Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

24 June 2013

South Africa: Zuma, Mbeki, and the Shifting Sands of Public Perception

analysis

Once upon a time, a people detested their president, believing he was too aloof, too disconnected, too scholarly, too proud to admit his mistakes and impervious of criticism. Five years after dispensing with him, the people detested their new president, believing he is too weak, too corruptible, too backward, contemptuous of the Constitution and lacking the faculty to run the country.

And suddenly the other guy they dispensed with started to look like the messiah again. Perhaps everyone is destined to look flawed after Nelson Mandela, or perhaps the presidency is like coaching Bafana Bafana - you really cannot win. Or maybe South Africans keep getting the president they deserve.

In the 1995 movie The American President, starring Michael Douglas as Andrew Shepherd, a fictional president of the United States, the plot builds to a heated dialogue between him and White House aide Lewis Rothschild, played by Michael J Fox.

Rothschild: "People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll...

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