Divisive utterances from the top


President Jacob Zuma’s statement that the ANC comes before South Africa has set many tongues wagging and rightly so because as a first citizen he is expected to say things that affirm rather than undermine the country’s constitution. Although this infamous statement was made as part of Zuma’s efforts to endear himself to his party’s members it has caused a great deal of consternation to those outside the ANC.

With his divisive style of leadership Zuma has created a line of insiders and outsiders amongst members and non-members of his beloved ANC. While insiders like Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba rush to the president’s defence, outsiders like me are left mulling over the utterances of a man who treats the rest of us like his unwanted stepchildren. It is clear that the president would want nothing better than if all of us were members of the ANC so that we could dance to his favourite umshini wam and stop being so critical of his leadership. 

But that will not happen because, unlike him, we think that South Africa comes before the ANC and we love it more than the ANC or any other political party, for that matter. We think that patriotism should triumph over partisanship, ethnocentrism or any other denominator. It is a pity then that our ruler has such a warped view of things. Minister Malusi Gigaba tells us that the president made the offending statement in his capacity as the leader of the ANC.

In other words he was wearing a cap that allowed him to say something that tickled the ears of party loyalists and the rest of us should just buzz off, as the youth would say. The president had a goal in making this divisive and unpatriotic statement but I am not sure if he achieved it. His goal was to make sure that he reminds all South Africans that they owe their very peaceful existence to the ANC and therefore we should remain beholden to his party.

For instance a person receiving a social grant would easily think that his grant money will be discontinued if the ANC were to lose power. In other words he gets this social assistance from the party and not the state and other parties do not care for him as much as the ANC does. And so we see the continuation of a paternalistic attitude like that of the late President Hastings Banda of Malawi.

Banda ruled his country for over 30 years because he kept telling Malawians that they were like children who could not govern themselves. In other words he was doing them a favour by governing them. Zuma’s version is not too dissimilar. He said that if there was no ANC then black South Africans could have remained opressed forever. In other words no one had the ingenuity and know-how to liberate South Africa except his political party.

Therefore we should kowtow to them and stop acting like ungrateful children. Well I am grateful about the past but extremely apprehensive about the future under Jacob Zuma. I am apprehensive because he has insulated himself from everyone except members of his own party. He has kept his gaze on gaining legitimacy within his own political party while losing credibility amongst ordinary South Africans.

He has not become a conciliatory figure and the father of the nation we all expect him to be. In fact I would say he is a liability not only to his own political party but to the country at large. If anything he is reminder of why we should continue to pray for those who occupy leadership positions.   


  1. Well said, Afrika. One of he things I have been doing lately is to ask poorer paid black South Africans what they think about the state of the country. I really take heart by their rationality even if they have poor or little education. One person listed the different Zulu Cabinet Minsters that Zuma had appointed and the guy was Xhosa,(plus ranting about the proposed Rand 4 million presidential jet.) I wondered of it is was ‘tribalism ‘ creeping in. So I said ‘Zuma is being tribalist’ and his response was ‘Yes, but the old man (Mandela) made sure that his minsters came from a wide section of people of South Africa’ (understandably to act on what he was saying about the rainbow nation).I asked another person if she was going to vote next year and her response was ‘No, mama. I asked what she thought was wrong and she silently pointed her finger in the air meaning ‘leadership’. There will be an answer to the prayers of Christians and perhaps through new insights of the ordinary South African; hopefully through coalition governance to force people to work together in the absence of one strong opposition party. Actually it would be a good thing-working together as the way forward for this nation instead of polarisation

  2. Completely agree Afrika ! It is the age old struggle (no pun intended) for a liberation movement to transform and abide by the rules of democracy – it usually doesn’t work … RSA deserves coalition government so as to be held accountable by the voters and really be able to move forward !

  3. Zuma, like all secular-humanist rulers, do not recognise that they have been appointed by God to be His servants to do their people good. (Not their friends, their Party). Romans 13 addresses not only us the people, but the rulers as well.