Bruce’s List: A daily guide to informed reads.
President Jacob Zuma was in China recently, and he rather recklessly decided to accept an invitation to appear on the Chinese TV interview programme, World Insight, with a very experienced interviewer, Tian Wei. Zuma made a few basic mistakes. The first was to accept the invitation. He is simply not able to hold an English conversation on, say, aspects of industrialisation at any length. Having had to learn a few languages in my time I don’t judge him. Much as I might understand what is being said to me in German or Spanish, I would never try to do a top-flight TV interview in either of them. The second mistake was made by his staff, if indeed he had any with him. While Tian Wei looked poised and graceful throughout the interview, Zuma looked slightly insane, his hands covering his face much of the time he was talking.
I think it was deliberate. I remember when the BBC interviewed Prime Minister John Vorster at the height of apartheid nearly 50 years ago. Vorster was a very short man and the BBC put him in a huge winged chair that not only dwarfed him but he also had no place to rest his elbows. He kept trying to put his right elbow on the wing but it would just slide down again. The effect was hilarious.
What was done to Zuma was possibly intended to belittle him too. The camera angle on him was so poor it cannot possibly have been a mistake. Read the transcript below or watch the video. I warn you, it is excruciating. Tian Wei has been around and knows what she is doing. Here she conducts a gently negative interview with a politician who doesn’t realise what she is doing.
Here is a particularly enlightening bit, where she refers to the ANC as a “once-great” party and Zuma actually seems to agree with her! Perhaps he knows in his heart that the party is headed for defeat and at best a coalition government after the 2019 general election:
Tian Wei: What do you make of these dramatic changes when it comes to the demands of qualities of political leadership?
Zuma: Well, SA is a democratic country — it is just 20 years old. The experience is very clear: any former national liberation movement in 20 years, there are challenges politically that challenge the political party. What becomes important: how is that party responding to those challenges? That is important. I don’t think the ANC is different from other formal political parties. What is important [is] that the party must understand what is happening and it must say what do we do to deal with this.
For example, 20 years in SA: it means democracy has matured and people generally are beginning to make the choices having thought in the one form the other and it means ... for an example for the first time in SA, we have just gone through the local government elections, wherein people have made their choices and we’ve had three metros at the big [??] that they were tying for the first time. And then there’s been an introduction of a new element of coalitions, because there is no one party that could rule without talking to smaller parties. so that’s a new element that is coming, that even small parties can now determine which direction a metro goes, or a municipality goes. That is a new kind of politics.
Tian Wei: What does that mean for the used-to-be major party?
Zuma: ANC used to be a major party, it means we have reached a point where democracy is now taking another kind of turn. The ANC then has to say, how do we handle this situation as a big party in the question of coalitions. We must now begin to plan and factor in the issue of coalitions when we go for elections — that’s what it is all about. And this is a maturing of democracy and that’s what it is.
If you look at old democracies they don’t have too many parties because they’ve been there for a while, and parties have been sort of shrinking into either two or three. So it is a process of the democratic process that we are now 20 years and therefore the politics, if you talk about winning elections, are beginning to introduce a coalition factor, which has not been a factor before.
Ah, such insight. Anyway here is the full package, video and transcript, courtesy of The Citizen: Zuma embarrasses himself and SA on Chinese TV
Meanwhile, I am not sure if this piece made the print edition of Business Day on Friday. But finance minister Pravin Gordhan revealed some details of treasury’s contacts with the Gupta family after the big four SA banks stopped doing business with them. Linda Ensor has written a great report on it. The message to the Guptas is that if they think they’ve been treated unfairly they should take the banks to court. The Guptas have the money to do that, sure, but do they have the courage? I doubt it: Oakbay CEO asked me to intervene in banks dispute, says Pravin Gordhan
I’m sorry also to have to make you a little sick this morning with this story about SAA chair Dudu Myeni’s son, Thalente. He appears to have made himself a tidy sum out of briefly becoming an empowerment partner of Alstom in a large trains order for Prasa and then selling his stake without a train being built. The interesting thing about Thalente is that he appears to live in a house owned by Jacob Zuma in Forest Town, a neat little suburb in Johannesburg, along with one of Zuma’s sons. I remember rumours years ago about Zuma and Dudu Myeni having had a child. It’s none of my business, I know, but when people are bound together in public life because they have shared an undeclared love in private then it matters. What struck me about the report was that the company that bought this young fellow’s shares was EOH, whose chairman is well-known businessman Sandile Zungu. Zungu has stayed close to Zuma for a long time. He is also a leading light in the Black Business Council, which recently met Zuma and begged him to remain in office despite the calls from inside his party to go. Was Zungu asked to help the president, and put some money in Dudu’s son’s pocket? Why not, you might ask? It wasn’t a lot and EOH now has a stake in it. Does it help to get rid of Myeni at SAA in any way? Whatever the case, it looks a lot to me like Zuma is packing to leave, getting things wrapped up. Still, it smells really bad: Exclusive — Myeni and co's R16m Prasa 'freebie'
And finally, just to cheer you up after all that, we all know that Serena Williams is, like, the biggest thing in women’s tennis, right? Wrong, or possibly wrong. I was thrilled to come across a wonderful piece of sports writing from The New Yorker magazine about the world’s number one women’s doubles player. She’s Indian and a Muslim. Close to 20m people follow her on social media. You will, I promise, enjoy this wonderful read: Sania Mirza's unlikely stardom