South Africans’ hope that their country would become powerful politically, economically and internationally failed to materialize under Preident Jacob Zuma.
Zuma resigned on Jan. 14, following years of political ruptures and corruption accusations.
Raissa Kanku, a student of politics and government as well as international studies at Ohio Wesleyan University, spoke Friday about the fragility of democracy in South Africa at the third of eight Great Decisions sessions. Kanku, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, discussed the contentious reign of Zuma in post-apartheid South Africa.
Zuma is a Zulu, the predominant South African tribe, and was a former prisoner with the late Nelson Mandela, the country’s first president after the end of apartheid. Zuma became leader of the African National Congress (ANC) in December 2007 and the country’s president in 2009. But he did not live up to the country’s expectations, Kanku said.
Zuma was elected with the hope of making a powerful South Africa and successful ANC. Kanku said Zuma’s middle name, Gedleyihlekisa, means, “I laugh at you as I destroy you.”
“Eventually, when he got into power, he crashed it all down,” Kanku said. “Where’s the same guy that we saw before he was president?”
But Zuma faced about 789 counts of corruption before he became president, Kanku said. So perhaps the hope of his followers was misdirected.
A woman claimed Zuma had raped her, but courts cleared him. Later, the woman’s claims were found to be true.
During Zuma’s reign, South Africa’s GDP fell and unemployment rose, school fees increased, labor strikes affected businesses and unrest across the country grew.
Following the discussion of Zuma’s reign, Kanku answered questions from attendees on contemporary South African culture and continuing political struggles.
“I was very informed today,” said Delaware resident Stephanie Smith. “I knew nothing about South Africa, so I’ve learned a lot.”
“I thought the questions were informative; she was good at answering them,” said Dianne Almendinger, a Delaware resident.
“I think it was very interesting to hear people’s questions, especially people interested in the idea of race in South Africa today after apartheid and how much it has grown compared to the U.S.,” Kanku said after her presentation.
The free lecture series continues every Friday at noon in the Fellowship Hall of William Street United Methodist Church, 28 W. William St.
Retired Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich will address “U.S. Global Engagement and the Military” on Feb. 23.