So as you've probably heard by now, Zuma is leaps and bounds ahead of his competition in the presidency race, with the Women's League now also giving him their backing.
With so many people promising to leave South Africa if he ever gets the top job (seriously?!), I thought I'd jot down a few notes to fuel the debate, from the classic Spiegel interview to more moderate and rational analysis of his character. Will Zuma turn SA into Zimbabwe? Is it even possible against the backdrop of the new wealthy ANC businessmen?
Recently a few of Zuma's policies were revealed in a business meeting with black businessmen. He reportedly would consider bringing back the death penalty if a referendum indicated that the country wanted this. But would that ever happen? I don't see the overwhelming majority of South Africans ever supporting the death penalty, never mind the fact, as some News24 users point out, it would require a change to the constitution which would in turn require a majority vote in parliament.
He also talks tough on corruption, calling it a "sickness of society" that should be dealt with head-on. But what about 'ol Shaik, his financial adviser, imprisoned for bribing Zuma himself?
With regards to HIV/AIDS, he feels that "more could have been done"; however a few months ago he did more damage to HIV progress than any other public figure besides Mbeki and Manto, with his shower comments. He also knowingly had unprotected sex with an HIV positive woman, which to me doesn't seem like the action of a man concerned about the spread of the deadly virus.
Given the obvious actions that contradict his words, these statements are 100% political spin. The words people want to hear. However, all politicians are full of this kind of thing so it's rather unremarkable that he too is playing the game.
In a now-famous interview with German magazine Spiegel, Zuma seemingly went to great lengths to defend Mugabe, saying "The Europeans often ignore the fact that Mugabe is very popular among Africans. In their eyes, he has given blacks their country back after centuries of colonialism."
Which is, sadly, an accurate analysis. Never mind the fact that Mugabe achieved this using propaganda and by silencing the independent media in Zimbabwe. But do read the entire interview for further insight and perspective.
The thing is that all of the presidential candidates hold their tongues and presumably share the same viewpoint on Zim, so these remarks by Zuma don't really isolate him at all from the common ANC-held view on the situation.
For a more positive and perhaps rational outlook, it's worth reading Jonty Fisher's "A contrarian view on Jacob Zuma", where he argues quite convincingly that Zuma will "not push South Africa into a heavily socialist, backward country and ruin the economic freedom and development so hard fought in the past decade."
Jonty also ponders the possibility of our policies moving towards more socialist ideals, and compares South Africa to countries that already walk this road: "Countries such as France, Germany and Canada are successful with macroeconomic policies that are largely more socialist than ours, and nobody tolls the death bells for them."
I always point out that it's nonsense that "only in Africa" do we have corrupt politicians like Zuma ascending to power. I'm no expert, but I always suggest people read up on Italy in the early nineties, where a mix of corruption, politics and the Mafia led to some spectacularly disastrous events, including corruption trials, multiple suicides of high profile figures and murders by carbombing.
The point is to keep things in perspective. Italy is still a nice enough first world country, despite far worse corruption that threatened to ruin it.
Is it naive to think that a Zuma presidency is not the end of the world?
I think we're safe for a good couple of years at least.