Off the ball

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

SOUTH Africans might be hop­ing that the three-day Cab­i­net lek­gotla which wrapped up yes­ter­day gives rise to a fresh com­mit­ment to ad­dress­ing the many chal­lenges fac­ing the coun­try. Th­ese range from what is now an ob­vi­ous cri­sis in ed­u­ca­tion to the fail­ure of ser­vice de­liv­ery, with quite a lot in be­tween.

The por­tents are not good. Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s well-in­ten­tioned cre­ation of both a plan­ning com­mis­sion and a mech­a­nism in the Cab- inet to mon­i­tor and eval­u­ate per­for­mance have re­port­edly run into re­sis­tance.

It will re­quire strong lead­er­ship from Zuma to en­sure that th­ese com­mit­ments do not un­ravel: he might need to move be­yond the in­clu­sive style he has pre­ferred so far.

And as the lek­gotla kicked off this week ex- changes be­tween two prom­i­nent politi­cians re­minded us that Zuma has an­other chal­lenge on his hands – one that he takes se­ri­ously.

The harsh words be­tween ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe and Hu­man Set­tle­ments Min­is­ter Tokyo Sexwale have been char­ac­terised as part of a scrap be­tween com­mu­nists and na­tion­al­ists – and for the soul of the party.

This is but one of sev­eral ex­am­ples which sug­gest that the stresses and strains within the ANC in

re­cent years have not gone away. Per­haps the most graphic was the boo­ing of ANC Youth League pres­i­dent Julius Malema at the SACP spe­cial congress.

The ANC lead­er­ship has dis­missed sug­ges­tions of di­vi­sions, but it does ap­pear to have be­come dis­tracted. An­a­lysts, for ex­am­ple, point to the paucity of pol­icy dis­cus­sion within the al­liance in re­cent months.

It is still early days for the Zuma pres­i­dency and those rush­ing to write it off would be do­ing so pre­ma­turely. There might, how­ever, be good cause for wor­ry­ing over whether his eye is on the right ball: at this im­por­tant mo­ment in the coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment it is in­cum­bent on him to en­sure that gov­ern­ment per­forms – and per­forms well.

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