Question: Can Jacob Zuma Transform South Africa?
Andrew Kuper: I think the future of South Africa really at this point is unwritten in a different way to in the past. We had very established dynamics in the past with the ANC Liberation Movement that successfully and rightly won the 1994 election, it was a tremendous moment. I was there at the Union Buildings when Nelson Mandela was inaugurated and the jets flew over trailing the new South African flag and all of us who are there basically hit the ground because we thought we were being attacked and suddenly realized, “No, those are out jets.” So I’ve been there at that moment, I have been there in the moment where Thabo Mbeki stood up and said, “He was the next generation, bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was to be magical,” quoting Shelley. So I’ve been there on those moments, I’ve been there at the 1999 election when Mandela handed over power, an African head of state of the most powerful country in the continent handing over power to the next generation. I’ve been there at a time where Thabo Mbeki’s bizarre approach to AIDS had severe consequences but also where his remarkable economic stewardship help transform the country.
So there really is a mixed legacy there and people shouldn’t lose sight of that, we did go through very significant growth, a real African lion to match the Asian tigers and that was; Thabo Mbeki can claim a lot of credit for that so there is this terribly mixed legacy there. But the Jacob Zuma saga has kept the country going back and forth for the last two years, absolutely riveted and we haven’t known how this would pan out. Now, at least the landscape is a lot clearer, he is president, there is quite strong opposition, The Democratic Alliance which actually controls one province now, a very important province that holds Cape Town, there is a 2nd party that has grown up in opposition that consists of former liberation movement leaders who got 8% of the vote, it’s not a huge showing but they are truly a multiracial party and it’s quite possible that their holding is going to increase in the future and they actually are the official opposition in several provinces.
So you do see it both at the provincial level and at the state level, a very significant transformation of the landscape, there is an increasingly strong opposition that may get stronger in the future. The ANC did not quite get to its 2/3 majority and it’s not clear whether it will again. So you maybe moving towards a two or three party system that is more multiracial and it has a balance of power at the regional level that looks very much like many, many successful democracies so that’s tremendously exciting.
Jacob Zuma, people has very diverse vies on him. Certainly he’s a tremendously talented man who’s incredibly savvy, who’s self-taught and who has shown tremendous resilience, he has also taken, some said, some very bizarre thing about HIV/AIDS which was the last thing we need in the country and there is sometimes, I’m all for inclusiveness but there is sometimes a dangerous populism that creeps in there and we’ll have to see, I believe we have to give new presidents the benefit of the doubt in some way, we have to vigorously hold him accountable as the media and as several society as well as the opposition holding them accountable but I believe you also have to give people a chance to prove themselves and if he adapts policies that are forward thinking, he grows the country, if he’s inclusive, I believe that there is the potential to have a country that can continue to be a light in all nations as South Africa, in all respect, has been shown to the world.
Recorded on: May 1, 2009