Blog » South African deputy president fired!

14 Jun 2005

South African deputy president fired!

Filed under: Africa, Noteworthy news — paulcook @ 12:40 pm

News just in (see here or here): the South African deputy president, Jacob Zuma, has been sacked, for implied involvement in corruption. This news follows the conviction two weeks ago of Schabir Shaik, Zuma’s financial advisor, for corruption. The corruption charges included events which implicated Zuma, such as allegations that Schaik approached foreign companies for bribes on behalf of Zuma.

Zuma himself has not been tried, and indeed an appeal against Schaik’s conviction has been filed. Furthermore, Zuma was widely assumed to be in line for the presidency in 2008, as the deputy leader of the ANC (the ruling party) traditionally becomes the leader, and by implication the president of the country. This means that a very influential political figure has been sacked over allegations that are very plausible, but not technically proved in court.

It is of course very unfortunate that there appears to have been corrupt dealings so high up in government — though of course there are many other countries where the vice-president could be accused of being a little too close to certain businesses (the one I’m currently in being a good example).

But I, for one, am very happy with the outcome, as it is a real watershed moment for South Africa’s still young democracy. Explicit proof that no-one is above the law will further strengthen trust in the govenment, both locally and abroad. In a society which is still adjusting to new patterns of wealth and influence, the message that corruption in the end doesn’t work is absolutely priceless. South Africa’s democracy has been founded on very high moral ideals, and it’s wonderful to see those ideals being implemented.

It is also going to be a huge boost for the president, Mbeki’s, efforts to convince the world that Africa really is moving steadily toward better government. The organs of the African Union and the it’s associated economic programmes look excellent on paper, but have received little tangible support from the rest of the world. Hopefully proof that Africa is willing to enforce it’s rules will get these programmes off the ground — as well as leading to similar events in other African countries battling corruption.

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  1. I good move on Mbeki’s part. It could cause an interesting situation if Zuma were now to be shown to be innocent, although I find it hard to see how that might happen and who knows how long it will take!

    The interesting question is who will become the new deputy?

    Comment by Paul F — 14 Jun 2005 @ 2:29 pm

  2. Not to make light of something serious, but this reminds me of the Simpson’s episode “Simpson Safari”, where Homer wins a trip to Africa for the family and while in Africa for a few days there is at least one quick regime change. So, this is obviously a rather different situation, but that episode was the first thing I thought of. (It appears to have been a peaceful revolution in that episode. The former dictator/warlord became an airline attendant; the Simpson’s tour guide became the new president.)

    Comment by Adam — 14 Jun 2005 @ 4:16 pm

  3. The SA press has made some interesting comments on the self-righteous west, which often hides its own corruption. An outstanding example is that of France, where top politicians remain in office despite proven involvement in arms corruption with the self-same company that was involved in the Shaik affair. For that French company, bribes (called something else) are stated company policy. The journalist in that article rather bitterly asked France to takes its lessons in democracy somewhere else, rather than converting Africa to its own low standards. What is the US vice-president’s involvement in Halliburton?

    Adam, you have no idea how serious it is creating a democratic and just society in a world that refuses to take you seriously. On the positive side, the recent debt forgiveness does indicate a warm heart and taking the problems of the poorest countries serously. I hope Mbeki’s courageous action will support our friends in their actions.

    Comment by Jonathan — 14 Jun 2005 @ 11:13 pm

  4. [rant] I’ve often said that African or other developing countries are required to meet a much higher standard of good government than many developed countries. I am frequently amazed by aspects of the US system that seem ludicrously outdated, corrupt, partisan or anti-democratic. A few examples: supreme court judges elected by simple parliamentary majorities, bar arcane protocols such as filibusters (now under threat); lower-level judges elected by campaigns featuring their own personal opinions on various legal questions; bizarre electoral district gerrymandering; elections run differently in each county (!), by members of the ruling party in that district (!!), overseen by elected partisan state officials (!!!), backed up by the supreme court of which I’ve already spoken; completely ineffective media; and (more controversially) widespread support for things like the death penalty. Then you look at a vice-president who is the former head of Halliburton, is still on their payroll (admittedly with some provisions to mitigate conflicts of interest). Yet no-one seems to find anything strange with Halliburton’s vast contracts, often on a very generous cost-plus basis, in Iraq.

    Of course, many of these things are a result of the American constitution being so old, and so somewhat out of date. But it is so frsutrating when, say, South Africa is not only meeting but exceeding much of the US’s principles of democracy, but still people’s immediate assumption is that African countries are dictatorial and corrupt. Some of the forum posts I’ve read on this topic, from foreigners who clearly have no idea of reality, are enough to get me as close to violence as anything ever will.

    Anyway, time for some more string theory. At least there all theories are a-priori equal.

    Comment by paulcook — 15 Jun 2005 @ 12:55 pm

  5. Jonathan: Sorry, my comment does come off as looking rather ignorant, doesn’t it. I was hoping that someone else would appreciate the humor of that episode, but I guess it didn’t work. While I’m no expert on South Africa or Africa in general, I certainly know a lot more than I did a couple of years ago, thanks entirely to Paul. So, I’ll ask you to not judge me by my previous comment, at least, not entirely.

    As for having “no idea how serious it is creating a democratic and just society”, I’d have to say that you’re wrong. I may not have first-hand experience in actually setting up the government, but I do pay attention to my government and the history of my country. I could talk at great length about the fact that America is still creating and re-creating itself, and the world certainly doesn’t take us seriously in the way that I would like it to. I’m not saying that the experiences of an American and a South African are the same, I’m just saying that there’s more depth to both situations (modern America and modern South Africa) than either you or I have mentioned thus far.

    Paul actually said something that I was hoping to say. American politics is rife with corruption on various levels; the democracy that the country was founded on is definitely not the same as the democracy that we have today. Both of these things absolutely disgust and terrify me. In some ways I envy South Africa and other emerging democracies, because you have the opportunity to learn from our (many, many) mistakes. The specific issues that Paul mentioned earlier are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Bad Ideas (TM) when trying to run a democracy.

    Oh, and Paul, I’d somewhat disagree with your comment about the American constitution being “so old”. True, it’s old compared to many/most of the democracies in the world, but it has yet to pass the test of time in my opinion. (It was written less than 250 years ago. That’s not long compared to the history of many countries in the world.) But the Constitution itself I would still consider to be relatively appropriate. I think that most of our problems come from the laws, policies, and traditions that the Constitution and Bill of Rights have been buried under. The key is first to make the Constitution general enough to handle new situations while still providing a structure to build from. The second key part is to make sure that additional laws are periodically reviewed to make sure they are still relevant and that they don’t run counter to the Constitution, which is something that the US doesn’t really do.

    Comment by Adam — 16 Jun 2005 @ 2:52 am

  6. No problem, Adam. I was intrigued by your comment that the world does not take the US as seriously as you would like. From the outside it looks like we all take the US extremely seriously, as the only superpower, the leader in popular culture, and the home of big business leadership. Most foreign media carry more info on the US than any other ocuntry by far, and we watch events such as your presidential elections with almost as much attention as our own. But I suppose it is a characteristic of nations as much as individuals that we yearn to be understood as we see ourselves, and not judged as others do - from their often self-seeking and almost always ill-informed perspectives. Such is the human condition. Now one of the penalties of being Top Dog among nations (as it was for the British a hundred years ago), is to be judged and envied and shot at by everyone else who rather wishes they were top dog. Good luck with that!

    A great advantage of today is that we can meet each other personally and grow to respect and like people from the opposite side of the globe. That is a great privilege and holds out hope for the humman enterprise.

    Comment by Jonathan — 19 Jun 2005 @ 3:19 am

  7. No, it’s not that the world doesn’t take the US seriously, it’s that they don’t take us seriously in the *way* that I would like, or at least that’s how it seems to me. Are you familiar with the phrase “serious as a heart attack”? A heart attack isn’t something you take seriously because of the good it can do, but because of the damage it can do. I honestly feel that it is the job of the US (or whoever the top dog is at the time) to make the world a better place whenever and wherever we can, just like it is the responsibility of the wealthy to aid the poor. And rather than take us seriously for the good that we can do and on occasion actually do, it seems that other countries take us seriously for the damage that we can do when we make mistakes. And let’s face it, all countries make mistakes at some point, because they are run by people.

    So, do you see what I mean about not being taken seriously in the *way* that I would like? You certainly don’t have to agree, but do you see what I’m getting at?

    Comment by Adam — 19 Jun 2005 @ 2:56 pm

  8. That’s an interesting point, Adam. I certainly agree that much/most of the world does take the US seriously in exactly the way that you’d rather they wouldn’t. I’d say there’s two reasons for that: one, that Jonathan aluded to above, is the US’s wealth and power, regardless of it’s actual actions. Much of the world looks at America and says something along the lines of, “They have so much money and power, why can’t they do something more to help us?”, or even, “Why do they perpeptuate a world order that keeps them rich and us poor?”. Now by itself that is obviously not a rigorous argument, but I think ideas like that are to a degree inevitable toward rich and powerful countries.

    But the other reason for the way the world views the US is precisely the US’s actions. Recent history certainly seems to show the US throwing its weight around more, and helping out less, than many people (including you, as you note above) would like. As a percentage of GDP, the US gives about a fifth of the foreign aid that, say, Scandanavian countries give, and US aid is heavily skewed toward military aid for “strategically important” countries. Also, various Cold War interventions, the recent Iraqi war, countless international treaties that the US refused to sign, even Bush’s nomination of a vocally anti-UN hawk as US ambassador to the UN, all send a very clear message to the rest of the world that there is very little that the world can do to moderate US policy, and leaves the rest of the world very nervous about where the US will strike out next.

    Certainly one can say that current policy is the result of mistakes in leadership, and I’d agree that this a fector. But nevertheless, this is the way that the US is acting, and countries get judged on their actions (or in the case of Africa, wish they’d get judged on recent actions). More importantly, the world sees a recent election where the US electorate knew exactly what Bush’s approach was, but yet chose to re-elect him.

    Given all this, I think it’s inevitable that people will view the US exactly as they do. Certainly there is a vast amount that the US could do for the world, but until it does so, that’s not how the world will view the US.

    To re-inject an African flavour to this thread, I’m certainly watching the US’s approach to being the sole world superpower with interest, because South Africa’s position in Africa shows a number of similarities. In terms of wealth, South Africa is to Africa almost exactly as the US is to the world. This makes us very influential in Africa, but also potentially resented. Our president, Mbeki, clearly has a very strong concept for the future of a well-governed and diplomatically unified Africa, and is doing everything he can to make it happen. We have the advantage of great moral capital, after the miracle of the peaceful end of Apartheid. So far South African peacekeeping and diplomatic missions seem to have gone very well, aided I think by a “humble” approach to other countries. But of course, this is a narrow road to walk, and this is also just what I can see from my perspective. We live in interesting times!

    Comment by paulcook — 19 Jun 2005 @ 3:34 pm

  9. i will like to no more about zuma why he was sacked so soon

    Comment by ehis — 19 Oct 2005 @ 8:23 am

  10. so wht will he do in the nxt election ,bcoz he was suppose to be the nxt president wat a shame from zuma wht do u expect the africa,s to do if they hear that the deputy president was involved in a corruption

    Comment by ehis — 19 Oct 2005 @ 8:25 am

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