JZ NEEDS TO WATCH THE BALL – editorial

South Africans might be hoping that the three-day cabinet lekgotla which wrapped up yesterday gives rise to a fresh commitment to addressing the many challenges facing the country.

These range from what is now an obvious crisis in education to the failure of service delivery, with quite a lot in between. President Jacob Zuma’s well-intentioned creation of both a planning commission and a mechanism in the cabinet to monitor and evaluate performance have reportedly run into resistance.

It will require strong leadership from Mr Zuma to ensure that these commitments do not unravel: he might need to move beyond the inclusive style he has preferred so far. And as the lekgotla started this week, the exchanges between two prominent politicians reminded us all that Mr Zuma has another challenge on his hands – one that he obviously takes seriously.

The harsh words between ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale have been characterised as part of a scrap between communists and nationalists – and for the soul of the party.

This is but one of several examples which suggest that the stresses and strains within the ANC in recent years have not gone away.

The most graphic example of this was the eruption of ill-feeling which was marked by the booing and public humiliation of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema at the SACP’s special congress in Polokwane at the end of last year.

The ANC leadership has dismissed suggestions of divisions, but it does appear to have become distracted. Analysts, for example, point to the paucity of policy discussion within the alliance in recent months.

It is still early days for the Zuma presidency, and those rushing to write it off would be doing so prematurely. There might, however, be good cause for worrying over whether his eye is on the right ball: at this important moment in the country’s development it is incumbent on him to ensure that the government performs well. After all, the biggest event of all kicks off in less than 20 weeks, and we need not only to be able to host this as we have promised, but also be in a position to ride the momentum and exploit its legacy for years to come.

We can’t do that without a common sense of purpose from the very top.

Source: SATURDAY STAR ONLINE, 20100123

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