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THE LAST WORD: The tragedy of borrowed ideas

How Zuma has brought South Africa’s democracy and Mandela’s “miracle” from honour to shame!

THE LAST WORD | By Andrew M. Mwenda

Last week I was in South Africa and listened to the disaster bad leadership can inflict on a country. President Jacob Zuma and his confederates have indulged in forms of theft and brigandage that rival Mobutu Sese Seko’s former Zaire in the competition for who should be the archetype of a predatory state. Yet in spite of (and precisely because of) his overt and crass thieving, Zuma holds fast on the presidency of both the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and South Africa.

Zuma’s opponents cannot master votes necessary to push through a motion of no confidence because they misunderstand how politics works. Only ten years ago, the ANC found it easy to “recall” then sitting president – the cerebral and clean Thabo Mbeki – in a split second decision. Why? Society is built on human nature, not human ideals: Zuma has the right political instincts about the emotions of the masses and money for elites.

The American philosopher-historian, Will Durant, once said that there have only been three successful forms of government man has ever known. The first is monarchy/aristocracy i.e. rule by birth. This has been the most successful since the evolution of states. The second is theocracy i.e. rule by religious clerics. The third is democracy i.e. rule by money. Zuma’s survival only goes to prove Durant’s cynical view of democracy.

There is a naïve view of democracy promoted by Western powers and supported by Africa’s “intellectual” elites. This view tends to obsess with procedures and rituals of democracy even when they don’t perform any democratic function. Yet in poor countries democracy tends to eliminate public-spirited individuals from politics and instead promotes the most cunning and deceitful ones. We have witnessed this in Uganda since 1996 but it is most exemplified in India, as I will show below.

People like Zuma understand Africa’s politics better than the educated middleclass with a pretentious global intellectualism. For all his crass corruption, Zuma has actually held his base – the urban poor and rural masses. He is like America’s Donald Trump, a brilliant demagogue who exploits the fears and anxieties of the white dispossessed masses. For Trump it is the Mexican immigrants and Muslims. For Zuma it is “white monopoly capital.” These distract the masses from real to imaginary enemies.

There are huge income inequalities in both the USA and South Africa. Trump comes from a wealthy background but he identifies with poor whites largely because of race. Zuma comes from a poor background but has used power to amass wealth. Both need bogeymen to rally the masses and it is working. Zuma has never had a formal education. He therefore has better political instincts about what works in a context of poverty that many middleclass African elites lack. He is openly polygamous, and doesn’t seem bothered by it as many of his educated colleagues in Africa are (and therefore hide their second and third wives and mistresses).

Zuma knows, perhaps intuitively, that many voters do not distinguish the public finances of the state of South Africa from the private finances of its president. Thus when people like him steal from the public purse, they lavish their supporters with money knowing that poorly educated voters approve of this behaviour. This kind of Robin Hood politics was common in today’s rich countries when they were poor. It is also common in a democracy India where hundreds of men facing serious criminal charges have enjoyed long and successful careers in politics – both at the national and state level. Today, criminals are so deeply embedded in India’s political life that democracy and electoral competition tends to strengthen, rather than lessen, their grip on power.


  1. Frightening eeehhh? There is your democracy; rule by mob.

  2. 1.Most of Africa is going thru a social,political and economic phase but we will one day have the last laugh. For now, i am 100% sure that we will be a laughing stock for some time e.g the Parliament of S.A has become a boxing ring( you must eat enough food for extra energy) S.A that was the champion of human has failed to live up to their word e.g as a result of the sharpervillie massacre ,Human Rights day is a public holiday its so ironic that Zuma and ANC whose founders championed these rights did not protect the Marilana miners coz of business interest,Zuma introduced a bill restricting freedom of speech, Julius Malema is advocating for blacks to grab land that does not belong to them,recently there was xenophobia no wonder the whites have left them to practice “their” democracy in the best way they understand.
    2.The whites in S.A have ventured in Business like Debeers mining company and Naspers (Media company) while our poor blacks as usual are active in parliament.
    3.@Rajab i read your comment defending Kyaapa Mu Ngalo tell me;(i) Have Ugandans asked for the kingdom’s help in land issues?(ii)Dont you see a conflict btwn the govt land office and that of the self stylized kingdom land board (iii) Why offer a lease for 49% is the world ending after 49 years according to the kingdom?(iv)The land we have is small it cant go round definitely if we follow the current craze for owning land,some generations will get nothing thats why in the past, elders were not selfish land was owned communally (v)Is the kyaapa Mu Ngalo targeting those with small plots or those with huge chucks of land?(vi)Every one has a heritage where did squatters come from i recently handled a land conflict in Kayunga and noted that the policy regarding squatters on land needs to be reviewed ; it was wrong from the start for govt to allocate land to someone who has lived in your land for 10yrs how do you tell that squatter x has lived in this land for 10 yrs?
    4.Women love men who are famous thats why they love Zuma.
    5.@Adhola,Trump is fed up of activists ,their workshops and their selfish interest that’s why he declined to be part of the environment deal he noted that every nation rides on USA’s back for financial support.

  3. I prefer only to comment on this “We have seen how Trump maintains his support base in spite of (and may be also because of) myriads of self-inflicted never-ending scandals involving nepotism, corruption and lies. This has baffled his opponents in the elite media and the republican establishment.”

    Mr. Old man of the clan, if at all as a Journalist you have been keenly following the current political affairs in the US you through balanced Media reports you will agree with me on the following facts.
    1. The US mainstream media mainly the liberal media is over 83% biased on Trump administration and have constantly championed a false conspiracy theory of the Russian meddling without any iota of evidence. (see the reports and testimonies by former Intelligence Chief of Obama Admin) and the recent study by Havard University. (Synopsis CNN 93% negative, NBC 93% Negative, CBS 91% negative, NYT 87% negative, Wpost 87% negative, WSJ 70% negative and the only media outlet u claim is championing Trump’s lies is Fox which is 52% negative) Don’t also forget the European News Outlets – ARD 98% negative, FTimes 84% Negative and BBC 74% negative). Talking of corruption, You and I know about the Clinton pay-to-play politics and how she mismanaged the state department and how all her lies were covered up by the Liberal mainstream media.

    2. Facts be told, all Trump family members in his administration actually including himself are not paid by US taxpayers money. Trump donates all his salary. Secondly, he is not the first person to use family members as advisers. Lets go back to 90s. Do you remember that Hillary was in charge of Healthcare in Clinton White House? Well, her efforts failed though and in the last campaign, she accepted that.

    3. Trump does not really tell lies as NYT and CNN has made everyone to believe. Trump is simply never politically correct making him a threat to both Media establishment and the political establishments mainly the globalists both Democrats and Republicans alike.

    4. Lastly, we all well know that HRC spent much more money in her campaign and got more big donors ($1.2b) than actually any Presidential Candidate in the US political History. Trump funded a reasonable percentage of his campaign (over $600m) and got much of his campaign funding from the common Americans who contributed on average ($40).

    Lastly, in my own opinion, if you read and listen to much of what the media tells you today you are misinformed and if you don’t you are uninformed. Biase in the media has become a norm.

  4. @Rajab let me help you understand the land saga in Ug.

    African migration and settlement of mankind ended long ago but why do land wrangles still exist in Uganda?Let me explain why they exist,how most squatters are fraudsters and why govt needs to own all land in disputed areas since there is no documentation they have no owners for real;In Kayunga the few squatters i interacted with were not Baganda yet they acted like they knew more about the land there .The little time i had with them, i realized that some of them were from West Nile which is about 600km from Buganda region they ended up in Kayunga coz Amin had ferried them to work in the Indian owned Tea and sugar plantations in Jinja and Lugazi which was not far from Kayunga (Amin forgot to send a bus to send them back to West Nile) do they deserve the land in Kayunga of course no.How did the the balaalo end up in Luweero yet in the 1980’s there was war?do they deserve to claim ownership of land in luweero of course no.Are the Bakiga right to own land in Kibaale of course no.

    It is good that Ugandans have realized that there is sex disorder in Human beings what Mukiibi did was bad when govt tells Dr.Stella Nyanzi to go for a mental check up they think govt is being hard on Ugandans Stella knows when obscene words should be said and with her PhD study in sex issues she should know why all men have radios its for information,music and stopping the wall from hearing some words.

  5. What does AM mean by his narrative vis-a-vis “human nature”, when he states that “Society is built on human nature, not human ideals”? In other words, Andrew is a Hobbesian, where human nature is brutish

    Therefore it is the brutes like: Jacob Zuma, Donald Trump and Museveni of this world that construct society.

    But what comes first, the human nature (Brutus) or the human ideal (love your neighbor as you love yourself? I get the impression that AM has a very confused value system.

  6. Take a look at Greece today !
    Some thing familiar as to where those guys get their ideas from !!

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