Zuma has been so bad, he has in some ways actually been good

The president has unwittingly helped democracy by eroding the ANC's hegemony, boosting coalition politics and encouraging dissent

14 January 2018 - 00:07 By WILLIAM GUMEDE

As the curtain falls on the chequered leadership of President Jacob Zuma, many would think it absurd to suggest that he may have left any positive legacy, but he has , surprisingly, contributed favourably to South Africa's infant democracy.
Zuma has ended the political innocence, naivety and blind support of sizable sections of rank-and-file ANC members and supporters.
Blind loyalty for the sake of "unity" has been the bane of almost all African liberation movements-turned-governments since World War 2.
Zuma has forced ANC members to weigh up whether they should continue supporting the ANC merely because of its glorious past, even if the party is currently engulfed in corruption, mismanagement and incompetence.
Zuma's actions have also been the catalyst for ANC members for the first time to vote against the party line, with the opposition, as was seen in the parliamentary vote on the motion of no confidence in Zuma in August.
There has been a fundamental shift among the ANC's traditional constituency, driven to a large extent by Zuma's foibles.Large numbers of black voters may in future be unlikely to vote for the ANC merely out of loyalty, emotions and past allegiance. This in itself is good for democracy.
Zuma has single-handedly reconfigured South Africa's post-apartheid politics. His actions have reduced the ANC's political dominance, intellectual hegemony and leadership of the country broadly, and in black society in particular.
Since he was elected ANC president in 2007, two significant electoral breakaways from the ANC: COPE, from the centre, and the EFF, from the populist left, have changed politics.
The EFF has now become so significant that most of the key policies adopted at the ANC's conference last month tried to outpopulist the upstart, by adopting policies that the EFF has made its own, such as expropriation of land without compensation, free higher education and the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank.
Zuma's presidency has led to the reconfiguration of the tripartite alliance with Cosatu and the SACP. It has caused a split in the ANC-aligned trade unions and forced the SACP to consider repositioning itself and contest local and national elections independently from and in opposition to the ANC.

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