President Zuma and the ANC must shape up

In a recent post, I had written that South Africa’s economy is facing many troubles.

Today, the Financial Times in an editorial has said that President Zuma and the ANC must shape up.

President Zuma of South Africa

Key points:

  • The African National Congress, whose leadership meets this weekend, urgently needs to restore faith that the ANC can still govern effectively in the interests of citizens as a whole, and not those of privileged party insiders.
  • Questions about the ANC’s legitimacy extend more broadly than the behaviour of Mr Zuma, who became president in 2009. The party’s competence to lead South Africa out of economic difficulty, and its ability to resist state capture by private interests are in doubt.
  • Halting the slide matters for the country and for Africa as a whole. Post-apartheid South Africa has been a leading symbol of the continent’s gradual economic and democratic progress.
  • For the sake of his party and the state, Mr Zuma must alter his attitude this weekend; if he does not, the ANC should make him.

I have traveled extensively through South Africa’s rural areas 1998–2004 as a World Bank consultant. Certainly, at that time, there was a feeling of hope in the rural areas. There was also a feeling of competence in the Government. However, even in those days, there were clear indications that all was not well.

For example, I had serious reservations about the solar project inaugurated by President Mandela in 1999. However, I was seen as an outsider who did not understand South Africa. Indeed, I was an outsider, but the design problems were easy to see for even an outsider. No surprise that the project came to an abrupt halt shortly after inauguration. It was later reformulated, but it did not live up to its aims.

The Financial Times notes:

South Africa still has considerable strengths. It has a robust and diversified economy, although it is weighted toward the plagued mining industry. It also has a strong constitution and respected institutions, including the finance ministry and central bank.

I think the outside world is willing to help South Africa succeed.What is needed is political will within South Africa. Without this, outsiders can only write wistfully about South Africa.

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