In his inaugural address on May 24, South African President Jacob Zuma identified “rapid economic transformation” and “inclusive growth” as the policy centerpieces of his second and final term in office. This emphasis on transformation reflects an underlying post-election unease within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and represents a tacit recognition that Zuma’s first term was largely squandered due to scandals, managerial incompetence at all levels of government and internecine strife within the ruling party.
The ANC hierarchy is aware that another five years of drift and underachievement will lead to a hemorrhage of votes in the 2016 municipal elections and subsequently the 2019 general election. It will also cause a further acceleration of the violent service-delivery protests that have become so commonplace over the past five years, even in the ANC’s political bastions of support.
Zuma also realizes that his second term provides a final opportunity to carve out a meaningful political legacy, one defined by tangible socio-economic achievement rather than embarrassing personal infidelities, the misuse of public funds (exemplified by the Nkandla scandal) and the widespread belief that he is a man out of his intellectual depth in the nation’s highest office. Taken collectively, these factors give momentum to the call for rapid economic transformation, although such pronouncements now induce a weary cynicism and a strong sense of deja vu in the South African population.