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For Zuma, the Mandela uppercut really hurts



Analysts say the end is near for Zuma’s administration

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By Lukmon Akintola


For embattled South African President, Jacob Zuma, Tuesday’s caustic criticism by the Nelson mandela Foundation, the indisputable prime defender of the legacies left behind by South Africa’s first post-apartheid era president, Nelson Mandela is indeed an uppercut that really hurts. 

Even more galling is the fact that the barbs by the Foundation comes to join a string of other negative commentary on the governance potential of President Jacob Zuma, who has lost immense popularity even within his own ruling African National Congress party after a series of scandals.

Breaking ranks with its long-established poature of non-political involvement, in its statement, the Nelson Mandela Foundation sharply criticised South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, saying that “political meddling for private interests” during his tenure has weakened state institutions and poses a threat to the country’s democracy.

“It is painful for us at the Nelson Mandela Foundation to bear witness to the wheels coming off the vehicle of our state,” the organisation said on Tuesday.

Analysts agree that the intervention is unusual because the foundation, created by Mandela himself, has traditionally avoided making political statements. Instead, it has focused on themes such as justice and equality, as well as the legacy of racism dating from South Africa’s era of white minority rule, which ended in 1994 when Mandela became the country’s first black president.

Clearly, the man in the middle of the muddle is not finding this intervention funny as the statement adds to the pressure on Zuma, who has lost popularity even within his own ruling African National Congress party after a series of scandals.

One of those unfolded in court on Tuesday as government lawyers argued against the release of a report into claims that a business family linked to Zuma sought to influence cabinet postings.

“The public has got a right to this report as soon as possible,” said Dali Mpofu, an opposition lawyer.

Opposition groups have planned a demonstration in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, on Wednesday. The rally was intended to coincide with a court appearance by the finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, who faced a fraud charge that his supporters said was a politically motivated move by pro-Zuma factions.

Organisers decided to go ahead with the protest even after the charges against Gordhan were dropped.

“We have seen a weakening of critical institutions such as the South African Revenue Service, the National Prosecuting Authority and law enforcement bodies due to political meddling for private interests,” said Njabulo Ndebele, the chairman of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Ndebele also referred to the scandal surrounding Zuma’s use of more than $20m (£16m) in state funds to upgrade his rural home, a process that was ruled unconstitutional in March.

Zuma apologised and paid back more than $500,000, as determined by the treasury. “It is increasingly a national consensus that he has failed the test [of his constitutional obligations],” Ndebele said.

The foundation chairman did not directly call for Zuma’s resignation, as some other South African business and political heavyweights s have done, but urged the ruling party to ensure that the state is put “in safe and capable hands”.

Bongani Ngqulunga, a spokesman for Zuma, said he had not seen the statement and could not immediately comment.

Zuma retains powerful supporters in the government despite growing rifts within the ruling party, which suffered heavy losses in local elections earlier this year, partly because of public dissatisfaction with the president.

Given the controversial circumstance in which Zuma had emerged president in the first place and the specific role played by Nelson Mandela in getting former President Thabo Mbeki and other leading ANC stalwarts from stridently pushing through with their opposition to his emergence, pundits say it is now only a matter of time before Zuma would quit.


President Jacob Zuma of South Africa


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