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? This must be a big lesson for all of us. You can’t just say the strike will go on and on . It is impossible. It becomes a problem to even the striking people, because you can’t strike forever.
S’THEMBISO MSOMI: Have you discussed these issues with the union leaders?
JZ: No, no, I think at the moment the leaders of the unions are very busy dealing with the strike. I do not think we would have time to sit and deal with these issues. I do not think they would even hear you properly.
RH: There’s a lot of talk ahead of the 2012 (ANC) conference about whether or not you would have a second term as president. The youth league is now saying everyone will have to stand in line. Are you keen on serving a second term?
JZ: Firstly, serving a first or third term is not an individual decision. In our culture, it is the ANC that decides. It’s not a grouping within the ANC, it is the ANC in totality that decides. So the ANC will decide whether a certain person will do two or three.
There is a system within the ANC where all of us have got the democratic right to express those feelings and preferences. Even before you cast your vote at the conference, there is a process of nomination in the ANC. That is what we do.
What has happened now, which is unfortunate, is that such utterances have come too early and it is not characteristic of the ANC.
The ANC doesn’t do so, because if you do that too early you are in fact undermining the functioning of the ANC. Because you are saying to other people who may be holding positions – you are almost declaring – “We do not want you; we prefer someone else to be doing what you are doing.”
This system of almost being seen to be campaigning for general elections is a little bit uncharacteristic. It could be an indication of some weaknesses we may be having.
You can’t be happy that ANC members act in a way that begins to make other people, other comrades who are serving, feel unwanted long before the conference. It is an unfortunate thing.
SM: It looks like some sections of the organisation are not listening. What is going to be done about that?
JZ: It is an unfortunate thing that has happened because it is uncharacteristic of the ANC. If that becomes clear – because the ANC has discussed the matter – that some people are continuing, I am sure the ANC will know what to do.
RH: I am sure you are expecting a question about the media tribunal. Some 860 civil society organisations, businesses, lawyers, editors, authors, say this legislation is going to limit press freedom despite the assurances that have been given. Do you think it is acceptable that any state information could be classified and that it would be illegal to report on it?
JZ: Now you are doing exactly what the media is doing to conflate these two. There is the tribunal. There is the bill.
If you talk about information classification, there is the process in parliament where bills are discussed and there is a lot of debate about it. And I think that process is going to crystalise itself in parliament.
There are laws in fact that restrict the information already, which I think that bill is actually based on. But I am sure the debate is helping, it is just unfortunate that the debate tends to be accusations rather than people saying, look this is what I think should be the case. It’s always difficult to make a very definitive statement that this bill is unconstitutional. Now, if the matter has not been discussed and tested and you make an assertion that this bill is unconstitutional, we can’t determine that. The only people that can make that final determination is actually the Constitutional Court.
With regards to the media tribunal, as you know we fought for the freedom of the press, of the media, and we will defend it and the ANC is not buying anyone’s favour when it says so.
The reason where we thought this was important was because the manner in which the media has been exercising its freedom began to worry people and there are many things that happened which we believe are unfair.
If, for example, there is a report about an individual with a huge, shouting headline and somebody says: “Look, this is actually not factual; it is not true,” (the subsequent apology) is reduced in a small article somewhere in the middle; some people never even see it. If you tainted someone’s name, why don’t you clean it in a similar kind of way and make the headline: “Sorry we made the mistake about so and so”?
If you want a retraction, it is a big, big job, to do so.
The other element would be the manner in which the media does not respect the right of an individual, the right to privacy. That important thing called the dignity of an individual. They go into people’s private things which the constitution says they must respect.
When I was still dealing with violence in KZN, I said the media at times – without reali sing it – perpetuates violence. Because if you report about somebody killed by other people and put the body that is mutilated out there, as if the person was not dead.
My view is that it does not reduce reporting if you do not become sensational. The critical point is we feel if you take a matter to the existing institutions and there is a finding and you might feel the apology is not enough, where do you go thereafter? There is no place, right?
If you do not have money as a citizen and you feel aggrieved, you can’t take the media to court. So we said let us create – in fact we said let us investigate – the possibility of a media appeals tribunal. What we were expecting is that the media would participate instead of accusations and accusations that “this ANC is undermining”, “we are going back to the apartheid era, blah, blah, blah”.
No, what is your contribution to these facts that we are putting across? What is your suggestion, so that your suggestion must make us believe that we do not need a media tribunal? People spend too much time angry with the ANC. What we need is your input on this question.
You know colleagues you believe in democracy, in fairness in everything … Why should you believe that you are not at all regulated in a serious manner? You guys think you must be on your own and do everything and sit there. I think you should accept that where there is freedom there must be responsibilities as well.
RH: The planning commission – It has been a year and six months and we still do not have a plan. Is it not something that should be tackled with more urgency?
JZ: It has started working; I think it has had about four major meetings already and it has started to work. It has identified areas of work, it has established sub-committees that are now busy doing research looking at very specific issues. It is a very busy commission and it is incorrect to say it could meet overnight and say it has come with a plan, otherwise it would not have applied its mind appropriately. I am satisfied that it is working very well: there have been progress reports to me. I am very happy that it is working and at the right time it is going to emerge with either the outline or the plan itself.
SM: There is criticism that comes mainly from Cosatu about the country’s economic growth strategy; they say there isn’t one. What is happening?
JZ: No, no, no. The economic growth plan is absolutely being discussed; it has been presented to proper structures of the government. Ministers have talked about this, who are dealing with this matter.
RH: You signed off the special investigation unit looking into leases, looking into tenders. Is this clampdown on corruption a major priority for you right now?
JZ: A year after the administration cabinet came into office, I am satisfied that we are tackling it, as we said we would. We brought in the Hawks and I think the Hawks have arrested a lot of people, very much against those who were saying by establishing the Hawks we are actually diverting from fighting crime, I think they have been fighting crime. I think the unit led by …
RH: They arrested one of our journalists …
JZ: Well I would not want to get into that … But also the unit led by Advocate Hofmeyr, I think we are tackling corruption at the moment very seriously and that is how it stands and that is what we are going to do.
RH: There is this emphasis on the one hand and on the other hand members of your family get mineral rights awarded to them, contracts awarded to them and questions are asked if that is appropriate?
JZ: Well I am not sure; I have not heard or seen reports that say there was this mineral right that was given by so-and-so through corruption. I have not seen it. I have heard accusations about some of my family members where people are asking: “How could they be doing whatever they are doing?” … nobody has ever said there has been corruption here.
I think for people to think that if you are a Zuma you can’t do business is a very funny thing, I tell you – I find it very funny. What is it? Why should you make that determination? I do not know.
I am still very keen to know why if you are a Zuma or you are related to Zuma or you are a son of Zuma, you are banned from doing business. What does that mean in reality? You guys write very long articles about it – why do you think a Zuma can’t do business? Because what you should be looking at is have there been untoward things, corruption? That is what you should deal with. This is persecuting people unfairly simply because they share a surname or maybe because they are related to Zuma.
SM: But does it not create an impression that if you are closer to the political power then you are most likely to get an advantage?
JZ: No, but that is part of the assumption that you guys make, which is wrong. It is unfair, totally unfair. Why should you not do business when you are closer? Some of the people you are talking about were in business long before Jacob Zuma was the president. They have been in business long before, more than a decade. In fact all of them that you are talking about were in business before Zuma was the president. They were in business when Zuma was out of the presidency, they were doing business. I think it is unfair, that perception is wrong, and if you guys are saying you are the watchdogs you should be helping people to remove that kind of perception. It is a wrong perception. It can’t be the right perception. It is unfair to people totally.
ýThis interview has been edited
Why actually a Zuma should do business with China.
Zuma’s replies start off coherent and seemingly well rehearsed, and then he reverts to a herdboy mentality and jumbled backdoor reasoning. How eish.
This interview leaves me no more in the know than I was before. Zuma, in his usual style, evades the nitty-gritty of questions put to him and trots out instead, banalities by rote.