Forward-planning likely to save Zuma from Lula's fate

17 July 2017 - 07:25 By The Times Editorial
President Jacob Zuma. File photo.
President Jacob Zuma. File photo.
Image: Masi Losi

One wonders if President Jacob Zuma checks out the news each day. Probably not; it's been a bit mean about him lately.

But if Zuma did peruse the foreign affairs page last week he probably spotted that former president of Brazil Lula da Silva was sentenced to nearly 10 years in jail for accepting a bribe. The news might have brought a fleeting moment of disquiet as shadows of his own situation flitted through No1's mind. But the worry would have evaporated when he recalled that Da Silva had made a schoolboy error - he neglected to subvert to his cause the cops and prosecutors of Brazil.

Parallels between Zuma and "Lula" are interesting.

Both are ill-educated men with fierce political ambition. Both rose to the top promising to help the poor. Both distrust the West - Da Silva blaming 2008's slump on "irrational behaviour of blond people with blue eyes".

But there are major differences between the two men, the most notable being that Da Silva kept promises and made things happen.

He built Brazil into the world's eighth-biggest economy and lifted 20million people out of poverty with his "Growth Acceleration", "Zero Hunger" and "Family Allowance" schemes, along with vigorous inflation targeting. Significantly, he was pragmatic and ready to compromise if it helped better the lot of the poor.

Lula was, and still is, the people's hero.

JZ? Not so much.

Da Silva might escape jail time on appeal, and millions are hoping he does. If Zuma goes the same route, there'll surely be few ordinary folk hoping he wriggles off the hook.

The imagery of a president in the dock is powerful and will bolster South Africans in despair at how the Zupta project has poisoned democracy, the economy and national pride.