Our rock star Prez has for some time now been failing to meet my relatively low expectations of a South African State President (they are low because the challenges are so immense, not because I think the ANC produces bad leaders).
He was doing so before yesterday's speech. I was the hater at the dinner table after his first 100 days trying to point out that he hadn't yet made any decisions, hadn't indicated his positions on any major policy issues, and hadn't really tried to lead in any significant way.
All he did was stack the justice and security portfolios with super loyalists to ensure neither he nor any of his corruptees and/or benefactors (I hate the word cronies) would ever set foot in court. Then he did some sensible housework creating some new departments and splitting old ones, and said some encouraging things about accountability, performance management, and HIV-AIDS. But it never looked like anything much more than new veneer on the kak old kitchen counter tops. No-one was any the wiser on what the new ANC government thought should happen in SA over the next five years.
But this was to be expected, right? We've had it drilled into us that Zuma is the Greate Conciliator, and the Great Listener. He 'consults' endlessly, waits for fights to break out amongst cabinet ministers, and then 'fixes' everything by smoothing over the differences (the important exception here is that none of Malema's fights are ever mentioned). Normally such smoothing would try and find a compromise position, and result in a new decision or policy direction. But with Zuma it seems to end up in a weird fudgy stasis, where no-one is sure if anythign at all has been decided, but everyone feels ok because he's so darn charming. The Consulting-Conciliating-Compassionate President JZ, Man of the People. Everything Mbeki was not.
Blah blah blah. Zuma really really hasn't taken a single decision of any importance. He had a chance last night to at least reveal his hand on various policy issues. I thought he really would, and decided that this would be the last chance I gave him. He blew it. I'm still reeling from how pathetic it all was. Not to mention how poorly prepared JZ seemed to be. Did he have any input whatsoever into the speech's contents? Did he do any practising? Eish.
We still have no idea what changes may be in store, in any important policy area. We still don't know what the State President of the Republic of South Africa actually thinks about some gravely important issues. We have to wait for the Budget Speech and apparently the Minister of Trade and Industry's speech on industrial policy to learn anything about economic policy. The ANC also says we must wait for Cabinet Ministers to add the details missing from the State of the Nation speech, which will happen in the next two weeks. Excuse me? What State of the Nation address has ever been made prior to those details being very well known to the Cabinet?
Like Redi Direko said this morning while I sat stuck in traffic (let's hope some of the R846 billion infrastructure spend is earmarked for the N14 north of Brakfontein), we all deserve better.
Like I said after his first 100 days, Zuma is a shmuck, the ANC elected the wrong guy, and we'll be lucky to get away with a few scrapes and bruises during the Zuma era.
He is not a leader. He cannot be even if he wanted to. He was the most likely vehicle for dangerously ambitious politicians in the ANC to gain more power within the alliance (and much more money as a result of that), and now that they have, Zuma owes them more than he owes the country, and has no wiggle room. Expect many inexplicable decisions (Mpshe appointment anyone???), many inexplicable statements from ANC and Ministerial spokespeople, lots of silence, and many, many more service delivery protests.