By Simon Howell
When writing about politics in this country, there are two themes that almost always have to be dealt with. The first is race. And the second is that ever contentious character, Jacob Zuma. While I feel the former may be a more important issue, recent events lead me to jump on the bandwagon of the latter. To be honest, I dislike Zuma. But I do admire him. After all, not everyone can still garner votes, and still win elections, all the while facing an almost endless, and some would insurmountable, list of charges and accusations.
Now whether Zuma is eligible, or fit, to hold office, is a horse that has been soundly flogged, and I do not want to enter into the debate. However, with his winning of the ANC presidential election, his style of garnering votes does raise a very interesting question, one that encompasses a lot more than just the ANC. That being, is the South African government, whatever form it takes, going to stay true “to the people”, or is going to be “corrupted” by big business?
Zuma has a grass roots following, he is what might be termed a “peoples’ man”. His promises seem to be sensible: water, housing, land (although not even he would dare promise an uninterrupted electricity supply). Indeed, with roaring speeches, calling his “comrades” to take back their country, one could be forgiven for thinking this is a socialist revolution.
Yet, as we all know, the South African economy is an emerging one, and while it may be doing well for itself, this does not mean that it can now afford to diverge from many of its neo-liberal policies. Policies that may seem unfair, but policies that attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) none the less. And as any good economist will tell you, FDI is apparently what we need (at least according to the World Bank and IMF).
So as Zuma steadily gains more power, will he and the government jump to the rescue of the “comrades”, or will big business pave the way with gold? Of course we could have it both ways. As we all know, Zuma is not averse to making empty promises while making sure his pockets are full. The problem is that while corruption may be the bread and butter of some figures in government, it does not bode well for those that are still waiting in line for those empty promises to be fulfilled. And while Eskom may be a lost cause, this does not mean the rest of the infrastructure, and the government, can make excuses for a complete lack of service delivery.
So, does it really have to be big business versus the people? No, Trevor Manuel has done an excellent job of proving this. But so long as certain members of government continue on their way, not only will the people not get what they asked for, but people may just get sick of investing in South Africa. Whichever way you look at it, let’s just hope the National Prosecuting Authority manages to find some truth.