Who says that Zuma is lacking in the leadership department? Business Day, 19th August 2013.

Aug 19, 2013
John Kane-Berman, the Institute's CEO, says that Jacob Zuma is a successful leader, contrary to popular belief.

All of these people banging on about President Jacob Zuma’s lack of leadership are beginning to sound desperate. Zuma’s government has not only put an ambitious plan before the country, but has secured its endorsement by its party, all other parties, the media and organised business. He has done this despite opposition from his communist and trade union allies.

Moreover, the endorsement of his plan is wider than either of his predecessors achieved with theirs — even though they were more modest. The Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear) strategy, for example, was not even 100 pages long. So if Zuma’s feat is not successful political leadership, it’s hard to know what is.

The eurozealots at the European Union aside, there is nothing so ambitious on offer anywhere in Europe. The last time Germany did anything radical was Gerhard Schroeder’s labour-law reforms 10 years ago — and he lost the next election. In the UK, apart from promoting more private schooling, David Cameron’s government is mostly concerned with keeping the Liberal Democrats onside.

Across the pond, the US president limits himself to transformation in the health sector alone.

All of these people spent longer in school than our president, which just goes to show once again that there is little correlation between education and leadership.

Impatient calls for Zuma to ensure that the National Development Plan (NDP) now moves from "talk" to "implementation" also sound a bit odd. The document runs to nearly 500 pages. How can something so comprehensive be implemented in haste? Do these importunate people want to push our budget deficit to Greek or Spanish levels?

In any event, swift implementation goes against the spirit of the document they’ve all endorsed. It says promotion of growth necessitates tackling the low levels of trust, violence and the tension between business, labour and the government. Higher levels of trust cannot simply be conjured up like funds for the presidential estate.

To press ahead before greater trust has been built up would only make things worse. Does the NDP itself not stress how important it is to get union agreement on such things as "entry-level wages"?

Yet, despite all the bellyaching, the NDP is being implemented. It wants "more robust" enforcement of racial laws. One bill has already been approved and another is on the way. Not bad for a Parliament that sometimes doesn’t have a quorum.

The NDP wants effective regulation of the private labour-placement sector. It does not explain "effective". No problem. Parliament wastes no time on such niceties as it fast-tracks the legislation. The NDP wants to speed up land transfers. Here, too, the government is up to the mark — with three bills in the pipeline to do just that. And it’s only August!

The NDP endorses the two new universities Blade Nzimande wants. They will start next year. Carbon taxes favoured by the NDP? Only 18 months to wait. More than 20,000MW of renewable energy? A fantasy, of course, but have not the first contracts been signed?

The government is also forging ahead with the "developmental state" that everyone, apart from a few recalcitrant think-tanks, enthuses about. Such a state, the NDP reminds us, uses "active, intensive, and effective intervention". In fact, there’s barely a department not "actively and intensively" intervening wherever it can. It’s their core business. Natch, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies is the leader of the field. He’s planning a "national music strategy", a "cosmetic sector strategy", and a "furniture design competition". He’s even going to ensure that we "beneficiate" crocodile skins into "high value-added exotic leather goods". Davies always was a details man.

Admittedly, the NDP does call for "effective" as well as "active and intensive" intervention.

Well, you can’t win ‘em all. And by our educational standards, a two-out-of-three pass rate is just fine.

First published in Business Day on 19th August 2013.

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