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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09PRETORIA954
2009-05-12 08:51:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Pretoria
Cable title:  

PART 3 OF 3: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SOUTH AFRICA'S

Tags:   KDEM  PGOV  PREL  SF 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 PRETORIA 000954 

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PREL SF
SUBJECT: PART 3 OF 3: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SOUTH AFRICA'S
NEW PRESIDENT

PRETORIA 00000954 001.2 OF 004


-------
Summary
-------



1. (SBU) This is the third of three messages that aim to
reveal a comprehensive background picture of Jacob Zuma, the
President of the ruling African National Congress party
(ANC), who was inaugurated as the fourth post-apartheid
president of South Africa. The first message was released
before Zuma was inaugurated, and the last two will be
released following his ascendancy. End Summary.



--------------------------


Zuma Destined for Greatness


--------------------------





2. (SBU) The global emergence of the anti-apartheid and
disinvestment movements gained momentum in the 1970s and the
1980's, such that even the USG adopted a sanctions policy
against the apartheid regime. Under international
diplomatic, political, military, and economic pressure, the
SAG decided that apartheid was no longer sustainable.
Negotiations with Nelson Mandela, who was serving a life
sentence in Robben Island, opened the door for his release
from prison and the un-banning of the African National
Congress (ANC) and other opposition and anti-apartheid
political parties. When SAG President F.W. de Klerk
un-banned the ANC in 1990, Jacob Zuma, the ANC's Intelligence
and Security chief in exile, was one of the first high level
ANC operatives to return to South Africa. Zuma immediately
became involved in negotiations concerned with dismantling
apartheid laws and governance, facilitating the repatriation
of those in exile, as well as the release of all political
prisoners. It was between 1990 and 1994 that Zuma achieved
his most important success: negotiating an end to the spiral
of violence between the ANC and the Zulu-based Inkatha
Freedom Party (IFP) -- that believed in Zulu tradition and
primacy -- and resulted in thousands of politically-related
deaths. Zuma is likely the most prominent ANC Zulu
politician -- even eclipsing Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Moreover,
his own Zulu ethnicity and identity was a major asset,
convincing the Zulus of KwaZulu Natal to support the ANC's
leadership, the new ANC constitution, and reconciliation as
he urged a non-violent way for the opposing political
movements to communicate. Though sporadic outbreaks of
Zulu-ANC violence occurred up until 2009, the intensity,
frequency, and number of deaths have reduced to a very small
fraction compared to the early 1990s. This achievement
remains one of the most important bases for Zuma's stature,
popularity and support among the ANC rank and file.



3. (SBU) For the decades of his imprisonment, Mandela was
the most recognized icon of the ANC as well as a global
symbol of freedom, perseverance, and resistance to apartheid.
Upon his release, he led the ANC's efforts to create a

majority-based, multi-racial democratic system founded on a
progressive constitution based on democratic best practices
around the world. In the period before the end of apartheid
following the 1994 election which made Mandela the first
democratically-elected president of South Africa, Zuma was
appointed to key roles in the ANC and participated in their
political decisions and negotiations. In 1994, his
supporters say, he stepped aside so that Thabo Mbeki could
stand unopposed as Mandela's Deputy President. He had one
unsuccessful campaign to become the premier of KwaZulu Natal
Qunsuccessful campaign to become the premier of KwaZulu Natal
and in 1994 was appointed the Deputy Premier of that province
by his old comrade and sometimes adversary Thabo Mbeki.
Between 1994 and 1996, Zuma was KwaZulu Natal's provincial
chairman of the ANC as well as MEC for Economic Development
and Tourism. In 1996, he was re-elected as Chair of the ANC
in KwaZulu Natal and the same year became the ANC's National
Chairperson -- one of the top six jobs in the party.



4. (SBU) His highest office -- prior to his current status
as President-elect of South Africa following a vote in
Parliament on May 6, 2009 -- was ANC Deputy President and
Member of Parliament, as he served as Deputy State President
in the Mbeki Administration from 1999 to 2005. Upon
attaining the party Deputy Presidency, by tradition of
succession in the ANC, Zuma was believed to be Mbeki's heir
apparent, destined to succeed to the presidency in his time.
But there were bumps in the road. He served as an unofficial

PRETORIA 00000954 002.2 OF 004


peace mediator and diplomatic troubleshooter in the region
(Zimbabwe, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
and helped the ANC build a rapport with trade unions,
traditional leaders, and other political parties. Zuma
developed the reputation of being humble, charismatic, loyal,
hard-working, and committed to improving the lives of South
Africans. In 1999, based on this profile, he was appointed
Deputy President of the ANC and became the Deputy President
of South Africa in the first Mbeki administration. He was
dismissed by Mbeki as SAG Deputy President in 2005 as a
result of being implicated in the corruption trial of his
friend and financial advisor Schabir Shaik. In 2006, he was
charged with rape of a family friend, but was acquitted.
Following Shaik's conviction of bribing Zuma for personal
gain, Zuma was indicted and charged with multiple counts of
corruption, accepting bribes, tax evasion, and money
laundering.



5. (SBU) Zuma's rise to the pinnacle of South African
politics at the same time that serious questions about his
character were headline news is an astonishing political
achievement in itself. Zuma is known as a populist whose
rise occurred in partnership with leftist constituencies in
the ANC. Despite criminal allegations against him, he
remained popular in the party, unlike Mbeki who came to be
hated. Zuma is particularly popular among Zulu ethnic and
Youth Leagues; their defense of him claims he has served the
people well, there are others worse than him, and he is much
better than Mbeki. Some of his most ardent supporters
promised to kill and die for him while others threatened that
if Zuma were to be convicted, "blood would flow" and they
would make the country "ungovernable." To them, Zuma had a
"right" to be president. Mbeki believed that a Zuma
presidency would be a disaster for South Africa and would
split the ANC. Zuma's supporters counter-claimed that Mbeki
was a disaster for the poor and he was the one splitting the
party, creating a strong presidency that acted without
reference to party instruction. In 2007, well after the
conviction of his friend Shaik for bribery and corruption,
Zuma was also indicted for having a corrupt relationship with
Shaik. The charges were set aside in September 2008 due to
lack of preparedness by the prosecutors to proceed with the
case.



6. (SBU) Despite Mbeki's intellect and experience as well as
his apparent success as a leader, politician, and diplomat,
Zuma out-maneuvered him by manipulating the party base
through the district offices and portraying himself as the
victim via the image-making machinery of the ANC. Pundits
thought Mbeki was the smartest and most effective political
leader of his generation, but on December 17, 2007 in
Polokwane, Limpopo, the ANC declared Zuma the clear favorite,
beginning Mbeki's surprising slide into political obscurity.
Days following his election, corruption charges were re-filed
against Zuma, causing a leadership crisis in the ANC that was
only resolved in September 2008 when the Zuma-led NEC forced
Mbeki to resign as President of South Africa -- a deliberate
act of triumphant revenge just eight months short of the end
of his second five year term. Kgalema Motlanthe (septel),
Qof his second five year term. Kgalema Motlanthe (septel),
the ANC Deputy President, was sworn in as South Africa's
third post-apartheid president, but his seven month tenure
was purposefully that of a care-taker, marking time until the
president in waiting took office.



7. (SBU) Following a year-and-a-half of controversial high
profile court challenges, appeals, and counter-suits, all
charges against Zuma were dropped only weeks before the
election in April 2009. His supporters' adoration only grew
as his detractors characterized him as an unlettered and
corrupt buffoon surrounded by crass and intimidating
socialist sycophants. Zuma loyalists ignored critiques that
he is a charismatic populist and political chameleon who
tells each audience exactly what they want to hear, that he
is a man without his own vision or policy center. His
supporters understand that Zuma has one over-riding policy --
loyalty to the ANC and improving the lives of the rural poor
above all else.



--------------------------


Keys To Zuma's Personality


--------------------------




PRETORIA 00000954 003.2 OF 004




8. (SBU) Zuma has clearly weathered numerous storms during
recent years and he used several tactics of political
survival that give clues to his personality and leadership
style. First, he used the power of persuasion to build
strong alliances. Faced with enormous challenges to his
political career, Zuma built a strong support team and pulled
his family close to him. He also relied heavily on his
contacts in KwaZulu Natal Second, he leveraged on the
infrastructure and networks of his friends. The perceived
political conspiracy against Zuma became a reality in the
minds of many South Africans -- including Pietermaritzburg
High Court Judge Chris Nicholson -- and this triggered a
groundswell of sympathy for him. The ANC Youth League, the
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and the
South African Communist Party (SACP) gave him a political
platform to express his views. He also worked closely with
business people who had local and international networks.
They extended their influence so he could counter the
negative images that his adversaries had built of him.
Third, he remained focused on key tasks. Throughout the
political crisis he faced after Mbeki fired him, Zuma focused
on his oft-repeated assertion that he was innocent and that
he was the victim of a systematic abuse of power. Fourth,
Zuma understood that the main thrust of the political
conspiracy would have been to remove him from the ANC, and
the ANC from him. His best response would be to live the
values of the ANC throughout the crisis period, and become
the epitome of an ANC cadre -- which he did. He built
extensive relationships in Parliament and with ANC branches
across the country. As he began to live the values of the
ANC, the ruling party found it more difficult to distance
itself from him.



9. (SBU) Fifth, Zuma delegated effectively while never
abandoning his responsibilities. Zuma is outstanding at
delegating jobs to those around him. According to those
closest to Zuma, "his demeanor in the face of adversity
helped to create a positive atmosphere inside his war-rooms."
Sixth, he always maintained the moral high ground and
remained authentic throughout. No matter how hard detractors
tried to break his spirit by name-calling and leaking
information, Zuma never lost his composure. In the midst of
his toughest times, Zuma visited his working-class supporters
and the unemployed. Seventh, he improvised his communication
methods -- and found success doing so. When he realized that
much of the media in South Africa was against him becoming
the next leader, he resorted to positive imagery. He became
the dignified underdog, and he painted those against him as
shameless bullies and cowards. Last, Zuma used smart
aggression as a tool to wear down his opponents. Throughout
the most difficult times of the past few years, Zuma came
across as reluctant to draw first blood, only displaying
subtle determination to take the fight to his aggressors.
This is consistent with a leader that is aware of his own
strengths -- smart power.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





10. (SBU) As Zuma's presidency begins, many outstanding
questions remain about his government and his policies. His
close association with the ideological left of the ANC
Qclose association with the ideological left of the ANC
alliance has raised some worries about the impact on economic
policy by close Zuma allies in the SACP and COSATU. He has
reassured investors their assets will be secure under his
administration, but has also called for the redistribution of
wealth in the interests of the poor. The ANC has led the
world to expect a more intimate intertwining of the ruling
party and the state as well as a deployment of public
officials whose standard of conduct and effectiveness will be
their loyalty to Zuma and the ANC and their willingness to
carry out ANC policies. With a relatively weak opposition
but respected courts and activist civil society, there is
optimism that a Zuma administration will, at worst, muddle
through. There are many top performers in the ANC, and the
ANC tradition of collective decision-making will define the
policy context of the Zuma administration. One can only
guess how South Africa will evolve under a Zuma presidency --
which he promises will only be for one term. South Africans
have suffered many more and greater tragedies than an elected
government with a near two-thirds majority. It is trite to

PRETORIA 00000954 004.2 OF 004


say, but "time will tell." In this case, such a statement
rings true for South Africa in 2009.
LA LIME