The Skinny on JZ

Many of you may be aware of my Facebook post from last Friday in which I asked for prayers for South Africa. The country is going through a crisis, which came to head nearly two weeks ago when the president, Jacob Zuma, fired his finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, and his deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas. People were up in arms over the now infamous midnight “cabinet reshuffle,” and the Rand dived, ultimately leading South Africa into a “junk status” credit rating with the S&P and Fitch. Last week saw numerous protests and marches around the country; more are slated for today and the rest of the week and next week.

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But the crisis is more than a financial one. Zuma (younger people often call him “JZ”) has been the subject of numerous scandals, starting before he even became president. Among his most flagrant scandals are:

  • Being accused of rape while he served as a party leader of the ANC
  • Stating that people could be cured of HIV if they took a shower and/or ate beetroot
  • Spending more than $20 million in state funds on his private compound, Nkandla
  • Practicing unabashed nepotism and cronyism with his connection to the Gupta family being the most notorious. (This family has been accused of wielding so much power in the presidency that Zuma and their name have been merged into “Zupta.”)
  • Entering into an infamous nuclear deal with Russia
  • Firing the two finance ministers

The current crisis is very political and complex, and it may be difficult for those who do not live here to understand. South Africa has a parliamentary government, and the ANC is the party in power. This was the main party of the “Struggle,” the anti-apartheid movement. It was the party of Mandela and most of the freedom fighters, but most South Africans would agree that the ANC no longer reflects the dream and vision of Mandela, that it has become unashamedly corrupt and self-serving. Yet many people still support the ANC and Zuma.

Next Tuesday, 18 April, Parliament will hold a no-confidence debate into the President’s fitness to hold office. With the ANC being in power, it is unlikely that they will vote Zuma as being unfit; but miracles do happen.

Once again, I call for prayers for this country that has so much potential. It is a country of natural wealth and beauty, but its greatest asset is its people, who are warm, loving, innovative, creative and industrious. South Africa can be a global leader of good change. Let’s pray for good governance and justice, for the country’s leaders to have a heart for the people, especially for the poorest of the poor and the marginalised.

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