The latest controversy surrounding Jacob Zuma is yet another blot on South African democracy, already blighted by a series of corruption scandals and accusations of nepotism in the post-Mandela era. While the South African president has managed to scuttle his attempted ouster at a meeting of the African National Congress’ National Executive Committee, the future looks bleak for him as he continues to cling to power.
Zuma is no stranger to controversies and has even earned the nickname of ‘Teflon President’ for his political survival skills and instinct. But this time around the revolt seems to be from within, with a series of senior ANC figures and some South African cabinet ministers mounting calls for him to go. While the accusations of Zuma allowing members of the powerful Gupta family, who are in business with his son, to influence cabinet appointments and to benefit from government contracts have been outlined in a scathing report by South Africa’s public protector, Zuma has vowed to challenge it in court.
This bitter political battle is playing out at a critical economic juncture for South Africa, which it cannot afford to ignore — ratings agencies such as Moody’s have warned that the schism in the governing party, combined with low growth of less than one per cent and a high unemployment rate of more than 27 per cent, pose a grave challenge to South Africa’s future prospects.
It’s ironic that a succession of scandals have eroded the credibility of a leader who served 10 years in Robben Island’s infamous prison while fighting apartheid. Zuma should therefore no longer hold the nation prisoner to his political milestones — it is essential for South Africa now to focus on providing stable, corruption-free and positive governance and regain the confidence of its own people and the international community.