Why We Elected Zuma
Why we chose Zuma
We often read with surprise and disappointment the articles expressing doubt about the ANC's suitability to lead the country because it elected Zuma as a leader; a matter that has received extensive discussions in party structures and widely debated.
Contrary to damning media reports of the Polokwane conference, the decision to elect Zuma for President was a sober one. The debate had gone on informally for over ten years. It was started at the time when the ANC was discussing the post-Mandela leadership in 1997. There was careful thinking which resulted in the decision that Mbeki would succeed Madiba and after two terms Zuma would take over.
The decision was based on the fact that the two were amongst most experienced and respected strategists, who had served together since the days of OR Tambo. Mbeki was primarily preferred as he would be able to focus on issues of transformation of the state machinery, because of his technical skills which we believed the country needed at the time.
Zuma was elected to deputise and strengthen Mbeki's leadership collective because of his excellent human relations, listening skills and capacity to unify. It was felt that, inevitably, Zuma's leadership would be needed to refocus attention to the vision of the ANC to build a compassionate and caring society. His passion for education, rural development, fighting poverty and crime is legendary. It was felt that Zuma would further enhance the consultative character of our organisation once the transformation agenda was in place after Mbeki.
For many people Zuma represents the triumph of the human spirit of perseverance by virtue of the fact that he rose from the depth of grinding rural poverty to attain the level of national and international prominence as a confident yet self taught person. To some, this is a source of inspiration especially for the respect he commands in the continent and abroad. The recent visits to international investor forums have shown the high level of faith and his acceptability as a leader. Zuma may turn out to be one of the finest Presidents in the country. His rise to the top echelons of power has not erased Zuma's touch with the ordinary people. No wonder so many feel well represented by him and do not share the skepticism often expressed in public discourse.
Those who know him well will attest that Zuma's reputation is that of an honest and caring person and a committed leader who will go out of his way to help those less fortunate than himself. Despite the myriad of news reports condemning Zuma, many people have refused to buy into this image of corruption as it does not accord with their experience of the man.
People who have only known about Zuma from the media do not understand how a man described in such horrible terms can be considered for such a high post. Yet those who know him do not accept that such a description refers to the leader they know so well.
Like many leaders Zuma is fallible. The saying goes humanum est errare (to err is human). Any perceived weaknesses are outweighed by his mature leadership style and the stability and spirit of friendship the country will enjoy under his leadership. His strength is his humility and welcoming style that inspires willingness to contribute to the positive achievement for the good of our country. The role of the leadership collective is to support the individual leader and enhance the best qualities.
South Africa was eternally blessed to have a leader like our beloved Madiba. We must also face up to the reality that there will only be one Madiba. Increasingly, thereafter our leaders will become more and more ordinary. Our task is to choose leaders and support them in their quest to fulfill the task that we elected them for.
Prior to the Polokwane conference, branches and delegates debated about and evaluated many of the talented leaders of the ANC in the context of who will best lead our organisation and our country during this time - they said Zuma is that person. When our members decided that Zuma will be Presidential candidate everything about him (both negative and positive) was known. Electing Zuma was a conscious decision. As an expression of a democratic process it has to be respected. The mark of true democrats is to accept the due processes of democracy and not change goal posts if they dislike the outcome.
Zuma has been investigated for nine years, during which he has proclaimed his innocence. He has never missed a day in court since he was charged in 2005. It was the NPA's inability to proceed with prosecution that led the case being thrown out of court by Judge Msimang.
When his offices were raided by Scorpions, together with his lawyers, they successfully challenged the Scorpions in court, which declared the searches to be unlawful. It was the NPA that appealed. It is strange that each time the NPA and Scorpions lose a case against Zuma it is acceptable to take matters to a higher court. Yet if Zuma did the same, he is accused of delaying court appearance. Zuma has no fear of the processes of justice. He has always used them to assert his rights to a fair trial.
The objection by Zuma to the charges a week after his election as President of ANC resulted in Judge Nicholson finding in Zuma's favour. It was the NPA that appealed.
It is possible that this case may never have proceeded if the NPA had opened the avenue for representations. It may have become apparent much earlier, that no crime had been committed. That Shaik was found guilty is no confirmation that Zuma is similarly guilty simply because his name was mentioned in court. He could not be found guilty without being party to court proceedings. Repetition of allegations against Zuma in the media has created a false sense of guilt in the mind of the public.
Political parties opposed to NPA considering Zuma's submissions are themselves bordering on interfering in the institutions of justice. Why would the NPA be right to take Zuma to court and be wrong to exercise a provision specified in the constitution?
Extensive use of media by the state institutions has resulted in prejudice against Zuma by people who profess to respect the rule of law.
It was strange that during this ordeal, the main issue that was debated was Zuma's suitability for Presidency, confirming the information in ANC circles that the investigations were used to frustrate his election to Presidency. This is the reason why the contestations in the last ANC conference have been so fierce. The issues in this case were more political than legal.
When Zuma was accused of corruption in the Arms Procurement process, it is not equally stated that he was not party to the arms deal negotiation, nor was the Minister of Defence ever asked to account or resign for presiding over the process. Very little is said of the chairperson of the entire process even though it was known that it was the President who authored the letter that was extensively highlighted in the Shaik trial.
The ANC has not shifted from its values of clean governance, anti-corruption, respect for the independence of the judiciary and presumption of innocence.
We need closure of this matter that has traumatized and divided society. We may never agree on what the real truth is, so we must accept the responsible organs and follow due processes of law.
When this ordeal is over many will realize that we allowed ourselves to be swayed by repeated publication of untested allegations; hence we tacitly endorsed the persecution of an individual simply because the trial by public media was better presented than the case of his innocence.
In years to come all the weaknesses causing public excitement will fade and pale to insignificance. Posterity will look back at the first twenty years of our young democracy with pride and marvel at the contribution made by the finest sons of Africa who laid the foundation for this great nation. Each will have their footprints and legacy recorded:
Madiba, the father of our rainbow nation, peace and reconciliation;
Mbeki for the transformation of the state institutions and advocate of the African agenda;
Motlanthe who managed the interregnum and allowed the nation to heal; and
Zuma who rekindled our hope for a better future; laying the foundation for us to refocus on the attainment of a truly non-racial and prosperous democratic dispensation.