Zuma and his govt face tough 2010
President Jacob Zuma and his government face a tough 2010, under pressure to improve the lives of millions of poor South Africans and convince the world that crime will not taint the Soccer World Cup.
Growing noise from the ANC’s trade union and communist allies have raised investor concern over future economic policy as Africa’s biggest economy emerges from a recession which saw about a million jobs lost.
South Africa will be the first African country to host the Soccer World Cup in just over 130 days’ time and the event could give a much-needed boost to the economy.
Zuma needs to show bold leadership, follow through on tough talk on crime and pacify his bickering partners in the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), analysts believe.
“There has been very little new legislation and nothing in terms of Bills with spending or economic impact. Many of the president’s early pledges, have simply not come about,” said Peter Attard Montalto, emerging markets economist at Nomura International.
With a quarter of the workforce unemployed, the massive job losses due to the recession and the government’s failure to meet its target of creating 500 000 work opportunities in 2009, creating jobs is Zuma’s main priority.
Political analyst Nic Borain said Zuma’s ability to deliver on ambitious election promises in the aftermath of the global credit crunch, like many other leaders, is constrained.
“The resources to address unemployment are just not available. Unemployment is driven by processes over which he does not have control: global demand, capital markets and globalisation,” Borain said.
Almost 16 years after apartheid ended, many black South Africans still live in impoverished squatter settlements without quality education, healthcare or access to running water and electricity.
Last year violent riots sparked by slow delivery of these basic services erupted in several townships across the country.
Zuma enjoys strong support among the poor and cannot afford to ignore their plight. Local government is in disarray and with council elections due next year, he must address the needs of the millions who live on the breadline.
Threat from within
But despite the growing sense of neglect among the poor and high levels of crime—about 50 people are murdered each day—Zuma’s biggest threat comes from within his own ranks.
Communists and trade unionists have been given key positions in Zuma’s Cabinet, but they want to dictate policy and sway the current pro-business stance.
The recession made it easy for Zuma to fend off this pressure but with the economy recovering, the left will renew their demands and fight efforts to rein in spending and debt.
Zuma has called for unity in the alliance but critics say he should have been more outspoken over rifts that have emerged, particularly between the ANC’s youth and communist party.
The increasing profile of Julius Malema, the controversial leader of the ANC’s militant youth league, has made investors wary about Zuma’s position on key issues.
Malema is pushing for South Africa’s mines to be nationalised, which could scare off investors in the world’s biggest platinum producer. South Africa is also the third-biggest global producer of gold.
A senior ANC source said Cosatu and the SACP want more than a prominent role in government.
“It’s about power and positions. The ANC will elect a new president in 2012 and the Cosatu and SACP secretary generals [Zwelinzima Vavi and Blade Nzimande] want the top positions,” the source said.
Zuma has said he will only serve one term as president which means jockeying and lobbying to become the next ANC president, and almost certainly leader of the country, have already begun.
“Zuma was the man they wanted to take control of the party but they don’t necessarily want him to lead the country for the next term,” the source said.
Other politicians seen to be in the running for the presidency include Tokyo Sexwale, a billionaire businessman now serving as housing minister in Zuma’s Cabinet.
The ANC itself is facing internal strife. Malema and the youth league want ANC members to distinguish themselves from the alliance partners and for dual membership to be scrapped. In particular he has been gunning for ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who is also chairperson of the SACP.
“Malema represents a class of ANC elite who want the [communists and trade unions] suppressed. Not only because of the economic implications it could have for the country but because it would directly affect those who gain from their political connections,” the ANC source said. - Reuters