The South African riots have turned the world’s attention to three questions that have left people torn: How did the anarchy of riotous looting arise? How did former President Zuma, forced to resign by his own party, go from revolutionary hero to political cockroach in a decade? What kind of country is the rainbow nation created by the legendary Mandela? Western society, especially the U.S. media, is currently focused on Zuma’s corruption and is reluctant to talk much about the second question; the third question is even more secretive because it involves the identity politics that are so prevalent in the United States today.
I believe that the decoding of the South African story lies in two key words: leftist revolution and identity politics. This article analyzes how Zuma metamorphosed from revolutionary hero to political cockroach, because this is not his story alone, but the common story of the vast majority of African revolutionary heroes since the national liberation movement in the 1960s.
The Two Faces of Zuma’s Life
Zuma has an illustrious resume that is said to be comparable to that of Che Guevara, who was unanimously canonized by the world’s leftists. During the white government of South Africa, he participated in armed guerrilla attacks and served time in prison, and at the age of 17 he joined the youth wing of the African National Congress (ANC), and in 1961 he joined the African Spear “In 1961, he joined the “African Spear”, a secret armed group headed by Nelson Mandela, the famous South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and later Nobel Peace Prize winner, and was imprisoned for a time. After his release from prison, he trained revolutionary fighters for the African Spear and became the youngest patriarch of the first generation of ANC revolutionaries. With these credentials, Zuma was firmly entrenched as a party leader after the ANC’s legalization and move toward a democratic parliamentary line.
In April and May 1994, South Africa held its first non-racial general elections. The ANC formed a tripartite coalition with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and won with a majority of 62.65%, making Mandela the first black president of South Africa. The world hailed the end of apartheid in South Africa and the birth of a new democratic and egalitarian South Africa.
Zuma naturally rose through the ranks and became Deputy President in 1999; in 2008, at the age of 65, he became President of the ANC and was elected President of the Republic of South Africa the following year, once considered the “savior of the South African nation” and the “head of African leaders.” –And by the way, allegations of corruption and sexual harassment existed before Zuma became president, but he always managed to use his power to defuse them.
But the good times were not always good, and corruption was the most criticized issue of Zuma’s ten-year presidency. Zuma has been accused of a wide range of corruption charges, including money laundering, racketeering and receiving kickbacks from arms deals – a total of 783 cases. He has had five wives, and his family is naturally large. In addition to himself, his family members and close associates have also taken advantage of Zuma’s power to interfere with politics for their own benefit. Zuma’s son has been accused of being close to the Gupta Family, a wealthy Indian family, for whom he tied up bids for South African government projects and even interfered with cabinet personnel; Zuma himself has repeatedly asked the South African Air Force to provide runways at military bases for the Gupta family’s private jets.
Faced with allegations of corruption, Zuma had a signature response: “The problem of corruption in African countries is in fact grossly exaggerated… The reason it is exaggerated has nothing to do with foreign powers that have ulterior motives.”
–I can’t think of a foreign power that has ulterior motives for South Africa. It is the unspoken task of the Western left-wing media to cover up the scandals of this rainbow country, which has been built by the Western left-wing world over decades, and to put all its “progressive” ideas into practice in South Africa. China, which has emerged in recent years, is also very friendly to South Africa. As for Russia, it has neither historical nor practical ties with South Africa, and has no desire to have ulterior motives against it. Zuma’s downfall is not related to foreign powers, nor is it directly related to the years of searches and accusations by opposition parties, prosecutors and journalists.
From star leader to cockroach politician
The president of South Africa is not directly elected by the electorate, but indirectly voted in by the lower parliament, the National Assembly. The president of whichever party dominates the National Assembly becomes the president of South Africa as a matter of course. Since 1994, the ANC has never won less than 60% of the vote in the parliamentary elections, with a stable majority of seats, making it impossible for any opposition party to compete. This is the fundamental reason why the opposition is helpless despite Zuma’s scandals. The media is better to deal with, and every time Zuma faces charges, he can quickly mobilize his supporters to take to the streets, smash and grab the whole set, and threaten the media reporters to shut up in various ways. Not everyone in the party agrees that he is corrupt, but he is the president of the ANC, and there is nothing the general public can do about it.
However, South Africa is an electoral system, and the term of office of the ANC president and the president of South Africa are both five years. The election of the party president is held two years before the presidential election, and this systemic factor has resulted in one result: all the presidents of the new South Africa have been elected by the ANC, and the president often steps down as party president before ending his presidential term. As a result, when the successor is not from his or her own faction, the president is often forced out by the new party president. This has been done twice in the ANC, the last time by Zuma, who was then party chairman and vice president. Zuma’s predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, was the second president of South Africa after Mandela. After Zuma replaced him as president of the ANC party in 2007, Mbeki was forced out by Zuma and stepped down in mid-2008 before his term ended. Zuma’s defeat in the December 2017 party presidential election led to his political collapse.
To make a long story short, Zuma sparked public resentment over corruption, however, the ANC’s stunning defeat in the local elections in late 2016 loosened Zuma’s unchallengeable leadership position within the party. There is also much discontent within the ANC, with Cyril Ramaphosa, the vice president and party vice president who broke with Zuma over corruption in the past and was expelled from the party’s succession ladder. In December 2017, nearly 5,000 party delegates voted in the ANC’s presidential election, and Ramaphosa narrowly defeated Dlamini-Zuma by a margin of 178 votes. He became the new party chairman. Zuma lost his position as party chairman, making the party and Congress, which had been at his beck and call, a powerful tool for the anti-Zuma forces. Since then, Zuma, of course, did not sit idly by, but several actions were thwarted, and finally had to announce his resignation on February 14, 2018. Leaving South Africa in shambles. More comically, Mandela to Zuma’s South Africa is ruled by a variety of features that almost completely embody the dream of the American left: the identity politics, the socialist dream.
The Zuma story is just a replay of the story of the African left’s revolutionary history
Zuma’s story is not new in Africa. The African national liberation movement praised by Mao Zedong in the 1960s saw the emergence of many revolutionary leaders in various countries with the red book of Chairman Mao’s quotations in their hands. Mandela was also one of Chairman Mao’s good students.
Official Chinese scholars have always been fond of the fact that “Mao Zedong, the great leader of the Chinese people,” had a great impact on the world. He Xingxing, who specializes in the history of Chinese foreign propaganda in China, has written an article entitled “Mao’s Writings in the World – The Great Cultural Legacy of the “Red Century” to Contemporary China”. As a result, Mao’s monographs “Theory of Practice” and “Theory of Contradiction” are almost handed out in these countries, with Mugabe in Ethiopia and Nkrumah in Ghana being the standard bearers of Mao’s writings. What the article does not mention is that most of these “revolutionary leaders” became dictators and brought great disasters to their countries. The two most famous of them are: Libya’s Gaddafi, whose many behaviors resemble those of Mao Zedong, who issued the Red Book, and he also issued the Green Book; Ethiopia’s Mugabe, who admired Mao so much that, like Mandela, he insisted on reading Mao’s Selected Works while in prison, and made it his spiritual pillar in his fight for national independence. Mugabe has been in power for 37 years, the latter part of his administration, Zimbabwe’s economy is in internal and external difficulties, hyperinflation, the exchange rate of the local currency Zimbabwean dollar avalanche, so much so that in 2008 there were 100 trillion denominations of banknotes.
A few of these “good students of Chairman Mao” came to power through democratic elections and then waited for an opportunity to impose dictatorship after forming a cabinet. But many more went straight to dictatorship through the revolutionary path. The difference between those who became dictators and those who became “revolutionary leaders” was almost no change of mind or behavior, but only the difference between those who were in power and those who were not. Among them was Nelson Mandela, the first president of the new South Africa, a haloed man who transformed himself from revolutionary fighter to father of reconciliation. Zuma, like these African dictators, was a hero revered by the leftist revolution, and both eventually managed to rise to power, corrupt themselves wantonly, and become political cockroaches. The only difference is the form in which they come to the end of their lives.