Zuma on Jesus and democracy

by The Editor

SERIES: A good quote can hold within it a thousand separate insights, just as surely as some poorly constructed thought can reveal someone as a fool. Quotable Quotes looks at what is said, what was said and, on occasion, how the two compare. In this edition a look at Jacob Zuma’s ANC centenary speech and how it contradicts some of his earlier ideas on Jesus and the power of the voters.

Quotable Quotes

Until the voters turn, or Jesus re-turns

President Jacob Zuma is perhaps best understood as a populist constrained by rules of a constitutional state. And whether he is wearing his populist or presidential cap is often determined by the event at which he speaking and the crowd to whom he is addressing himself: An ANC rally, and you can be sure he will say something demagogic; an official event, no doubt he will be espouse an endless (if not dull and dreary) list of democratic platitudes.

If you have the strength to plow through his January 8th statement, several examples of this kind of duplicity jump out at you (well, limp out).

Consider this noble sentiment:

“Fully conscious of the fact that no organisation is guaranteed eternal life and that future success is a result of the conscientious decisions taken by every generation, we are determined to move to the second centenary with a more rejuvenated organisation that is strategically positioned to continue to lead the people of our country and continent in their tireless and ceaseless quest for a better life in a just and more humane world.”

Now that would seem like a very democratic sentiment – any party lives or dies by the will of the voters, and so one should strive to meet their expectations. Indeed. Bravo.

But take away the hundreds of foreign dignitaries and heads of state, and what does Zuma really think about the ANC’s fortunes?

  • The ANC will rule South Africa until Jesus comes back.” [15.03.2004, Address to the Gauteng ANC special council at the Nasrec Expo Centre]
  • That is why we believe [the ANC] will be in power forever until the son of man comes back.” [27.10.2007, Delivering a tribute to Oliver Tambo in Kimberly]
  • God expects us to rule this country because we are the only organisation which was blessed by pastors when it was formed. It is even blessed in Heaven. That is why we will rule until Jesus comes back. We should not allow anyone to govern our city (Cape Town) when we are ruling the country.” [04.05.2008, Speech delivered at an ANC rally in Khayelitsha, Cape Town]

So much for no organisation being guaranteed eternal life – the voters appear to have only as much agency as Jesus will allow – and so much too for Zuma’s speech-making. They are opportunities not to explain to South Africa what he really thinks or believes, so much as an occasion to mask his real convictions.