Zuma ushers in new ANC denialism
SA Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande, dismissing former president Thabo Mbeki’s concerns about how the ANC and the country was led, said “none of yesterday’s Aids denialists must come and lecture us today on leadership”.
It was a firm put-down of Mbeki, whose own shortcomings and policy lapses tend to be mitigated by the perception that President Jacob Zuma is indecisive, or is prone to lapses of prudence and the conscientiousness necessary for the office he holds.
In just one week, President Zuma displayed he had learnt a thing or two from his predecessor about being in denial.
First, he denied that South Africa had a huge wealth gap, saying those who said otherwise were buying into the “propaganda” and “spin” spread by “educated people who write newspapers”.
For the president, Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi must have been under the same spell when he told the Social Cohesion Summit earlier this year that “the yawning gulf between the extreme poverty of the majority and the excessive wealth of the minority lies behind the mushrooming of often violent service delivery protests, which tend to be in poor communities that are just a short distance from the wealthiest suburbs”.
In the same week, speaking to foreign media correspondents, Zuma denied that the party had reached a “tipping point”, as his deputy and rival for party presidency, Kgalema Motlanthe, had said. Dismissing the question, he asked the gathered journalists: “Tipping point from where to where?”
Despite various ANC leaders across factions acknowledging that the party was in danger of losing its soul, Zuma has preferred to understand any talk about the state of the party as an attack on him.
When Zuma told traditional leaders he supported the Traditional Courts Bill and warned them not to allow themselves to be subjected to “the white man’s law”, he pretended that the issue about the debate on the bill was that it sought to undermine African customs when the reality was that objections to the bill were based on specific clauses that were not in keeping with the Constitution and that unfairly discriminate against women.
With their silence on Mbeki’s HIV/Aids stance now haunting them, ANC members must realise that future generations might ask them what they did when another form of denialism unfolded before their very eyes.