Here’s the interview with Jacob Zuma that we carried in the Sunday Times today:
President Jacob Zuma’s presidency is facing major challenges, including the public sector strike and growing dissatisfaction among some of those who helped place him in power. Ray Hartley and S’thembiso Msomi spoke to him at his office in Tuynhuys
RAY HARTLEY: The climate around the strike has been one of heightened rhetoric and there have been some exceptionally strong statements. Are you aware of the statements that Zwelinzima Vavi made about the “predator government” – that we are being run by “corrupt and demagogic political hyenas”?
JACOB ZUMA: The right for workers to strike is very important and we respect that.
The problem is then in the conduct of the striking people. I think that is where the problem arises of strong statements.
In old democracies, there are frequent strikes and it is not a big deal because they are purely industrial strikes. I think it important to accept that ours tend to be political and that is why the statements become very aggressive, very political.
It is an issue that the unions themselves have got to look at because of the changed circumstances from the struggle to now. How do you conduct a strike from that point of view – lest you are looked at as part of the opposition one way or the other?
The other element which I think is very important is: how do the striking workers respect the rights of other sectors or other citizens of the country? Do I as a citizen have no right to go to the hospital and get treatment – because the workers are striking?
Do we, when we strike, have to allow a strike to become violent – not just violent but actually have the lives of people being taken away? Read More…
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma was visiting China when it was announced that that country had overtaken Japan to become the world’s second biggest economy.
This statistic alone ought to have erased doubt about South Africa’s drive to build strong relations with China.
China’s consumption of resources such as iron ore and coal, which this country has in abundance, make such a relationship essential to our economic prospects.
But there is an uneasiness about the growing friendship which cannot be dismissed simply because China presents huge economic opportunities.
China’s labour practices are at odds with those of South Africa, which has one of the most protected labour markets in the world.
When we enter into trade with China, we do so with one hand tied behind our backs because of the exploitative wages that China’s workers are paid.
South Africa’s manufacturing sector is at a massive disadvantage because of this. This is partly because our labour market is overprotected, but it is mostly because many of China’s workers work for very little.
South Africa’s liberal democratic political framework stands in contrast to China’s liberalising, but still authoritarian, government.
While we have a constitution which enshrines freedom of speech and expression, China continues to discourage independent criticism and is dominated by kowtowing state media in both print and broadcasting.
There is some evidence that the Chinese model enjoys the support of some in very powerful positions in our society, but the vast majority of citizens value our open society and their right to know.
Then there is China’s aggressive drive for influence in Africa which threatens national sovereignty. Some go so far as to describe this as “the new imperialism”.
It’s approach to building infrastructure — shipping in prison labour rather than passing on skills and hiring locals — is at odds with our developmental needs.
South Africa has resisted tying its flag to the mast of any major power and has carved out a niche as a country which walks its own path in global affairs.
This would be threatened if China aggressively enters the economy and offers to build cut-price infrastructure in exchange for greater global influence.
South Africa’s eager-to-please attitude which was displayed when the Dalai Lama’s visit was prevented last year, is a sign of this sort of influence-peddling.
What South Africa has to accomplish is the very difficult balance between building better relations with China while retaining this country’s corporate and social culture.
To do anything less would be to place in jeopardy the matrix of values this country has been built on.