jacob zuma
Jacob Zuma

South Africans awoke this week not only to the arrival of spring, but to the news that our President, Thabo Mbeki, had resigned his post as the Head Of State. We tend to greet these things in this country as major upheavals, but it so happens that on the same weekend Israel changed its Prime Minister prematurely, and Gordon Brown, head of arguably the world’s oldest and greatest democracy, Great Britain, faces the possibility of an early demise at his own Labour Party conference. Let’s not forget either, Brown took over when Tony Blair had to go ahead of his time!

The machinations surrounding the recall of Mr. Mbeki reached a climax last week on the 12th September, with the pronouncement of his judgment in Jacob Zuma’s corruption case by Mick Goss’ one-time legal colleague, Judge Chris Nicholson. Yet, in the wake of the ANC’s upheaval of their internal politics at Polokwane last November, the death-knell for the President had already sounded, and while he’s done a manful task in bringing together the impossible in Zimbabwe and a few other places in Africa, back at home, from the time of Polokwane onwards, he really was a “lame-duck” president.

His speech announcing his resignation was nothing if it was not dignified, and he spoke as a proud and very loyal South African. As we bid him farewell, we need to acknowledge the fact that it was he that gave us our modern economy, and projected South Africa (and Africa) onto a world stage that had begun to consider this continent as something of a lost cause.


No other continent better illustrates the importance of leadership in determining the future of a society than Africa does. For decades, the continent was saddled with ineffective and unethical leaders who stunted its development. Civil wars and regional conflicts – like those that occurred in the Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone – led to millions of deaths and created unstable environments in which development simply could not take place. Billions of dollars in foreign aid, oil revenues, and tax collection were siphoned out of the country into Swiss bank accounts instead of being used to develop the continent.

Leadership is the most fundamental thing to get right for Africa. Once Africa got its leadership right, the continent could start to make progress in leaps and bounds.

The despotic and corrupt political leaders that Africa was famous for have largely moved on, allowing a new face of leadership to emerge in Africa. While by no means perfect, leaders such as Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia, John Kufuor in Ghana, Abdoulaye Wade in Senegal, Paul Kagame in Rwanda, Umaru Yar’Adua in Nigeria and Jakaya Kikwete in Tanzania are in an entirely new class than those of the past. This new breed of leaders genuinely seems to have the best interest of their people at heart, as opposed to simply amassing personal fortunes or pursuing their own agendas.

South Africans in general are aware that our own generation have their own crosses to bear, none more so than the man destined for the presidency, Jacob Zuma. However, he’s there to do the bidding of the ruling party, and it would appear that with the events at Polokwane and the recall of President Mbeki, there’s a new urgency in their midst, and that whoever leads from now on will do their bidding. Jacob Zuma himself is known to us at Summerhill as a man of presence, personality and charisma, and while he has a few holes to plug in his public record, he might just be the guy we need right now to bring some stability to the ranks of the ruling party, whose fractures have left the country in a state of political limbo and uncertainty.

That said, new democracies generally take 14-15 years to bed themselves down, and its not uncommon for ruling entities to be tipped out at that stage. We’re just about there now, and this is when constitutions count and the rule of law and the independence of a judiciary matter and when the value of a free press comes home to its citizens. Those things are fundamental to life in this country, and those are the reasons we can look forward with great optimism to our future.

As far as the horse game is concerned, we’ve never been better positioned as a nation than we are right now, and with the help of a few of our overseas friends, and the talents of our horsemen, we’ve still got some heights to scale.

(extracts from The Good News – FNB)