President Jacob Zuma makes the news every other day. And not because he is the head of state, no.
He hogs the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Frankly speaking, he does not hog it at all, the limelight is hogged by others and turned on him.
Bar President Donald Trump, it is hard to imagine anyone so ridiculed, abused, hounded, and assaulted on the internet.
Of course, this is not without reason nor is it a coincidence. Nay. Trump and Zuma are cut from nearly identical cloths. They both have a penchant to say the most absurd things, and at times, they do traverse the line from speech to action and do the absurd.
Their command of the English language could arguably be the only difference. But that is a matter for another day.
Central to the subject at hand must be a firm understanding that this is by no means a defence of Zuma. Far from it. And the problem lies in the fact that I had to append this disclaimer in the first place.
You see, Zuma is probably deserving of all those adjectives repeatedly thrown at him. He has earned the disrespect he receives from those in opposition. (See DA members repeatedly breaking Parliament rules and addressing him as Zuma, and not President Zuma, or Mr Zuma.)
That said, it is extremely lazy and simplistic to blame South Africa’s problems on one man, let alone believe that the challenges South Africans face have a face and a name – Msholozi!
For over 24 years now, millions on black South Africans remain rooted and routed in a maze and wave of unforgiving poverty. Meanwhile, many of their white counterparts live thousands above the poverty datum line.
This is not even a matter of numbers. Whether one chooses to assess the number of black South Africans struggling to find a means, or to assess by ratio how many white people face poverty per capita as opposed to their black counterparts, the result remains the same.
In all fairness, since the end of apartheid, the ANC, albeit slowly has lifted several black people out of poverty. This despite facing immense challenges from private monopoly capital (PMC). The black middle class is growing.
It could grow bigger. But not if not for resistance from PMC.
This fact is not lost on black South Africans. It is not lost on the ANC either.
The temptation of many folks is to dismiss or attack any black person who raises this fact, by pointing in the direction of Zuma, and the corrupt ANC. Something which sadly helps no one.
Black people will vote for the ANC in 2019. The ANC will win elections make no mistake about it. The reasons are devastating in their simplicity.
At the risk of generalisation, PMC is not remotely interested in assisting black people escape poverty. “It” believes it is not its responsibility.
I have had several conversations with people who identify as forward thinking ‘white liberals’. They do not understand what black pain is, or why black people need ‘extra’ initiatives to lift them from poverty.
“They should go to school”, I’ve heard several times.
In some sense this is true. But one would be an imbecile to think the son of a cattle herder and a part-time maid in Mpumalanga can be sent to a top school and acquire the same skills to compete with his white counterpart.
This discrepancy in access to resources is a legacy of apartheid, which cannot go away. Twenty four years do not magically transfer wealth and put everyone on equal footing.
Questions like, which school, what kind of school, what resources will be at the school, conveniently escape those that retire to this argument.
“They enjoy living as pastoralists” I heard the other day, when I posted a picture I took in the North West of two young boys riding a donkey cart.
Of course, all this is false. No-one would turn down an opportunity for a better life. For running water, farm land, motor vehicles, and access to the best education.
Regarding the boys I met, they wished they could go to school, but have resigned to their fate – to work in a mine until they have families of their own, and kids who can ride the donkey cart to fetch water on their behalf.
This is just but one example. Sadly, I can’t capture them all.
It would be unfair to not touch on the millions lost through corruption. But this is spoken of week in week out. It is not new. Jacob Zuma is responsible.
The truth is simple but unpalatable. Those that criticise Zuma do so because his profligacy affects their pockets. The rich elites don’t care about poor blacks, or equality, or empowerment. They care about their precious rand.
This is the only reason millions of blacks remain in poverty. There is simply no political will from rich arrogant racists, no interest from elite blacks profiteering from the status quo, and absolutely no zeal from both.
So, Jacob Zuma is an easy target, a very easy one, because, the truth is too uncomfortable.
– Maynard Manyowa is a journalist and co-editor of Khuluma Afrika – a center for analysis and investigative journalism. Article appears on News 24.