Watch South Africa, Americans!
The election of Jacob Zuma, a year or so of excessive celebration by his base then an accelerating deterioration of the economy, the scandals which mounted until his ouster yesterday with one year left in his second term, instantly followed today by a police roundup of all the scoundrels involved … this, my friends, could be Donald Trump in America.
Zuma resigned yesterday. His replacement will be Cyril Ramaphosa, one of Zuma and Mandela’s close colleagues in the fight against apartheid, but a man who had dropped out of politics to make his fortune in business.
A year after Zuma began his reign as one of the worst democratically elected leaders of all time, South Africa was still doing well.
The chief executive of one of the country’s most important banks, Standard Bank, wrote how South Africa had come through the global recession very well and because “our reputation as a relatively stable investment destination in a currently fragile global economy” was so good, would prosper in the years to come.
So it seemed at the time, despite Zuma’s reputation as someone rather odd – a sort of gamble against the establishment.
But it didn’t last. The first few years were filled with scandals, many involving his family. As the police and investigative agencies began picking away at him, he began picking away at them. He essentially neutralized what is South Africa’s FBI, went through several attorney-generals.
The economy stopped accelerating. Within 5-6 years it stopped performing altogether. The GDP today is hardly 1%, less than population growth.
Why was it so hard to get rid of him?
See my many earlier blogs. Politics is an addictive elixir. Those around him were more concerned about retaining their political status than the good of the country. Every minute he was in power was a hook in those technically of his party not to leave him behind.
Finally, bereft of policy or progress, all that was left was the personality.
“This nightmare took [us] to the depths of our hopelessness and depression,” wrote one of the most senior correspondents of South Africa’s media today.
“It kicked us out of bed, [gave] us the strongest, and hardest, possible lesson in what happens when a political party becomes a personality cult.”
Republicans have abandoned their fight against deficit spending as a bribe for us to follow them.
They long ago abandoned their fight for decency, platonic marraige or conservative concepts of love and family. So what’s left for them? Trump. Trump the television personality. When the Republicans finish the transition to becoming a Trumpism personality cult a la Senator Cotton and Cong. Steve King, the end is nigh.
But you never know. Trump’s egregious behavior hasn’t mounted yet to the scale that Zuma’s had.
But here’s the good news. It’s only one day after Zuma left.
People in the government and Zuma backers outside the government who had been protected by him are literally in hiding or fleeing the country.
There will be no mercy.
Africa has a promise that might attend any emerging society at any time in history simply because it’s new and fresh. Today the world is interconnected as it never has been before. I’ve often described events in Africa as good models for what could happen in the older societies like America.
This one is stark. The only question is how the timelines fit onto one another. But the pattern is undeniable. Reagan needed an astrologer. All Trump needs is a South African newspaper.