Cape Town - A crestfallen President Jacob Zuma has bemoaned unfair criticism directed at him for being uneducated, but not all the criticism levelled against him can be regarded as unfair, according to an ANC ally, the SA Communist Party.
On Friday, Zuma spoke of his pain at being treated unfairly by critics who cannot “believe that a man who never went to school is the president and that is the reason why he must be attacked 24/7”.
Zuma said he would spill the beans on these people because he knew who they were.
Instead of celebrating the “miracle” of a man who did not have formal education leading the country, people ridiculed him, he said.
Speaking at the Jacob Zuma Foundation, where he was bidding farewell to 19 students going to study in Nigeria, Zuma said if he listened to his critics he would have “that disease white people call stress but I don’t have it because I know better”.
He said South Africans blamed him for everything.
“If a person loses a shoelace in South Africa, they say it is Zuma and I love it,” he said.
“There are people whose business is to say that ‘we cannot have a man who never went to school running a country. We must rubbish him 24/7’.
“No one has ever said it is a miracle for this man to have become president and written a column about it.”
He further suggested that he was made a “laughing stock” because he came from a poor background and had managed to make something of himself.
“They try to make you feel like you are not capable and make you feel like you don’t know what you are doing and (you are) just useless,” he explained.
“It is even more painful when it comes from those who occupy strategic positions in society… those who are given an opportunity to enlighten society but they do the opposite.
“If you come from a poor family… you are automatically placed and labelled according to different social classes.”
SACP spokesman Alex Mashilo said yesterday it was unreasonable to lump all criticisms against Zuma into one category.
Mashilo said there had been unfair criticism such as the ones Zuma was referring to.
“It is unfair, even in both our law and democracy, to discriminate against a person solely on the basis of academic qualifications,” he said.
“We have fought against such discriminatory practices against the liberals, who wanted the so-called qualified franchise.
“Our democracy belongs to all who have the right to take part in it, not only those who come from school.”
Mashilo, however, said another category of criticism of Zuma, where he had to change his own decisions, could not be regarded as unfair.
Last month, Zuma came under fire after he sacked then-finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, replacing him with little-known MP Des van Rooyen, who is now the minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs.
The decision was later changed by the president, who reappointed Pravin Gordhan to the Treasury.
It was one in a series of controversies and scandals that have marred his more than six years as president.
“We have applauded him in this regard (changing his decision on the finance minister) and said it showed he is a leader who is willing to listen to the people,” said Mashilo.
“There may be a room for improvement in this category because leadership is not only about one individual leader but the collective as a whole.
“As the SACP, we subscribe to the principles of constructive criticism and self-criticism. It is in this way, especially under scientific criticism, that members, leaders and organisations are able to improve.”
When asked if the ruling party shared Zuma’s sentiments that he was being crticised unfairly, ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said this was not new.
“I don’t know why we must talk about this. If you read Prince Mashele and a lot of analysts who write in the media, their criticism is always about the president lacking formal education. We’ve always said the criticism of the president is unfair. It’s always about him being uneducated,” he said.
Presidency spokesman Bongani Majola said:
“I don’t know if there is something not clear there (in Zuma’s comments) that you want me to interpret. If there is anyone who can provide clarity on his words, it is the president himself.”
Zuma said he will expose those who have treated him badly in a book he plans to write after his retirement.
“I will have time to write what black people did to their own son who never went to school, who educated (himself).”
Zuma said he would spill the beans on these people because he knew who they were. Instead of celebrating the “miracle” of a man who did not have formal education leading the country, people ridiculed him, he said.
“No one has said this is a miracle that a man who never went to school can be a president – no one. But I will explain who those people are. I will be just telling a story as I’m telling a story now,” he said.
He made the revelations amid the re-emergence of the #ZumaMustFall campaign and a billboard with the words “Zuma Must Fall” appearing on a Cape Town block of flats.
Zuma is the only president in democratic South Africa who has not written his memoirs.
He was pitted against his long-time ally, then-president Thabo Mbeki, in the build-up to the ANC’s 2007 heated national elective conference in Polokwane.
Zuma won the election.
Their battle sparked divisions in the party, leading eventually to the recall of Mbeki and senior members defecting to form the Congress of the People in 2008.
Zuma assumed office as president in 2009.
Mbeki has begun posting articles on his Facebook page on matters relating to his presidency.
He set tongues wagging after suggesting Zuma was part of the collective who decided that an alleged plot to unseat him should be probed.
The so-called plot implicated former ANC leaders Tokyo Sexwale, Mathews Phosa and current Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
- The Sunday Independent