They are inextricably linked by their unique ability to sustain their popularity by maligning their supporters, a sort of SM political love.
Trump really didn’t start hogging the stage until midyear, but ever since then Africa has been almost obsessed with him.
It started with the fascination that in America a crazy, like Marie Le Penne of France, might actually be taken seriously. More analytic observers probed “inner meanings” to suggest this showed both how open democracy was and how strong it would be finally restraining these “crazies.”
While Trump was on his ascendancy, State President Zuma on the other hand was going in the other direction. Problem is that Zuma has been falling for some time, and his hole seems bottomless.
There are few modern leaders in essentially democratic societies who have been mired in such scandal as Jacob Zuma. Normally leaders who reach the point he has – like the Toronto mayor or South Carolina governor, fall pretty quickly.
But Zuma carries with him more than his own folly. He’s a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement, one of the last of the original revolutionaries. To many patriotic South Africans, certifying his collapse would be tantamount to questioning the anti-apartheid movement.
It seems a stretch to me, but I’m not a 50-year old South Africa who felt enormous liberation in the mid 90s.
What these two buffoons have in common is that they are supported by people they dislike if not disdain. Trump has no intention of helping the poor. Zuma seems simply incapable of organizing anything constructive.
Yet it is precisely the poor from which Trump gets his main support, and from the well educated managerial class of South Africa that Zuma get his.
So what else do they have in common?
Public disdain for critics. Almost overnight the two of them have given critics a bad name even while themselves criticizing their detractors with regular sorties of foul language into normally hallowed territories like spouses and other family members.
I think what the two demonstrate is that the whole damn world is fed up with the systems in place and they are about as radical a divergence from existing systems as you can come up with.
Perhaps it’s a social, subconscious frustration that the Arab Spring fizzled out. That’s an awfully hard thesis to construct but on a macro level, I think it’s a reasonable assessment of social perceptions, today.
They lash out at the ruling elite and convince their supporters they aren’t ruling elite, because above all, they lie.
Damned world isn’t it, when that’s the only sure way to success?
(For my summary of all the top 10 stories in Africa in 2015, click here.)