What is Zuma’s governance legacy for black people?
It is a tragedy when the character of one man tarnishes the image of a whole nation. South Africa is at that stage, and the culprit is our president, Mr Jacob Zuma. The numerous mistakes Zuma has made, irrational decisions he has taken and unwise statements that roll off his tongue have all brought South Africa into disrepute.
But it is the damage Zuma has inflicted on the collective image of black people that should worry us the most. Many years after Zuma is no more, black people will still be struggling to extricate themselves from the burden of his legacy. Whether we, black people, like it or not, that he is black like us means that he carries our image everywhere.
That the man may – owing to his low level of consciousness – not be aware of the enormity of such a responsibility does not make this point invalid. Black people should live with his failures or take corrective measures. In him, we black people got the government we deserve.
To discern his legacy, we need to assess the performance of his government since he took over. The World Bank’s governance indicators – of voice and accountability; government effectiveness; regulatory quality; rule of law; political stability and violence; and control of corruption – have been used since 1996 to assess the state of governance in 215 countries. For this purpose, we will use results from the 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2014 data. The data use the score from 0% to 100%, where 100% indicates better governance and 0% is poor governance.
The voice and accountability indicator measures “the extent to which a country’s citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association and free media”. The data show that we scored 65.9% in 2007, 64.5% in 2009, 66.2% and 68.5% in 2011 and 2014, respectively.
The improvement in our scores is an affirmation of the regularity of our elections and the independent media we have. The improvement should be read as a victory for the media, which fought so hard against the introduction of a media tribunal to limit independent freedom of expression. Who could forget Minister Blade Nzimande’s suggestion of introducing an anti-insult law to protect Zuma from public criticism?
The political stability and absence of violence indicator measures “perceptions of political instability and politically instigated violence, including terrorism”. Our score was 51.0% in 2007, 41.2% in 2009, 48.6% in 2011 and 43.2% in 2014. The Marikana massacre happened under Zuma’s watch. It was also under his leadership that the governing party was implicated in the rigging of by-elections in the Tlokwe municipality.
The government-effectiveness indicator measures “perceptions on the quality of public services, the quality of civil service and the degree of independence from political pressure...” This indicator declined, from 69.9% in 2007, 67% in 2009, 66.4% in 2011 and 65.4% in 2014. Servicedelivery protests are increasing. The case of the matricless Hlaudi Motsoeneng, for example, also tells the story of a patrimonial government that has no regard for merit. That Zuma’s name was “dropped” to give the Guptas a soft landing at Waterkloof in 2013 shows that public servants are not insulated from political pressure.
The ability of government to “formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development” is measured through regulatory quality. The scores declined from 67.5% in 2007, to 64.1% in 2009, 64% in 2011 and 63% in 2014. There is uncertainty about many policy issues, including land, and investors don’t know if their assets will be safe. Policies, including the National Development Plan, are gathering dust.
The rule of law measures “confidence in and adherence to rules, the quality of contract enforcement, property rights, the police and the courts”, etc. Here our score starts to climb from 55.5% in 2007, 56.9% in 2009, 58.2% in 2011 and 63.9% in 2014. This is a reflection of the extent to which we have become a judiocracy – a leadership by judiciary. Nobody knows what would have happened to the so-called spy tapes if we did not have an independent judiciary. The judiciary is our remaining hope, a pillar holding our state together.
The control of corruption indicator measures “the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain”, and the “capture” of the state by “elites and private interests”. Our score stood at 61.7% in 2007, went up to 63.2% in 2009 and fell to 58.8% in 2011 and 54.3% in 2014. Zuma’s own homestead, Nkandla, is a stark example of what happens when public power is used for private gain. The Guptas have captured the president, his whole family and Cabinet for their private interests.
The verdict is simple: Zuma bequeaths South Africa a legacy of misgovernance. Above all, he has affirmed the stereotype that black people cannot govern. How tragic!