ANC needs to choose Mr Zuma's successor carefully

Friday, December 15, 2017

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If, as expected, Mr Jacob Zuma steps down as president of the African National Congress (ANC) next week, he will hopefully set South Africa on a path to recovering some amount of the dignity that his presidency has eroded over the past few years.

Unfortunately, that journey to recovery will not begin immediately, because Mr Zuma will remain president of the country until elections in 2019 — a fact that is most likely annoying to South Africans who are proud of their country and who cherish the principle of integrity in leadership.

For the past eight years, and even before 2009 when he assumed the highest political office, Mr Zuma has been embroiled in scandal.

People who keep a watch on developments in South Africa will recall that, in 2005, Mr Zuma was slapped with almost 800 charges of corruption in relation to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal in 1999. The charges were dropped shortly before he became president. However, three months ago, South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal upheld an earlier High Court decision reinstating the charges.

Mr Zuma challenged the court ruling, but on Wednesday this week the Supreme Court ordered him to set up a judicial inquiry into State influence-peddling within 30 days, describing his challenge as ill-advised and reckless.

The ruling on Wednesday came days after the same court ruled that Mr Zuma's appointment of a state prosecutor to decide whether to reinstate the corruption charges was not valid and should be set aside immediately.

We also recall that Mr Zuma tried unsuccessfully to use the court to block the release of a report, entitled 'State of Capture', which focused on allegations that his friends, the Gupta brothers, had influenced the appointment of Cabinet ministers.

Mr Zuma and the Gupta brothers have denied all accusations of wrongdoing.

This week's developments have revived memories of a 2016 court ruling that Mr Zuma breached his oath of office by using State funds to upgrade his private home in Nkandla. While he has repaid the money, the fact that he dipped into the treasury to enhance his own comfort is cause for great concern.

By any stretch of the imagination, this is not a man who is being true to the ideals displayed by the members of the ANC who, in some instances, paid the ultimate sacrifice to free South Africa from the oppression of apartheid.

More than anything else, Mr Zuma's presidency has damaged the credibility of the ANC and sullied the legacy of people like the late President Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Messrs Walter Sisulu and Steve Biko, and many others.

We feel particularly aggrieved by Mr Zuma's behaviour, given that Jamaica was in the forefront of the international battle to free South Africa from the racist regime that inflicted brutality on the people of that country for many years.

Hopefully, the ANC will employ wisdom in its choice of a replacement for Mr Zuma and give the country hope that its next possible president will earn the respect of the international community.

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