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Sat Oct 25 14:39:55 SAST 2014

Zuma needs to be far more in touch with South Africans

The Times Editorial | 23 August, 2012 00:11

The Times Editorial: President Jacob Zuma finally showed courage and leadership yesterday when he met angry Lonmin mineworkers six days after the massacre in which about 44 people died.

He visited North West a day after his ministers got a lashing from Marikana miners, who complained that the president had disregarded their pain and the deaths of their colleagues by not talking to them.

While Zuma acted with speed, and even left a SADC meeting in Mozambique to deal with the crisis, his decision not to address the miners sooner than yesterday - although he visited survivors in hospital - came back to haunt him.

While his ministers had tried to explain his unavailability, the miners wanted no less than him.

Xolani Ndzuza , the leader of the committee representing the Lonmin workers, was clear when he told Zuma they were not impressed that he had decided not to visit them the day after the massacre.

"The first person who came here to comfort us was [expelled ANC Youth League president] Julius Malema . But the person we voted for [Zuma] failed us," he said.

Granted, Zuma cannot be expected to be in each and every place where there are protests, but the Marikana massacre and its impact on South Africans and the rest of the world needed his undivided attention.

Being a leader comes with a responsibility and in this case the president, or his advisers, failed to read the mood.

Sometimes a leader needs to suspend protocol and take charge of a situation in his country.

Zuma's absence from the "crime scene" gave others space. The likes of expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema thrive where there is no leadership.

With his visit yesterday, Zuma finally exercised his responsibilities.

Mr President, speak direct to your people and you will find that they are more than willing to listen.

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