Many people may condemn Zuma administration but the HIV fight perspective gives him a good score card.

Many people may condemn Zuma administration but the HIV fight perspective gives him a good score card.

The warm, rich, indulgent chuckle of South Africa’s President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma ripples through a solemn conference chamber in Pretoria.
It’s his trademark - a disarming, seemingly unlimited well of good humour, deployed to break the ice, lighten the mood and wrong-foot his opponents.

HIV Statistics in SA



Many people who know him talk of Zuma’s extravagant charm.



I remember watching him gleefully bounding on to a stage, one cold night in central Johannesburg in April 2009, to celebrate the election victory that had just elevated him to the post once occupied by President Nelson Mandela. His laughter, his dance moves, his raucous singing - all seemed to promise a new era of confidence and energy for a country finally being led by “one of us” - a charismatic, salt-of-the-earth man rather than his predecessor, the elitist “professor” Thabo Mbeki.

Flawed, yes, the cheering crowds might have conceded. But aren’t we all?la
Today, after eight years as South Africa’s leader, and 10 years in charge of the governing ANC, Jacob Zuma’s laughter has turned against him. To many in this country it has become a jarring, charmless cliche - the hollow mirth of a man whose presidency is widely blamed for the corruption, misrule and economic stagnation that now afflict a nation.

Read how a marriage was called because of meat.

“President Zuma represents a betrayal of the South African dream,” says Sipho Pitanya, a leading critic from within the ANC, the liberation movement that came to power a generation ago after the long struggle against racial apartheid.

“Zuma lives up to his middle name. It’s a Zulu name that means, ‘I laugh at you as I destroy you.’ He is brazen and reckless,” says Redi Tlhabi, author of a book about the woman who accused Zuma of rape.
And yet others argue that Zuma is a victim of outrageous prejudice, mocked for his lack of education and his rural upbringing - his genuine achievements in government overlooked by a biased “white media” in favour of a relentless focus on his personal failings.

Zuma



Zuma doesn’t have to do anything for him to be disliked. The prejudice is so ingrained”

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Prof Sipho Seepe

“The accusations against Zuma are clouded by suspicion, by prejudice, by conjecture... spun by a very aggressive media,” says Jessie Duarte, deputy secretary-general of the ANC and a former special assistant to Nelson Mandela.

“You have a peasant, with no university degree... Zuma doesn’t have to do anything for him to be disliked. The prejudice is so ingrained,” says the political commentator Prof Sipho Seepe, who has in the past advised the Zuma administration.


His supporters point to the successful fight against HIV/Aids and his efforts to push the government to focus more on tackling rural poverty. Under Zuma, higher education has become a priority, the civil service has expanded dramatically (for better and worse), ministries are more closely monitored, in theory at least, and a long-term National Development Plan has won support from across almost the entire political spectrum.

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