/ 25 March 2015

Zuma: If I were a dictator …

President Jacob Zuma laughs after EFF MPs were forced to leave the house.
President Jacob Zuma laughs after EFF MPs were forced to leave the house.

Have you ever thought what President Jacob Zuma would be like if he were a dictator?

Don’t stress if you haven’t, because he certainly gave it a lot of thought.

Zuma the dictator, by his own admission, would limit people’s rights – for noble reasons of course. “If I was a dictator, I would change a few things,” Zuma told the South African Local Government Association summit in Midrand on Tuesday.

“For an example I would say to a family, you need a house, here is the material and only bring the government person to supervise. Build your house. That is what I would say.

“And if they say they can’t build, we will just get the person who can build; they must participate. If they can’t put a brick they must mix the mud. So that there is a feeling that ‘this is my own’,” Zuma continued.

Limited freedom of speech
And that’s not all. Zuma the dictator has a problem with freedom of speech. “But this is a democracy. In a democracy you can say whatever you like. There is freedom of speech. Sometimes you don’t understand limits of freedom of speech. We just say anything to anyone anyhow.”

If Zuma was a dictator, he wouldn’t even want to be a lifetime President. “If you can vote (for me) just one year, to be a dictator and close your eyes because I would make everybody understand that rights go with responsibility – (it is) not one sided,” Zuma joked.

But, the President conceded, he would never be given that opportunity. “We have to find very democratic ways of changing the manner which we do things now,” Zuma said.

He bemoaned how communities expected everything from government. He narrated a story of his experience in an African country that recently gained freedom at the time of his visit.

Mango tree
Zuma detailed how he saw a man sitting under a mango tree, waiting for mangos to fall so that he could sell the ripened mangos. The man was, in Zuma’s eyes, too lazy to climb the tree and pick the mangos for himself. “My view is that the manner in which we do things … we are the same like the man under the mango tree waiting for the mango to drop.”

While Zuma seemed to be firm on communities he also had a strong word or two for local government – admonishing local government leaders for their unnecessary use of consultants.

“Some of us are employed for specific skills. But instead of doing our work we take it and give it to consultants. They do the work and are paid even more money. Why are you employed if you cannot do the work you are employed to do?”

The President further called for the tightening of operations within local government. “Don’t employ people because you feel for them or they are your friend or cousin. Employ people to do work,” he said.