Former African Union chairman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was here, there and everywhere last week. The presidential hopeful addressed adoring crowds carefully selected by the ANC Women’s League in North West and elsewhere as she ramped up her campaign.
In a cheap, cynical publicity stunt, she swept into Marikana, in North West, scene of the murder of 34 mineworkers by police in 2012, to lay wreaths at the site. Mineworkers prevented her from doing so, asking a pertinent question: Where has she and her organisation been in the past five years of no justice or recompense for the workers’ families? Why has she not raised her voice against the ANC government’s failure to act decisively on key issues of poverty and justice in the area?
Dlamini-Zuma visited North West as Stats SA released a report measuring poverty trends in South Africa between 2006 and 2015. It made for chilling reading: in 2015 a quarter of the population – 13.8 million people – were living in extreme poverty and below the food poverty line of R17.48 per person a day.
More than half the population – about 30.4 million people – were living below the upper-bound poverty line, which is made up of people who can buy adequate levels of food and non-food items but are still considered poor.
This is the sort of poverty Dlamini-Zuma would have seen in areas such as Marikana. What are her plans to turn things around if she gets elected ANC president? What is she putting on the table?
Her plan is straight from the Jacob Zuma script – radical economic transformation will solve all our problems. Throughout her campaign last week, this was the message she emphasised, without any clear outline of what this means in specific policy terms. She warned that if this nebulous concept is not implemented “peace cannot be guaranteed”.
In KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday, she reportedly said: “Blacks and whites must be happy about radical economic transformation because it will bring investors and create job opportunities for the youth.”
How, dare I ask? She proceeded on the same script (passed along from Bell Pottinger to the Gupta family to the Jacob Zuma faction of the ANC) saying that “white monopoly capital” had to be dismantled to allow the marginalised to play a role in the economy.
“We are not chasing them [white people] away from the country. We must also get land to build houses and our industries. All this needs money. Money is in the banks. More banks should be created to help us,” City Press quoted her as saying.
This simplistic talk is breathtaking. More banks should be created to “help us”? The ANC resolved 10 years ago to start a state bank. It is still banging on about the issue. How about implementing policies we have instead of coming up with new, unimplementable ones?
Dlamini-Zuma speaks as though she is a victim and not an active actor in the government. She was part of the government from 1994 to the late 2000s. Despite many false steps, the Mandela and Mbeki administrations, which she served, halved government debt, implemented a comprehensive social grant payment system and significantly grew the economy.
Indeed, as Stats SA showed, poverty decreased between 2006 and 2011. It increased again when the Zuma administration took over. Just as unemployment has ratcheted up to 27.7% from 20% just nine years ago. Just as economic growth has plummeted to below 1%.
In effect what Dlamini-Zuma has told us this past week and has been telling us for a while now is that she will lead the ANC and the country using the Jacob Zuma template, ignoring the successes and lessons of the Mandela and Mbeki administrations.
A woman who showed us all what we are capable of as a nation when she took on the powerful tobacco lobby and won in the late 1990s is discarding those traditions – of government as an actor and not a victim – and choosing the empty and ineffectual rhetoric of the Zuma administration.
It’s all very sad to watch. It is also very revealing. The past week has told us everything we need to know about the presidency of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Like the presidency of her backer, Jacob Zuma, it will be an absolute disaster for the poor of South Africa.