(Written 12 Feb 2012)

Dear All,

I did not listen to the president’s state-of-the-nation address to the South African people on 9 February 2012 because I cannot sit through a speech by a man who in my view has no credibility.

Sure the beaming Jacob seems affable enough and he will probably be a good guy to have at a party – a considerable number of women appear happy to share their bed with him – but I cannot listen to him speak without being reminded that there is something deeply disturbing about a nation that selects as its leader a man who, when as the minister of economic affairs of ZwaZulu-Natal, was in the pay of a fraudster; and when confronted with that fact he demanded “his day in court” only to spend a great deal of effort making sure that that day never came. Moreover, I cannot but wonder how this nation accepted a man in its highest office who, when in charge of the nation’s moral regeneration program, seduced a distraught woman young enough to be his daughter; that in spite of his already having three wives at homes. I ask myself how reliable a leader a man would be who, by now with four wives, produces a child out of wedlock with yet another woman, to add to his already sizeable brood of thirteen? That when the nation is burdened with many, many fatherless homes. I wonder how we can take seriously a man who never says anything one would bother to quote. And as he speaks I am reminded that his only contribution to the politic of the day has been the ‘Zuma manuva’ – a verbal slight-of-hand that promises jobs that don’t materialise, that claims to fight corruption while introducing a secrecy bill, that praises teachers for good work while they are actually on a go-slow strike, that puts municipal clean-up projects in hand without their having the capacity to carry them out. Most of all, I cannot help thinking that the relationship he has with Gupta to all intents and purposes appears to reflect what he once had with Schaik.

All-in-all, I cannot listen to the president without asking myself if the expectation of the ANC is actually so low that it is accepted that Jacob Zuma really is as good as it gets?

In a fine book by Luigi Barzini, The Italians (Penguin, 1968), there is a chapter titled ‘Mussolini or the Limitations of Showmanship’, and when one reads that chapter there is the invitation to consider the future of South Africa in the light of how the Italian public was seduced by Mussolini. I don’t suggest we make a comparison of Fascism and the ANC’s policies (Is nationalisation really in or out?), but that we consider how the Italian people went along with their flawed leader’s charades until it was too late to turn back. Barzini writes, “Trying to find out what really happened, one gets lost in a complex psychological labyrinth, bewildered by an Italian play of mirrors reflecting each other’s distorted images. There is no doubt, to begin with, that Mussolini deceived the people. He used deceit as a tool to govern with. The thing is not deplorable in principle. All great statesmen have had recourse to occasional distortions, misinterpretations and outright lies” (p. 171). But in the end, the Italian public had to turn from Mussolini’s speeches in which he told them of glorious military victories, fabulous industrial output and improving life-styles, to look at the actual defeats, the industrial failures and the poverty brought about by sycophantically following a leader who smiled and smiled, but had no integrity.