I am not a great man--I am a man of the people.

Author:Hewitt, Malcom

South Africa's new President Jacob Zuma has endured an unenviable spotlight throughout his political ascendancy, a period which has seen him bear the brunt of lawsuits, acrimony and a barrage of negative media coverage during his nerve-tingling wait for what was his destiny--the presidency of South Africa. In an exclusive interview for African Business, Malcom Hewitt * visited Zuma's Johannesburg home to hear his views on South Africa, the economy and the future for businesses in Africa.


AFRICAN BUSINESS South Africa is really the African success story of the last 15 or so years. However, much more needs to be done. What would make you happy to have delivered to a high level for the citizens of South Africa by the end of your presidency?

JACOB ZUMA When you consider the decades of difficulties that South Africa endured and the fact that we are now just over one decade and a half into independence, you should expect that there is a lot I have got to do. But I believe that we have made a very good start. I believe that the ANC in particular has made a very crucial contribution.

The ANC, as a result of its age, matured politically long before freedom and clarified for itself what it wanted South Africa to be. Now what South Africa needs is true government accountability, real sustained delivery and a real voice for the people. If I can achieve that I will be more than happy. Our ambition to provide this were neatly crystallised long before we came to freedom, and when we won our freedom we knew exactly what we were looking for.


AB The strategy was set?

JZ The strategy was set. For all the negative policies that were wrong, we had ready-made alternatives to them. Racism was rampant in South Africa but we overcame the ill feelings about it. We appreciated that those who perpetuated the racism did not understand what they were doing and they themselves needed to be helped.

The ANC had gained such confidence that it was able to work out its policies and knew exactly what it had to do to establish government. It helped that the majority of South Africans gained confidence in the ANC. What is also interesting is that even those who were sceptical about the ANC before 1994, began to gain confidence in it once they were in government. So you have a South Africa that is generally positive and confident, despite the sensational nature of the media coverage.

AB Do you think that over the term of your presidency, you will be able to persuade the press to take a more positive line and accurately describe the type of successes that you have talked about?

JZ Absolutely. We are going to try our level best to engage the media to cultivate the spirit of patriotism and positivity in the country. I believe this is another issue we will overcome.

I have begun to engage the media where they are falling short. They need to be reporting the success stories of South Africa and Africa as a whole. They seem to be very short on reporting successes and what they do is look at shortcomings. Credit must be given where credit is due, because we have had a lot of success as a country.

We have grown the economy since 1994 steadily, year on year; we have strengthened democracy in South Africa to a very high standard. I have often said to people, it is because of the strength of the democracy, firstly within the ANC, internally, and secondly in the country, that it is possible to make the changes needed to sustain such strong development. I am certain that in another decade we will have many more successes.


AB In business, there is a lot of focus on making things happen. You are now in the business of running South Africa. I would like to know what you would be looking for from your key ministers...

To continue reading