South Africa: Zuma's new book

“Critical Challenges” (HSRC Press) edited by Dr Kwandiwe Kondlo and Mashupye H Maserumule.

Jacob Zuma’s private life, his wives, concubines and 20 children, have been the subject of wide media coverage in the last few weeks.

In spite of promising to behave, at the Polokwane conference, at which he ousted Thabo Mbeki as president of South Africa, his weddings, daliances and offspring have drawn the leader of the opposition to tell him to keep his zip closed and stimulated wide debate about ‘traditional’ mores, the benefits of polygamy and Zulu culture.

Even his fellow Zulus, many of whom are Christian, are looking askance at his ‘outdated’ behaviour and wondering if he is trying to found a new clan or outdo King Shaka, the great king of the Zulu while bringing the Zulu nation into disrepute.
He was admired as a clever populist politician, the opposite of cool and detached Mbeki. He had a huge following among ANC voters. On platforms he sang and danced and said all the right things. But there are signs of a tide turning. This week we have seen more demonstrations against lack of promised improvement in services such as water, sewage and power supply, as well as reduction of the huge backlog in provision of houses. All things that have been promised since 1994.

The administration of Jacob Zuma came into power in May 2009, following the victory of the ANC in the fourth democratic elections in South Africa. The political victory of Zuma raised the hope of a period of transition, change and promise, especially among the masses of the poor, after 15 years of disappointed popular expectations. At the heart of this victory lies the hope of improved service delivery, the hope to have the voices of the poor heard in more meaningful ways, and the hope for pro-poor economic policy. Added to this is the hope of getting the wheels of government to move faster, coherently and effectively. The gap between policy talk and policy action is a key factor.

In the recently published book entitled The Zuma Administration: Critical Challenges (HSRC Press), six authors explore the nature and scope of the challenges and prospects for the new administration. The six essays that comprise the publication seek to stir up debate, as much as to provide positive and practical considerations for moving forward.

The book will be launched in Cape Town at 12.30pm on Friday 12 February 2010 at the Townhouse Hotel & Conference Centre located at 60 Corporation Street in the Cape Town city centre. Contributors to the book will reflect on President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address as well as the critical challenges that they have identified in the book.

The book focuses on selected issues that are key to the ANC’s agenda as stated in its 2009 election manifesto, and in the 2009 State of the Nation address by President Zuma. The chapters cover critically important topics such as the developmental state; land, agrarian reform and rural development; service delivery; governmental relations; and socio-economic development and poverty reduction.

Setting the scene, Kwandiwe Kondlo’s Introduction broadly sketches the political and governance challenges faced by `young’ democracies in today’s world, and shows how these challenges touch on perennial questions running through the veins of South Africa’s democracy.

In Chapter Two, Mashupye H Maserumule identifies the need to consolidate a developmental state agenda as a critical governance challenge. On the one hand, the left of the Tripartite Alliance is propagating a more redistributive socio-economic approach, while on the other hand, there are those are inclined to ensure a continuation of Thabo Mbeki’s neo-liberal economic orthodoxy. The successful navigation of the two economic extremes – and the formation of a cohesive agenda – is necessary.

In Chapter Three, Gilingwe Mayende presents a systematic analysis of the ANC’s shift on rural development and agrarian transformation, asking to what extent the new policy perspective will raise the living conditions of the rural masses, and integrate them into the national economy. The chapter also challenges some of the assumptions made concerning subsistence and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods, versus commercial production.

In Chapter Four, Modimowabarwa H Kanyane examines service delivery, proposing that the challenge to the administration is to focus on both the physical and the intangible aspects of service delivery, arguing for a more humanising public service that aims at the empowerment and consciousness-raising of the communities it serves.

Questions of governmental and intergovernmental relations are explored by David M Mello in Chapter Five, which focuses on the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act (No.13 of 2005) and makes suggestions for possible improvements. Mello also advises the Zuma administration to take seriously the challenges from the previous administration in working towards an integrated system of governance.

Polly Mashigo concludes the publication in Chapter Six, proposing that poverty reduction is the mainspring of economic development, and that it is crucial to put greater emphasis on it. With reference to both the first and second economies, the author looks at priority areas such as the creation of decent work, education and promoting health, while the global financial crisis and its effect on sustainable poverty reduction strategies is an additional focus.

Rather than concentrating on building consensus, The Zuma Administration: Critical Challenges (HSRC Press) is concerned with stimulating thinking, challenging entrenched views and perceptions, and breaking new ground. As such, it makes a valuable contribution to contemporary discourse on the new administration.

The Zuma Administration: Critical Challenges (HSRC Press) is edited by Dr Kwandiwe Kondlo and Mashupye H Maserumule.

Dr Kwandiwe Kondlo is Executive Director of the Democracy and Governance Programme at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and a visiting adjunct professor at the School for Public and Development Management at University of Witwatersrand.
Mashupye Herbet Maserumule is a senior lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). He is chairperson of the Gauteng chapter of the South African Association of Public Administration and Management (SAAPAM-Gauteng) and a member of the Audit Committee of Kungwini Municipality in Gauteng, South Africa.

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