating. More than 40% of the seats in parliament are occupied by women and over 50% of leaderships positions are held by Woman. Our president has also implemented a series of world-class laws and legislations to protect women and children in South Africa.

Looking at the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg', I can observe that the ANC and Zuma have undeniably bought service delivery to the doorstep of South Africa.

The number of mines in South Africa had increased from 993 pre 1994 to almost 1600 post 1994, whilst associated revenue generated from mining grew from R98bn in 2004 to R370bn by the end of 2011. Post 1994 there are now more than 4 million jobs created by the ANC, despite the global economic crisis that occurred. The percentage of the South African population with access to clean drinking water has increased from 62% in 1994, to 93% in 2011.

Within 19 years the ANC has bought 6 million solar geysers to households, an additional 6.5 m households now have access to water, which is more than ever before. South Africa remains as one the 12 countries globally with safe drinking water, due to water preservation methods. Access to electricity has increased from 34% in 1994, to 84% in 2011.

As Zuma stated recently when describing the promise of jobs to the people of South Africa, he said:  "Jobs are now being created again. There are now 15 million people with jobs in the country, the highest ever in our history, and over 650 thousand jobs were created last year." This is according to Stats SA.

Zuma has outperformed every previous government. South Africa's debt to GDP ratio is 32%, whereas the USA 100%, Japan 200% and the UK 90%, the bar percentage from the World Bank is 60%. In the ‘Trade Logistics in the Global Economy' report, South Africa ranks 1st among upper middle-income economies in the World Bank ‘Connecting to Compete 2012'.

The World Bank Business Report 2012 stated that South Africa is ranked 2nd out of 183 countries for good practice in protecting both borrowers and lenders when obtaining credit for business. South Africa sold $1.8 billion worth of cars to the USA in 2010, a step ahead of Sweden and Italy. Zuma also ensured that South Africa is a part of the G20 and the BRICS, something that has put us on a first class global platform. Why were the presidents before Zuma not able to make such significant achievements?

Despite the constant mudslinging and hatred perpetrated by society to Zuma every day, it never fails to impress me at how he still addresses the nation with such diplomatic grace, warmth and commitment to be a good leader and despite the media playing the judge and jury in perspective of their personal beliefs, Zuma never once falters in his manner and has never once reacted with anger, hatred or venom to the face of the population that undermines him at every opportunity. Yet the very population that judges and criticizes him is quick to explode with hatred and racist diatribe at the mere mention of the word "Zuma". At every opportunity, our president has been democratic and an example of a good leader. In the recent elections, Zuma congratulated the opposition saying "Let me thank all the political parties that participated in this election and for the spirit of cooperation that ensured a positive outcome and success. We congratulate all parties that did well and won seats in parliament and legislatures. Also important to note is that the people are never wrong. They make their determination based on their observation and experience. We should all respect their will." When the protests became violent last year, Zuma was quick to condemn, saying that "All people must be respected" and that "Violence at protests cannot be tolerated".

I often ask myself, how is it possible that such a good leader can be portrayed to be an evil villain by the media and the public, when he has delivered so much to South Africa? Yes, Zuma has his Nkandla, but the jury is still out on whether he was deceived about the costs or whether his wife was raped and until we know what happened we can't call the shots of judgment. Considering what Zuma has done for South Africa, I certainly don't mind our president having his Nkandla and it seems that South Africa is suffering from a case of ‘mass national jealousy'.

Therein is the real problem with South African society: Chronic dissatisfaction. We have everything we could need in terms of land, space and a beautiful country with diversity, communities and culture. The ANC has improved and bought significant achievements and developments to South Africa that should make any person proud. Zuma has increased our GDP, put us on a global platform and almost halved the rate of AIDS. It simply stinks of ignorance and denial for civil society to blame everything, including the storms, thunder and tsunamis on this "evil villain" called Zuma.  

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