Zuma: A dream of the morning after the day after tomorrow

By J Brooks Spector 6 May 2014

In Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s entire approach to life changes with the visit of a ghost. Was Jacob Zuma similarly visited while in Nkandla such that he has chosen to embrace a new approach to governance in order to establish his legacy? J. BROOKS SPECTOR has uncovered a confidential memorandum that sets out a near-revolutionary approach the president is planning for his second administration.

There is the famous final line in the film, The Candidate, a classic American political drama, where newly-successful US Senate candidate Bill McKay (played by Robert Redford) is told by his aide that now that all the votes have been counted, in an major political upset, McKay has actually won his election. And McKay, in the very last line of the film, replies to his aide, “What do we do now?” That same question must surely be preoccupying the inner circle around Jacob Zuma, given the fact that, absent an unexpected, divine thunderbolt, he will inevitably be his victorious party’s selection for chief executive, once the country’s parliament votes formally to elect the country’s new president.

Fortuitously, The Daily Maverick has received a copy of a presidential decision memorandum that has been prepared for just this inevitability. This memorandum sets out a bold, even decisive new path for confronting the country’s present economic crisis. This bold vision may well come to be labelled Jacob Zuma’s Damascene conversion to his new goals of inclusivity, decisiveness and increasingly thorough-going competence. For publication here, we have deleted any names in the beginning of the memo, let’s call it Zuma Memo, as well as any other information that would reveal how this copy came to The Daily Maverick. But everything else in the text below is exactly as The Daily Maverick received it.

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Subject: Your Administration’s New Vision and Your Inaugural Address

For the attention of The President:

In accordance with your instructions and your recent in-depth discussions with key members of your senior staff and selected other advisors, this memorandum now sets out the major themes of your upcoming inaugural address upon being re-elected President of South Africa. With your concurrence, we will now begin preparation of the final draft text for your review, as well as prepare all relevant correspondence for the executive decisions outlined in this memorandum.

The inaugural address, your second and final such speech to the nation and the world, will be the perfect moment to lay out the broad outlines of what you see as your legacy as “A president for all South Africans, rich and poor, black and white, young and old.” This speech is certainly the right moment to outline a number of main themes that will give life to how your administration will carry through on that vision and achieve those promises.

A key element of your address naturally will be to explain to your fellow South Africans that because of the serious economic challenges faced by our country, you have made a bold decision that your incoming cabinet, and indeed your entire administration, will be designed to make good on many of the promises made on behalf of both our party – and the new administration. But, this time around, rather than a cabinet primarily designed to balance the interests within our ruling alliance, your new cabinet will bring together the best leadership from our nation, regardless of their formal party allegiances or ethnic orgins.

As you have already explained to your staff, there are important precedents of just such a decision in countries confronting a grave national crisis. For example, during the American Civil War a hundred and fifty years ago, when American President Abraham Lincoln had assembled his wartime advisors, it famously became labelled “a team of rivals”, including various figures who had actually opposed his nomination for the presidency. During World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill created a wartime cabinet from across his country’s political spectrum in order to give his government the strength to overcome the challenge to his country was facing from an aggressive Nazi Germany.

And, of course, in our own nation’s history, President Nelson Mandela famously led our country with a “Government of National Unity” that brought together members of our liberation movement, as well as the representatives from both the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party. 1994 to 1996 had been a time of enormous peril for our country, and Presidential Mandela successfully drew upon opponents from many sides to help him surmount the country’s challenges. And, of course, your predecessor had also appointed as ambassadors several senior members of opposition parties to represent South Africa abroad. As you have already explained, we can and should draw appropriate inspiration from such examples.

In accordance with your instructions, we have already been in contact with Professor Jonathan Jansen, business leader Raymond Ackerman, political figures and academics Dr Wilmot James and Dr Mamphela Ramphele to confirm their willingness to serve in your new cabinet. There are several others you have asked to join you, but they had not yet confirmed their availability at the time of this memorandum. We will continue our efforts to confirm the remaining commitments in the next several days, and we will, of course, inform you of our progress in the matter once these arrangements are concluded.

In terms of the major thematic efforts, we certainly understand your unhappiness with reading another long, tedious list of projects planned or funded in your speech. In accordance with your wishes, this time around, rather than yet another one of those “laundry lists”, your speech will focus on setting out specific, measurable benchmarks in several areas.

For example, in terms of South Africa’s educational quality and output, one key promise – and one certain to be reported at significant length – will be an insistence that our government ensure every school in the country, all 27,000 of them, will be equipped with their full required supply of texts and supplies, running water, appropriate sanitary facilities, electricity, Internet connectivity, an age-appropriate science laboratory, and a functioning, well-stocked library, by the time you leave office. A second promise that can be measured will be that every school in the country will be completely staffed by trained teachers and staff members – and that all staff will receive their salaries and allowances on time and in full. Or else.

Similarly, your government will finally complete its full land ownership survey and draw up thorough timetables of land redistribution plans. Moreover, your speech will detail fast-tracking of the provision of full title to every government-built or supplied house occupied by South Africans to give them equity and therefore access to bank loans for other income generating purposes. Of course this will be immensely popular as a gesture to the country’s poorer citizens; but it will also show your administration’s willingness to adopt the innovative ideas that come from other political parties – especially if they are good ones.

At your determination, going into your new administration, your government will be taking bold, decisive steps to do away with overly complex business regulation and contradictory requirements that make it difficult to open or expand a business. A key purpose of such changes will be to encourage small, medium and large businesses to hire new employees. As a result, a blue-ribbon team, headed by a national committee comprised of the country’s most innovative business leaders, will be appointed to make the appropriate recommendations. But it will not stop there. At your direction, your speech will note that you plan to task your deputy president to fast-track these reforms to their completion as well.

As you have recently commented in other fora, corruption is attacking the success of your presidency and your government. To combat this scourge, you will be charging your ministers to put into effect appropriate regulations that will prevent any government official – at any level – from conducting any business with any branch of the government – or from running a private business at the same time as they work for South Africa.

As you told your staff just the other day, a government job is both a public trust and a full-time job by itself, and no one should be able to find the time to carry on private business while still being a full-time employee of the government. And, of course, you will be including your announcement that any official found guilty of an act of corruption will be fired. Period. And they will be barred from obtaining another government job in future.

In that same vein, the media, civil society and others will laud yet another reform you have determined you will carry out in your new administration. This will be the abolition of a whole class of ultra-luxurious benefits for senior officials. Government service is service not self-enrichment. At the beginning of your new administration, it will naturally be the right moment to announce you have taken a decision to abolish the purchase of luxury motor vehicles for all senior officials. Such vehicles will, going forward, be replaced by standard sedan or all-terrain vehicles, depending on the responsibilities of officials. While such an important decision may well be unpopular with some incoming officials, the vast majority of your fellow citizens will eagerly applaud your decision in this area.

Similarly, you plan to announce that beginning with the first day of your new administration, you fully expect all officials to exercise restraint with the use of luxury accommodation when they travel, in the procurement of transportation for official travel, and in the deployment of those so-called “blue light brigade” official escorts. Similarly, henceforth, you expect officials to be on time for all of their official commitments as a sign of the deepest respect for the nation’s citizens and their departmental stakeholders.

Your courageous decision to declare publicly that you will actively support the timely completion of the on-going investigations into the “arms deal” and the “Marikana incidents” – regardless of where the trails lead – will engender much public support. This will be true, even though there may be concerns by those negatively affected by these investigations. However, the fact that you have boldly decided to “clean house” and “clear the decks” for the good of the nation should certainly help empower the appropriate investigators to complete their findings in a full and complete manner.

Further, your bold decision to lance the boil of the on-going Nkandla issue will represent an extraordinary, selfless decision. While it will certainly be a costly decision for you personally, your brave decision to place the cost of renovations such as the pool, kraal, tuck shop, reception area and related facilities in escrow, pending a final determination of your financial responsibility for them, will move the discussion well away from any hint of personal benefit from official funding.

As your generous gesture to the people of the Nkandla neighbourhood, it will be popularly applauded as a set of very wise announcements when you explain the clinic will be available to neighbouring citizens, the swimming pool will be opened to all inhabitants at set, specified times and that swimming lessons will be offered to them as part of the country’s support for sports advancement. Overall, these decisions will represent bold manoeuvres to redirect the media discussion about your private residence away from criticism of your circumstances and, rather, put it where it belongs – on the inefficiencies in contracting in government offices, and the possibility of bloated charges from private contractors – right where any discussion properly belongs.

Finally, your fellow South Africans will no doubt be delighted to hear you will be instructing your administration to institute routine, surprise, thorough inspections of all schools, police stations, and health service facilities around the country – and that substandard facilities will be placed under closely monitored administration so as to ensure the services they are designed to deliver – are, in fact, delivered.

As you have advised your staff, it will not be easy to establish this new culture of strict accountability and careful administration. This will not happen in an instant. But, as you explained during your most recent meeting with senior staff, “If we do not ensure our citizens receive the services our tax rands and cents have paid for, we will have betrayed our very liberation and the struggles of the leaders who came before us to make this liberation real.” As you so clearly explained it, “Our legacy must be to make our nation’s government a shining example for nations across the continent, as a way of demonstrating our determination to advance the continent through a special form of moral, incorruptible leadership.”

Based on your adjustments or additions to this agenda, your staff will prepare the final draft of your inaugural address for your consideration. In In addition, your staff will conclude all arrangements for service in your new government by the remaining names you have agreed to for inclusion in the national unity cabinet.

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What caused such a dramatic shift in Jacob Zuma’s mind we may never really know. Zuma has rarely spoken in much detail about his inner thoughts, and he is unlikely to author a deeply reflective memoir of his life and work once he leaves office five years from now.

Perhaps, like Dickens’ character Scrooge who must confront Marley’s Ghost and the Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol, President Zuma too has finally accepted the full consequences of his actions, and he has determined to go forward very differently in his life, in the time still left to him. Perhaps, like Scrooge’s first inclination, the proximate cause of these pangs of conscience was that “A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.” But regardless of the ultimate cause, once his plan is carried forward in his upcoming second administration, South Africa’s citizens will have much to be thankful for by the time Zuma’s tenure in office is concluded.

Are you reading this, Mac? Baleka? Cyril? Gwede? Anyone? Anyone? DM

Photo: South African President Jacob Zuma

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