Zakes Mda’s attack on Zuma is far-fetched and ludicrous

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For a person of Zakes Mda’s calibre and erudition, it is not unreasonable to expect much from him than the sheer banality of the views attributed to him in the article Mda: Zuma could trigger ‘a bloodbath’.

Although Mda primarily comes into the picture as a secondary voice – the article is authored by the journalist Matuma Letsoalo, which therefore impels a tempered response to his views – he contributes much in terms of the content and tenor of the article. This necessitates a response to the essentially negative sentiments expressed.

Like many of his counterparts, Mda has ample space and a privileged position to unravel the political economy of this country and its challenges in transforming the economy and overcoming inequality in various forms and in many spheres of our society, such as in education. But, from what is presented in the article, he appears comfortable to settle for the macabre and the disobliging.

With due respect for his achievements in the academic field, it is important to highlight that from his kind much is expected in terms of insightful and constructive contributions because of their rich experience, including of the diaspora, which should lend to a much more informed, comparative perspective.

But unfortunately Mda seems to be viewing our president and our country through the lens of the former colonial masters, who often conjure up images of decadence and apocalypse about our leadership and the future of this country. The suggestion that “the country is heading for a bloodbath if the ANC loses in the 2019 general elections because President Jacob Zuma is unlikely to relinquish his grip on power” is not only far-fetched but also ludicrous.

It seems to be intended to demean the president, the government and the South African people, and also seems to be invoking the same unfounded apprehensions of the pre-1994 elections period that the country was going to drift into chaos.

First, Zuma serves at the behest of the ANC, which is founded on and believes in democracy. ANC leaders do not impose themselves on the people but are elected through broad democratic structures.

Second, the ANC will hold its elective conference in December 2017, when a new leadership will be elected, and it is misleading to make pejorative conclusions at this stage based purely on speculations about a future leadership.

Every leader in this democratic dispensation, including our president, understands that they are not above the organisations that nominated them for leadership positions in the first place and the constitutions that guide their conduct, including the country’s Constitution. Zuma himself has highlighted this several times – that he serves where the ANC puts him.


Third, true to its character and profound appreciation of democracy, the ANC has graciously accepted the results of the August local government elections and there is no reason to believe that they will resort to or allow violence if the 2019 results are not favourable to them. Therefore evoking and reinforcing the metaphor of violence and bloodshed makes cannibals of the president and the people of South Africa and in turn feeds into the negative perceptions that we are a violent society.

These are perceptions purveyed by some nations who themselves have conjured up all sorts of excuses to shed blood in other countries, often without considering the consequences. Therefore, Mda should know better and in his criticism strive to be constructive and not to elevate views to facts.

Last, Mda seems to be inconsistent in a sense that, although he lauds the country’s Constitution and democratic institutions as a sign of a functional democracy, he fails to take an optimistic view of the post-2019 elections dispensation.

As an observer, it is one thing to be sceptical, but another to be outright judgmental, and basing that purely on speculation. The view that everything is chaotic in the post-colony should be abandoned and people should learn to become ambassadors of their countries.

Vuso Shabalala is the political adviser to President Jacob Zuma

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