Zuma slammed as strike builds

President Jacob Zuma has flown back into the eye of a political storm - one which political analysts say he could have avoided.

Zuma returned from a visit to China yesterday and will be in Cape Town later today to attend the funeral of ANC stalwart and former minister Joe Matthews, as the most bitter industrial action in recent memory shows no sign of abating.

This week angry strikers took to the streets of Joburg, calling on him to intervene in the 11-day-old strike. But this time they let their invective spill over, rubbishing him and his polygamous lifestyle, an unprecedented step by formerly loyal cadres.

Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi took it a step further, denouncing Zuma's administration as a predator society - a sharp dig at the tenderpreneurial activities of close members of Zuma's family, one of whom, his son Duduzane, became a billionaire overnight less than a fortnight ago.

His nephew, Khulubuse, continues to live a lifestyle of pampered luxury as workers on his East Rand mine starve.

Vavi warned on Thursday that the giant trade union federation would no longer "give the ANC a blank cheque" in next year's local government elections, but urged all workers to join other South Africans in an alliance against corruption and punish corrupt ANC councillors.

On Friday, political analyst Joe Teffo called the strike a national crisis, showing Zuma to be insensitive.

"People are dying. What else must compel you to be here with your people and show compassion for what they are fighting for.

"I am not saying he shouldn't have gone to China, but he should have returned immediately. After all, most of the negotiations are done by business people anyway."

On Friday night analyst Eusebius McKaiser said Zuma's leadership was at its lowest point ever.

"He is not responding to the leadership challenges," he said.

"Even when he is physically present, he hasn't shown the ability to take a decisive view.

"It's not rocket science what he needs to do. He needs to take a firm view on issues like the strike, and put that view (to) those he disagrees with. (But) he is avoiding the challenge. He is opting for silence and inertia.

"Zuma doesn't seem to grasp the intricacies of the economic argument in support of the hard line so he can go to the left and better position the justification of salaries."

McKaizer said while Zuma was not a lame duck president, his chances of a second term in office were slipping away.

"He needs to demonstrate much greater leadership."

Meanwhile, in a frightening new development in the public service strike, the SA Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) has threatened to create a "serious water crisis", saying their members in the water sector would embark on a national strike on Monday.

Distribution of water to municipalities would be affected.

And from Wednesday next week, South Africa is likely to grind to a halt as tens of thousands of municipal and mining workers prepare to down tools in a solidarity strike.

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