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Africa Confidential, March 2006

Jacob Zuma
The Africa Confidential Interview

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The Africa Confidential Interview

AC interviews Jacob Zuma, March 2006

AFRICA CONFIDENTIAL: What is your attitude in a crisis such as this?

JACOB ZUMA: I am coping very well. My attitude is that if you are charged you face the charge and one is relying on the fact we all believe that justice must be done. Thus once the case is taken to court and the facts are presented before court it will make a judgement. I am confident.

AC: Are you confident that all the relevant facts will come to light?
JZ: Absolutely; and I have said that before.

AC: Given recent divisions between elements in the ANC and some of its partners, do you think the party can consolidate the tripartite alliance?
JZ: I don't think it's just the ANC, it is the role of all departments. If you sit back and really look at what is happening in South Africa there has been a very vocal debate within the alliance that at times people have mistaken it to be a tension. And yet in my view that is where the debate about policies take place. There is nowhere else. Even in parliament people don't debate the issues like they debate them in the alliance. People believe that, because we are in an alliance, we have got to agree all the time. Because we debate these things in the open, people then think there is a problem. I actually think that has made the debate in the country go further then what it would have otherwise. If you look at the opposition they don't raise any issue in any serious matter. They've got no matters to raise. It's in the alliance where the debate about the future of the this country will take place, particularly of the economy. So that's how I've been looking at it. So the questions is how, as alliance partners, do we handle that? Probably the manner we have been handling it has given the perception that there has been a fight. That is my view. And of course we must ensure that the alliance is handled properly because it is an important part of political life in South Africa.

AC: Do you think the alliance will hold in the long term?
JZ: Oh yes, I have no doubt about it. I think it an important element in the body politic in SA. And I think it is a unique element. Nowhere else in the world is there such an alliance. We have that understanding of it. It is important.

AC: Do you have leadership ambitions?
JZ: I see myself as part of the ANC leadership. Playing the collective part together with the leadership of the ANC and alliance to ensure that the ANC is understood by the alliance. So I see my role as art of the collective.

AC: Are you worried that your public image will be damaged irreparably?
JZ: Not at all. I think it is almost five years now since attempts have been made to do that. It has been a long time. Down throughout the state organs by investigating me. Down throughout the media - a very hostile media. And by some politicians. I don't think it has worked. Because it is one thing that if you are fighting somebody in order to get rid of somebody then deal with facts. And I fortunately the South African public is very advanced and they are able to see through that. And also, I came here because I wanted to serve the people of South Africa. I'm not worried what happens to me. I am worried what about happens to the country, what happens to the system. Part of the reason I am resisting certain things, I think, is that the poor people are on the receiving side. And by giving in I would give up the struggle of the poor and I think I have a duty to ensure that this country works properly. The laws are properly done and there is no abuse of authority or power. No abuse of the citizens of this country. The citizens should have confidence in our government, in our parliament courts, security organs. I have a duty and a responsibility to participate in that process. Also I think it is important that I put up with it so I can help the country, so to speak. The system must work, it must make all of us have confidence in it. That the citizens of this country, when they're sitting, should feel 'we are safe'. We are protected. Everything is working for the well. There is no possibility of abusing the system. It is this I think we need to fight for.

AC: What is your opinion of the state of the ANC at the moment?
JZ: I think its very good. In almost each election we have increased the percentage of the ANC. I don't think there is anything else as a thermometer except elections. Before the elections people say all sorts of things. Political analysts and commentators says the ANC's not going to make it... they were all proved wrong. There's been enthusiasm. We've won more municipalities than ever before. Even in Cape Town our support is very large. The ANC's standing is very good because there is no alternative opposition. Nobody can present better policies or better programmes except the ANC. South Africa cannot move to any other political party that has better kind of objectives and policies than the ANC. Politicians mislead themselves at times and say, 'Why are people supporting the ANC?' and '...they are relying on themselves as a national liberation movement.' No, the ANC is being supported by all regional groups in the country.

AC: Were you disappointed with the outcome of the local government elections?
JZ: No. We could do better but the results were actually better than the previous ones.

AC: Is the ANC complacent about its position?
JZ: Not at all. I think there is an exaggeration of complacency, especially on the part of opinion makers and analysts. I think on balance the ANC has delivered. It has not solved all problems. But people will tell you there has been a change. That's not enough. You can't right the wrongs done over hundreds of years in a decade. And there can't be any complacency in the ANC. Towards the elections we place specific emphasis on the effectiveness of councillors. We have looked at them... and if they don't perform then they'll have to move. There has been an exaggeration that all councillors are corrupt - that's not true. Some were - but it's a small number.

AC: Do you thinks there is a case for a new a wider investigation into government arms deals?
JZ: I am not certain about that. There was an investigation done by done by government three agencies which came to a particular conclusion with regard to the government. I think the problem is to see me as playing a part in the arms deal when I was never a part of it, that then has created a suspicion. So what is it that people are investigating?

AC: What are they investigating?
JZ: I don't know but I think its not just the arms deal but it is something else - something against me. Politically motivated certainly. People know I was never part of it - that I could never influence the deal in any way. I think it is an unfortunate thing that has been done - to a deal that was regarded as one of the best arms deals in the world.

AC: Have foreign companies been treated leniently in the arms deal investigations at the expense of local politicians? For example why was France's Thomson awarded immunity in the prosecution of Schabir Shaik?
JZ: That's part of the problem which in a sense confirms the political agenda. I am not going to say all foreign companies but this particular company... That ends up giving an impression that we are dealing with a political problem rather than a crime problem.

AC: Have you been hounded unfairly by some with agendas not in the public interest?
JZ: Definitely. And I have complained to the public protector.

AC: What about factions within your own party?
JZ: I am not sure about factions in the party. This came from government organs because its government organs that investigated me. I wouldn't want to comment on political groupings.

AC: What is the health of the ANC as a broad church and ethnic alliance?
JZ: Yes it is a broad church. It still retains that and will continue to do so. I think it is an important element for the unity of the nation. Because it believes in it, it has worked for it. It has to keep it. It has to defend the principles of this country. It broadens national harmony. The ANC is responsible for that. It is a really truly national political grouping in the country. It takes the interests of everything on board. It fought for the principles of democracy that we have today and people believe it can defend them. Because it fought for it, it worked for it. It should remain a broad church. As a party and an alliance.

AC: Has all this worsened ethnic divisions in the ANC?
JZ: Ethnicisation of the problem of the ANC is by the media basically. Political analysts talk about that. It could be a few individuals in the ANC, but hey are very few. By and large the anc fought for unity of different ethnic and racial groups and that is a policy of the ANC. It fights for that. For example there is a claim that the Xhosas are fighting the Zulu. But if I went to the Eastern Cape, the support there is equal to the support I have in kwaZulu/Natal. But people don't want to look at that because it is easier to people to look at attacks - saying ok, it is not like that.

AC: Is there a resentment amongst Zulus of the role played in power by Xhosa members of the ANC?
JZ: You can't find that within the ANC. That is being perpetuated by the media basically. It is not an issue for the ANC. I have got support across the country, more support in the eastern cape. In fact that is where I am supported most. So I know it. I am not talking about hearsay. There are no divisions in the ANC - but part of the broader membership is fighting what it believes is being done by the state. They believe certain individuals within the state and state organisation which they believe is unfair particularly to me, because it is done to me it can be done to anybody else. They are fighting that. If you say that an organisation is divided because of strategies or policies - how are state organs being abused. It is this what the membership are fighting. That does not show that there is a division in the ANC. Again the media likes to us this terms.

AC: Are you being victimised?
JZ: It is a political campaign, by certain individuals. That is why I am singled out. And the people say, what are you doing to Zuma?

AC: What's their agenda?
JZ: It is a political agenda.

AC: Perhaps you are too popular?
JZ: Not necessarily. I've been popular all the time in the ANC . There are other reasons. That may be one of the reasons. They realised now that I am so popular that they didn't realise earlier. They have a political agenda that I don't want to get into now.

AC: What's the role of the media in perpetuating various perceptions in your own trials?
JZ: The role of the media leaves a lot to be desired - in the manner in which it has conducted itself. And I say this as one of those who fought fro the freedom of the media. And I understand that very well, and I will defend it. But I think the media has gone beyond what I understand to be the freedom of the media. In my case they have conducted a trial. There has been a domination of sensational reporting, prosecutors, presiding officers long before I was even charged, even with the first charge. You know the former head of the NPA called a number of black editors to actually recruit them into a political fight a
campaign against me. And this is a man who is head of a very serious dept within the country - head o the prosecuting authority. That we should all put our hopes in him. Because he is head of the prosecuting, he gets a lot of confidential information. Instead of presenting that to the court, so the courts can decide if there's a case, he uses it to actually fight a political fight. And when he recruits the media, as one of them says, we'll do the right thing. And nobody says anything. Why do they do so, why do they allow themselves to be recruited by someone who says I'm going to deal with Zuma, please support me. And the next thing he calls them to declare a prima facie case against Zuma. The media allows itself to be utilised but they've never commented or criticised such behaviour. Well, that undermines the organs of state of a democratic country. Now my point is that the media cant do that, because it is the media that should be helping us I terms of information and it is through the media that we should see ourselves, what type of people and nation we are and how others see us. No it get to the pint where information is being manipulated I have a problem with the media. There are people that the media can't criticise - that they do nothing about. There are specific people they hound. So I have a problems - the unfairness of the media.

AC: Why have they jumped on the bandwagon?
JZ: They are very political and being used by some politicians as well.

AC: Macro-economic policy - changes you'd make?
JZ: The anc must look at this as an organisation. I think the economy has grow - no doubt about it and the way in which we have managed our economy has caused this. I think our fundamentals are very correct. We are growing our economy at a time when technology is very high - so there is less and less participation of labour. Right now we have a situation where computerisation and IT more and more creates a situation where the economy moves massively towards technology and not labour. That is a challenge. How do we balance this. So we don't have a situation where business people are happy making a lot of money and the poor people are less happy and getting more into poverty. How do you balance this? I think that is the challenge that faces out economy. How do you create the kind of jobs and projects that are labour intensive? Because whilst you want to grow you don't want to grow in a false manner whereby you grow the economy and also grow poverty. Its this balance we have to deal with. If we're dealing with infrastructure - do you use the massive labour force, even if it means taking longer than over night with technology but not leaving people stranded and in poverty. I think it's a question of just adjusting the manner in which we move without undermining technology. We need infrastructure-rail and road. We need it to be labour intensive. We need to create incentives for it to be labour intensive. It is a question of adjusting. The fundamentals Im happy with.

AC: Will the Burundi peace you helped broker hold?
JZ: Yes I think they will. I think we dealt with the fundamentals. Very fundamental issues of working with Burundians to put Burundi ahead of anything - ahead of ethnicity, ahead of political parties. To see the important of national unity. To see the good of government working rather than war and I think that because of the interaction and the manner in which we did it they came to understand one another. The ethnic groups, much as they are there, came to understand that it was more important to emphasise the nation. Many people agreed because the agreements themselves were very detailed and addressed a number of agreements themselves that had raised concerns. It created a process which moved in a particular direction and began to undermine these smaller kind of tendencies and we we're able to establish a broader kind of movement in Burundi. I don't think we can go back in Burundi to violence.

AC: Do you see a worrying period ahead though?
JZ: [I foresee a worrying period in] Congo in particular because it has been for decades that Congo has been in conflict with itself. It cannot be an overnight affairs that you resolve those problems. But you can't resolve them if you don't have a proper constitution or a proper government. I think one of the problems is a government arranged for the purpose of transition is different from a constitution that people use to then elect a government with full mandate and legitimacy. Then you begin to address those questions far better. So we can only say that Congo is going to move for the better.