In DepthColumnsZuma: The man and his allies


Posted on Monday, 25 May 2009 12:20

Zuma: The man and his allies

By Patrick Smith
Gemma Ware


President Jacob Zuma’s early days in office are refusing to live up to his critics’ characterisation of him as a South African version of Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose battles against corruption allegations have become as legendary as his special loathing for judges and journalists. The mood at Zuma’s first press conference on 10 May was sweetness and light: indeed, he looked a little tired having spent half the night hammering out cabinet appointments with ANC barons.?


Friends and fans of Jacob Zuma have been telling journalists they’ve misread the man. Far from being the hard-nosed ideologue with a troubled history in security operations, he is a determined pragmatist who did his best to fight for the lives and good treatment of the ANC’s underground fighters in the 1970s and in the 1980s when he headed the ANC’s internal intelligence wing. In government, Zuma’s finest hour was his mediation between ANC and Inkatha cadres to end the political clashes in KwaZulu-Natal in the mid-1990s which had cost tens of thousands of lives. He owes much of his popularity in the province to those efforts.?


Zuma’s first moves show a sureness of touch in balancing the communists and the neo-liberals in the government. The great unknown is whether Zuma can exercise the presidential authority to make the balancing act produce positive results. Those who backed him on his campaign trail for the presidency over the past five years – friends such as Siphiwe Nyanda, Mo Shaikh and Tokyo Sexwale – have no doubts.


?Behind Zuma’s affable manner, they say, lies a steely determination to make government work better and to put people back to work. As the country struggles to shake off the financial crisis, that test is clear enough. South Africans will know the answer within a year. 


Profiles of Zuma's new team 


Tokyo Sexwale?, Human Settlements Minister


??Known to have presidential ambitions, Sexwale has spent several months tidying up his business dealings and putting them in a blind trust. There was talk of conflicts of interest: his company Mvelaphanda invested in Group Five, which deals with mass residential housing – an area that will come under his control as minister. Premier of Gauteng after the 1994 elections with a wide and growing support base, Sexwale was accused with two others in 2001 of plotting to overthrow President Thabo Mbeki. He dismissed the claims as absurd and they were never followed up. He set up Mvelaphanda in 2002 and chaired it until 2007 when he stood down to become non-executive chair, also standing down as non-executive director of ABSA. Sexwale boosted his profile in 2005 by hosting SABC’s ‘The Apprentice’.


Siphiwe Nyanda?, Communications Minister


??Described as a ‘mystery’ general, 59-year-old Nyanda has long experience in different intelligence organisations and served as head of the South Africa National Defence Force (1998-2005). Before 1994, he was chief of staff in the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, but he remains virtually unheard of in the telecommunications industry and public broadcasting sector he is set to influence. While in the military, he fought corruption, especially amongst soldiers who were accused of robbing Zimbabwean refugees crossing South Africa’s borders. He also has stakes in arms companies and interests in five businesses, including a security firm. Questions remain about his proximity to the multi-billion rand arms deal that shadowed Zuma for so long.


Mo Shaikh, Former Speical Advisor to Foreign Ministry ?


??Brother of Schabir Shaikh, the man who was convicted of brokering the arms deal in which Zuma was implicated, Mo Shaikh is a former ‘special advisor’ to the foreign affairs ministry. His career path was blocked after his brother’s conviction. During the anti-apartheid struggle, Mo Shaikh was an underground operative, alongside Siphiwe Nyanda, of the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. After 1994, Shaikh took a senior post in the National Intelligence Agency before joining the foreign ministry and serving as ambassador to Algiers. A close ally of Zuma’s, Shaikh sees the corruption case as political victimisation. He will play an important role as a discreet advisor and negotiator, and will bring a wide-ranging network of local and international contacts to the new order.


Zweli Mkhize, Premier of Kwazulu-Natal


??Between 1991 and 1994, Zweli Mkhize was a member of the ANC’s national health secretariat before becoming KwaZulu-Natal’s health minister in 1994-2004. He subsequently became the province’s minister of finance and economic development, where he was noted for engaging directly with businesses and banks, urging the latter to provide finance for small enterprises. Last year he won substantial damages from City Press which claimed that he helped arrange a murder. Very active within the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, Mkhize has long played a role in stabilising relations between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the ANC in the province. He played a leading role in the ANC’s massive increase of votes in KwaZulu-Natal in the April elections.


Zwelinzima Vavi, ?COSATU General Secretary


??Appointed general secretary of Cosatu in 1999 after coming up through the union movement. A former gold miner, he cut his teeth as an organiser in the National Union of Mineworkers. A long-time opponent of Robert Mugabe’s government, he has criticised the ANC’s approach towards Zimbabwe. In January, he was nominated as an ANC representative in the National Assembly but turned it down. He insists that workers expect measurable results from the Zuma government on livelihoods, education, health, crime, corruption and rural development. A powerful orator, the government will want him on its side. Since 2007 he has been a member of the local organising committee board for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and a member of its audit committee.


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