There is a lot of public debate and comment currently on the various ways in which President Jacob Zuma is bad news for us, says the writer. File picture: Leon Nicholas

How do you feel about the undeniably disastrous leadership of President Jacob Zuma? This is a question I would love to hear responses to from ANC leaders, supporters and voters.

There is a lot of public debate and comment currently on the various ways in which Zuma is bad news for us. Everything from Nkandlagate to Nenegate are evidence of someone who is not fit to govern.

But, in a sense, it is easy to simply focus on Zuma, because it allows us one focal point for our collective anger that we remain a deeply unjust society and one that is underperforming massively.

In reality, however, our leadership and democratic challenges are far worse than a fiery online debate about Zuma. If you are in the leadership structures of the ANC, however, you cannot pretend that Zuma is more powerful than the organisation. You have the legal power to recall a disastrous president and stop him in his tracks.

You did so with Thabo Mbeki, for example, in justifiable circumstances, but circumstances probably less volatile than the state and society Zuma is in charge of.

Or not in charge of, as the case might be.

So if the ANC cares for consistency, one has to wonder why Zuma is surviving long after he has damaged our society in ways at least comparable to Mbeki, if not worse than Mbeki.

Only one explanation seems reasonable for this ANC inaction: The ANC is not so unhappy with Zuma as to stop him in his tracks. But the implication of this ANC inaction, therefore, is that there is a deficit of moral leadership within the ANC.

Zuma is just a symptom of the leadership malaise. One would be foolish to think that in the unlikely event of Zuma exiting the political stage voluntarily, tomorrow, all would be well within the ANC and within the state.

That kind of optimism doesn’t make sense anymore. Because, if a critical mass of morally decent leaders were already active inside the ANC, they would have stopped Zuma in his tracks by now.

The fact that Zuma can convince grown ass men and women to call swimming pools firepools and to not call out his lies about why he fired a finance minister, mean that these adults in the ANC and in the cabinet do not have any backbone.

So why would they be better replacements for Zuma?

And so I guess my opening question in this column answers itself. ANC leaders either do not share the view that Zuma is a disaster or, if they do, they lack the willingness to get rid of him. As voters, we must take account of this reality when we puzzle through Zuma’s leadership.

Many in the ANC, no doubt, would like voters to assess Zuma independently of how we assess the ANC itself.

But that distinction is not tenable. If the ANC cannot be effective in its oversight of a cadre it has deployed to the highest office in the land, then the ANC itself is as disastrous politically as the president.

There is only one way to avoid this conclusion, and that is for the ANC to cut short the career of President Zuma. It would be in the interest of the ANC and of the country.

Which brings me to a kweshin, specifically, for the ANC voter: How do you feel about the effect of your vote being that President Zuma gets to use this country as his plaything?

I have always defended ANC voters from the charge that they necessarily voted for President Zuma. Of course, our electoral system isn’t a presidential system. Someone might be loyal towards the ANC but not like Zuma as a presidential candidate. Our elections do not allow such a view to be expressed electorally.

For this reason I would never assume that an ANC voter is inherently a supporter of President Zuma. Still, it is important that as voters we take responsibility for the consequences of our voting decisions. Our intentions when we vote do not change the effect of our vote.

So you might intend to vote for a party because of its policies or history or some other aspect of its political branding. But if your vote ensures that a disastrous person is in charge right at the top, with huge constitutional powers such as the ability to recklessly fire a minister of finance he himself deems competent, then perhaps voting decisions must take account of what will happen if you make a certain choice.

Ultimately, of course, the ANC enjoys the gift of some very clumsy political opponents who have not figured out how to capitalise on the leadership crisis in the ANC.

Eish, who to vote for next year?

* Eusebius McKaiser is the best-selling author of A Bantu In My Bathroom and Could I Vote DA? A Voter’s Dilemma. His new book - Run, Racist, Run: Journeys Into The Heart Of Racism - is now available nationwide, and online through Amazon.

** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Media.