Sunday World

Ex-president must reflect on his mistakes

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As South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma began his 15-months jail term this week, he surely must have begun to seriously self-reflect and look at the calibre of people he has until now been keeping as friends and political confidante­s.

Zuma must – in the privacy of his isolation – embark on a process of self-reflection and ask himself whether he would really be serving a prison sentence had it not been for bad and reckless advice he’d been receiving from people he had surrounded himself with.

The former president must surely be realising by now that he is in jail for something so simple that it should not have required complex political and legal advice.

For one thing, it remains difficult to fathom why Zuma saw it fit to refuse to co-operate with the Zondo Commission, to the extent that he even went further by defying the Constituti­onal Court, which had advised him to co-operate with the commission. From our observatio­n, there was never an instance when the commission sought to vilify or humiliate him. On the contrary, he was given ample opportunit­y – almost the whole day – to render what sounded like a monologue during the first day of his appearance.

His testimony was never disrupted, even when he went overboard as he spoke about the conspiracy theories, including

Great leaders are those who know admitting your mistakes is a wonderful gift

labelling some of his comrades apartheid spies.

The mere fact that he began to somersault when it was time for him to face cross-examinatio­n, suggests there was a lot he wanted to hide. It became a moment when the former statesman flatly refused to take South Africans into confidence about the state capture project and his role in it. It should have been a moment Zuma used to admit to mistakes of his administra­tion, which almost plunged the country into financial ruin. That was the moment Zuma should have used to caution his successors not to rely on advice of people who seek personal gain at the expense of the country’s poor.

Great leaders are those who know that admitting their mistakes is a wonderful gift, which can be used to ensure that such errors are never repeated. Zuma could have used the opportunit­y to be part of the process of correcting the ills of his administra­tion.

He, however, sought to rely on the advice of political charlatans who sought to use him to cover-up their own financial and political crimes. By so doing, they were pursuing their own selfish interests and not the interests of the person they were pretending to protect.

They use fake news campaigns to sow confusion and mistrust in the minds of ordinary South Africans. They used Zuma to champion lawlessnes­s and chaos as instrument­s to undermine the democratic order.

It is against this background that Zuma should have been warned about the dangers of surroundin­g himself with people who are looking after their own interests. He would otherwise still be a free man.

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