South African President Jacob Zuma has once again outraged the people of the African Continent. “We can’t think like Africans, in Africa, generally. We are in Johannesburg, this is Johannesburg. It’s not some national road in Malawi,” Zuma said. He was addressing a meeting of the Gauteng Manifesto Forum at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg on E-tolls, among other matters.
His arrogant statement has caused widespread outrage and promptly spiked a ripple effect on the social media sites, including Twitter.
Public reactions range from hilarious to serious concern. People are angry and not only black people but many whites are referring to this comment as calling all South Africans ignorant. One of the comments stated that had a white person uttered those words, it would be considered racist and cause an uproar. How true that is.
The younger educated generation seem angry with Zuma for referring to them as ignorant and emphatically stated they were not stupid. Scores of people are requesting the presidency to scrap the E-tolling project. This additional tax system will generate a greater degree of poverty for millions of people who cannot afford to pay more.
Zuma said in his speech that if people could afford a car they could pay the E toll tax and if not they should use public transport. That comment is inappropriate; the president has no idea how pathetic the public transport system actually is.
There are a few buses with drivers always on strike, they never arrive on time, and many areas do not have buses. The train monopoly is unusable, besides the continued strikes and the persistent delays, these carriages are a health hazard. The filth and stench would certainly create further problems. The only reliable public transport is the infamous Gautrain, and it is also subject to delays, strikes and overcrowding.
The other option would be to use the Mini Taxi’s and that would be like taking a death ride. The taxis are not roadworthy, most drivers have fabricated licenses, they are always overcrowded, and they drive like hooligans. The road accidents involving these taxi’s are high. Zuma perhaps should attempt to address the public transport issue before trying to create additional revenue from the already heavily taxed system implemented in South Africa. The taxes paid by the citizens are high, and there are virtually no public services available.
This is such a classic racist comment from the top man of the country. The ruling government party, the ANC, supports Zuma. Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said Zuma’s statement has been “taken out of context” and “blown out of proportion” by the media. The statements were made in the broader context of South Africa “achieving more” in the past 19 years of freedom and democracy.
Spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said in a statement that the ANC “welcomes the role played by traditional and social media in our national discourse,” and adds that those who have such opinions should express them “with the intention of promoting fair and balanced reporting, a call we believe would not have arisen had the president’s comments been placed in context.”
The opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on the president to retract his statement.
Only in South Africa can the president utter such undermining, harmful and downright stupid comments. The government is still determined to blame the media for taking the president’s words and turning it into a national scandal. It is a dishonest attempt by the government to condemn the media when they have a transcript of the recorded speech. Such a statement can only be summarized by counter-stating that Zuma is talking like an African!
Commentary by Laura Oneale