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Zuma responds to claims of “9 wasted years”

According to eNCA president Jacob Zuma has lashed out at claims that the years he was in power were ‘wasted’.

This comes after claims to that effect by Business Unity SA President Sipho Pityana, as well as President Cyril Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni at The World Economic Forum in Davos.

Zuma responded on Twitter, pointing out that this is a reflection on the ANC not just just himself, and that he remains proud of achievements over the past decade.

He also implied that the ANC lost Tshwane and Johannesburg because the Gauteng ANC didn’t want him to campaign for them.

My Take

I’m not going to put the whole thing here, but I am going to quote bits of it that leaped out at me.

We are in an election year and it is not advisable for us to subscribe to the lie that the past decade has been a completely wasted one. It was the ANC in charge, and we should not be taking such a message of defeatism to those who have given us their votes, and trust.

While it is true that the ANC is in charge, I think the “new dawn” requires acknowledging the failures of the night before.

Change is a powerful message, and maintaining a status quo is a weak one. This is a big part of why Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, and it is why Barrack Obama beat John McCain.

The big slogan for Obama was “change”, and Trump capitalised on the perception that not much had really changed under Obama.

When I became ANC president in 2007, we needed to deal with the immediate challenge of HIV/Aids decimating our people. Today, millions of lives have been saved and transformed and we no longer see and read about “Aids babies” who die before their fifth birthday. South Africa today has the biggest treatment programme in the world with more than 3.9 million people on treatment by August 2017.

This is the one reason I believe that Zuma was a better president that Thabo Mbeki. The AIDS crisis was largely down to Mbeki’s failure to act, driven by his embrace of alternative medicine.

Though that said, if we are going to give proper credit here, a lot of it goes to President Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe who got the ball rolling with regards to governments belated response to AIDS.

Further, Mbeki was an ANC president, so whatever happened to, “It was the ANC in charge, and we should not be taking such a message of defeatism to those who have given us their votes, and trust”?

We increased access to electricity, with many more households using electricity to cook.

According to Power Optimal, the price of electricity rose 350% between 2007 and 2017.

Inflation over this same period was 74%. Despite this, Eskom’s debt has hit crisis levels at about  R419bn. This is being used to argue for yet another tariff increase.

Yet Zuma brags about our electricity situation as one of the highlights of his reign.

Access to sanitation improved. Many more households gained access to piped water.

First of all this isn’t something Zuma can take credit for, water and sanitation are municipal functions. That said, if we’re talking about the ANC as a whole…

We have repeatedly suffered failures with regards to sanitation over the past decade, including pumping raw sewage into the Vaal River and Hartbeespoort Dam.

According to the Mail and Guardian in 2017, ” Of the 824 treatment plants, maybe only 60 release clean water.”

And Zuma is bragging about sanitation.

Our social grants programme was broadened to 17 million – a buffer against disaster for so many of our people.

This is not something to brag about. You brag when you drop the number of people who get social grants, because you’d decreased the number of people who need them.

If your social grants programme now accounts for much more people it means your broader economy sucks. Zuma’s bragging about the impact of impoverishing the nation here.

We built two universities.

We have a young, growing population with skills shortages. The UK has an aging, largely static population with a need to import labour.

They founded about 26 universities in the time frame that Zuma’s talking about.

The ocean economy project became an apex priority and has been a major creator of jobs.

Unemployment in 2008 was 22.7%. In the first quarter of 2018 it was 26,7%. Don’t brag about job creation when the unemployment rate went up.

The end of my term ushered in free tertiary education, building on the gains in basic education.

The Zuma administration actively resisted the #Feesmustfall movement right up until it was clear that Zuma was going to get the boot. Blade Nzimande, the minister of higher education under Zuma, famously responded to the protests by saying “Students must fall”.

Zuma is taking credit here for a defeat. Not only that, but lets bear in mind that it wasn’t free, the result of Zuma’s proclamation was that VAT increased to 15%, because that education still had to be paid for.

I could go on.

Oh so could I. I could talk about how our credit ratings went from investment grade to junk status, making it much harder for us to borrow money in order to correct the failures of the Zuma government. I could talk about the failure of the SOEs, including the people killed in train crashes.

I could talk about how funds dedicated to encouraging black farmers and entrepenuers were systematically looted, I could talk about how SARS has been undermined, I could go on.

A culture of despondency and near-defeatism seems to have crept into the ANC after we failed to win two of the big metros in Gauteng in 2016. The loss of Johannesburg and Tshwane was blamed, by some, “on Zuma”. But how many bothered to take the time to acknowledge that this was the same province where this same Zuma had been rejected by some in the provincial leadership, treated with embarrassment and most heavily criticised by the ANC itself?

They did not want me to campaign for them in Gauteng – and they did not win any major metro. Even Ekurhuleni is governed now through coalition.

I’m including this just to illustrate how sour Zuma’s grapes are, and how deluded he is about his national popularity.

I never once blamed any predecessor or pointed to any perceived failing of any predecessor when I came to the leadership.

And yet one of Zuma’s true successes, the AIDS crisis – was in fact due to a failing of Zuma’s predecessor, which saw Mbeki forced to resign.

Now it is Zuma’s turn and he’s acting like everybody is being mean by pointing out what a monumental stuff-up he was.

This is just more sour grapes.

Now to a large extent I agree with Zuma that most of this wasn’t purely on his head. Most of this really was the ANC.

And we can go further, a lot of it was the figures in the ANC which we tend to defend. We look at the likes of Pravin Gordhan, and sure he may be a man of integrity but our public enterprises aren’t doing well, and our economy didn’t thrive when he was finance minister before.

We look at the ANC on a provincial level – the Guateng ANC are so bad that their provincial offices are uninhabitable.

People don’t vote for the DA out of some support for DA policy, they vote for the DA because when it wins it may do a bad job, but it does do the job. The ANC on a fundamental level hasn’t been doing.

We get grand visions of economic liberation, but the day-to-day reality is that too much of the run-of-mill work of governance hasn’t been done.

Our sewage crisis is not that we needed more treatment plants – it was that the ones we had weren’t being maintained.

Our corruption crisis wouldn’t have happened – if people were just honest and we had internal controls to catch those who weren’t.

Our power crisis – a lot of that was failure to collect what people owed.

This isn’t stuff that should be campaign issues, this is stuff that should be a matter of course, and yet that is what we’ve lost over the nine years.

The big failure of the ANC isn’t something that can be fixed with big successes, because it is the accumulation of millions of little failures. To counter it will take time because we need to start having millions of little wins to do that.

And those wins are possible to achieve. They aren’t even necessarily all that difficult, fixing something is never going to be as hard as fixing everything. We can break down the things that are going wrong, the things that look so daunting, to a collection of little things which don’t.

But to tackle our problems requires acknowledging them. To pretend that the ANC has a good story to tell right now is just to deny reality.

If the ANC is ever to regain the trust of South Africans, it needs to recognise that this trust has been lost. You cannot fix something you do not accept is broken.

And that’s the thing with Zuma, he cannot accept that his reign was fundamentally broken.

  • Picture courtesy of GCIS via Flickr.
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