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After Zuma, we need someone unlike him

Mandela had a Cabinet of 44 in 1994 and Mbeki had a Cabinet of 50 in 1999. In 2009, Jacob Zuma grew his Cabinet to 63, and in 2014 that number increased to 73. 

As someone so eloquently put it on Instagram: “You’ve never heard of ‘King Arthur and 73 Knights of the Round Table’.” Ironically, in the same week the president announced an even larger Cabinet, we found out that the economy shrank by 0.6%. Most presidencies are measured by economic growth. Mbeki’s smaller Cabinet was able to achieve greater economic growth than Zuma’s larger one. 

It has been reported that we have managed to have one of the largest Cabinets in the world. If only the growth of the Cabinet was matched by economic growth and increase in the employment of the masses. At this rate, South Africa’s Cabinet grows faster than the economy. 

In their book Why Nations Fall, Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson stated that Egypt’s dictatorship did not fall during protests because of its leadership, but because Egyptians felt they were poor because the country was ruled by a narrow elite that organised society for their own benefit at the expense of the people.  

“Political power has been narrowly concentrated, and has been used to create great wealth for those who already possess it.” 

We cannot pretend that this is a perception South Africans do not have about some of their leaders too. In fact, many view working in government and attaining political power as their only path towards prosperity. This results in factionalism and jostling for positions in order to protect themselves, not for the sake of the service of the people. In 2013, Brazil’s economy slowed down to a growth rate of only 0.9% when the protests began. 

The ANC cannot be complacent because it has been given a mandate to govern by an overwhelming 62%. It has to face some hard truths it does not want to confront. When I was in Mount Ayliff in the Eastern Cape over the last week, it was easy to see why the people over there gave the ANC more than 80% of the vote. There are roads being built, there are new municipal buildings, there is electricity and water. 

Unfortunately, the one thing many people were complaining about is a lack of employment opportunities. They feel that the government is doing these great things but, as one man put it to me, “I can’t eat that road they are building. I am grateful for it but I want a job. There is nothing to do here.” He went on to say: “The ANC is working, but I am not working. That is not very good.”   

This is an obstacle the ANC will have to tackle soon. But to ask who will lead South Africa after Zuma is probably the wrong question. What qualities does the next leader of the ANC need to possess in order to move the country forward, is a better one. 

We need someone who is efficient and decisive, yet inclusive. It needs to be someone who will regain trust of the citizenry, business and global economy. And, most importantly, it has to be someone who will build the economy. In other words, someone who is not like Zuma at all. He seems to have a very hands-off approach when it comes to governing, judging by how often he tells us he didn’t know. Sometimes choosing ignorance as a leader is a way of protecting oneself. 

The president has not been very effective or efficient. Of course, there are areas where he has done well but one can’t help but speculate that someone else with different qualities might have taken the country further. South Africa does not have an excuse to be growing at the rate it is growing at right now. We are underachieving. We cannot pat ourselves on the back and say we are doing well.  

We need to get the country working. Business has to come to the party too, they should start investing in the country instead of hoarding its cash. It is not the sole responsibility of the government to create jobs. 

The responsibility of the government is to create conditions for business to create jobs. If business does not have confidence in governance, business does not invest, jobs are not created and the economy does not grow. The next ANC president needs to be someone who inspires the people of this nation to work their asses off. 

This is our country and no one will make it what we want for us. We have to do it for ourselves and we need a leader who will show us that. Let’s be honest, Zuma does not look like he works hard for the country. We elected him, we should see him to be working hard. There is no time for chilling here. Get to work, Mr President. There is no time for niceties with an economy shrinking by 0.6%. There is much work to do and the president doesn’t seem to be doing it. If the president doesn’t crack the whip, we the people should crack the whip at him.

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