Duduzane Zuma: Vociferously “pro-business” – the fix SA desperately needs

Former SA president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane is jumping into the political fray with a novel message for one from a hard-boiled ANC household – it’s business, not politics, that holds the key to a successful  South Africa. Zuma Jr – who has formed his own party All Game Changers (AGC) – says business people should be protected and allowed to “throw their money where they want to”. In this interview with BizNews, the one-time Gupta associate preaches re-industrialisation, infrastructure development  and regaining investor confidence; and explains why he did not join MK, his father’s new political party. He spoke to Chris Steyn of BizNews.

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:26 – Why try a party?
    00:59 – Tell us about AGC
  • 01:58 – How’s the campaign been?
  • 02:59 – Why not join Mk?
  • 07:38 – Do you the think the damage of the ANC can be fixed?
  •  10:15 – What would you do to fix the economy?
  • 17:07 – Are international investors willing to come back?
    19:22 – Words of hope for the poor
  • 21:50 – Conclusion

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Highlights from the interview

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Duduzane Zuma says South Africa needs a “commercial” – rather than a political – “economic fix” because there is a lack of political will to deal with the issues.

Zuma Jr – who has formed his own party All Game Changers (AGC)  – says business people should be protected – and given an opportunity to “throw their money where they want to”.

In this interview with BizNews, Zuma Jr speaks about the need for reindustrialisation, infrastructure development – and regaining investor confidence.  

“If we don’t get this right in the next three to five years, it’s going to determine the trajectory of this country for the next 50 to 100 years…we are definitely at a nexus…at a point where a whole lot is going to change within the political landscape. Let’s not be the people that just wait around to pick up the pieces…And let’s not let South Africa fall apart.”

Speaking from Durban, Zuma details the service delivery issues that has hit the provincial economy so hard – and says: “Let the private individuals that can sort this problem out, sort it out.” 

He also explains why he did not join MK, the new political party of his father, former President Jacob Zuma.

What should be done to fix the economy of South Africa:

“The first thing I’d do is get rid of a whole host of people that are dead weight in Project South Africa. It would be in the government space and you know it’s no secret: just turn into Parliamentary TV, I think you’ll have a good idea of who needs to go better than I do and other people that pop up and say all sorts of crazy things on all sides. So, getting rid of dead weight would definitely be up on the list and the priority would be reindustrialization. Unless we reindustrialize this country, unless we get manufacturing going, unless we get mines operating at an optimal level, unless we get our education system that is relevant to the opportunities that are created by our the biggest contributors to our GDP, which would be the mining, agricultural, manufacturing, tourism sectors, then we’re going nowhere.  

“There’s no other way to create jobs but to have a level of investment. In order to get the level of investment right. Then people interested in ploughing money into our country, whether it’s foreign or local business people, the business people need to be protected. They need to be given an opportunity to throw their money where they want to throw it. They need to be given the playing field to do so and not be stressed out and worried about all sorts of issues that we’ve seen. 

“We’ve seen labour issues. We understand that the workers need to be protected, but at some point there’s a limit. We cannot roughshod people. Like I’m saying, I speak from experience. I am a businessman. I’ve operated in multiple sectors and I have the same experiences as people that have packed up and left because of their businesses being shaken down by business forums. You’ve seen what’s happening in the construction mafia space. So that’s sort of instilling confidence in investors and getting the investor sentiment right in this country. 

“And then from the re-industrialization perspective, it’s definitely tied into infrastructure development. Once again, Blue Collar, it’s its working class, it’s getting the masses who ordinarily do not have opportunities to sit in boardrooms and courtrooms and in places of deal making, but just want to get up, go to a place of work, earn their keep, feed their families. That’s the main focus, getting those people on the ground employed, people…willing to apply their trades with their hands. So artisans and those sorts of apprentices that we’ve had historically, I think we’re introducing those sorts of elements back into our society at an early level. 

“Because if we have a shaky infrastructure, which we’re seeing developing in many parts of the country, there is no economy because infrastructure speaks: it speaks to rail, it speaks to ports, it speaks to electricity. These are GDP multipliers. Without having those areas checked and running at full steam, nothing will happen. If our roads are not working, that is industry gone. Whether it’s transportation of people, transportation of goods, that goes for rail as well. We’ve seen the backlog in Durban Harbour. 

“We have to get our economy right. The focus should be a commercial economic fix to South Africa, not a political one. And the reason why we’re getting involved is because we understand there’s clearly the lack of political will to deal with these issues.”

Why he didn’t join MK, the new party lead by his father former President Jacob Zuma:

“Look, I’m my own man. That’s as simple as that. There’s a huge misconception out there that whatever he says, whatever he does, I’m automatically attributed to his thoughts, his opinions and his movements, which is the furthest thing from the truth. 

“As much as there are similarities in thought process and understanding of the situation, there are definitely a whole lot of differences in the way we approach certain problems and conversations as well as the implementation part.

“I’m a believer in chartering my own path. I’ve done so my whole life. I’m a firm believer in startups and starting something new, starting something fresh. I’ve done that in business. I’m here to do it in politics. You know, we’re not taking the easy route as many people have falsely believed that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, which is the furthest thing from the truth. So we’ve started something new, something fresh, at the risk of being alienated by the masses, as people would say. But we’re speaking our truths. Our messaging is very clear. You look at our manifesto, it’s completely different to what people would expect. It’s not for rebel rousing. It’s not for causing talking points. These are facts. This is the way we see the situation and what the solution should be for the future of this country. 

“So I haven’t joined any other political formation purely because I don’t feel they are representing the complete community of South Africa. “

What makes his All Game Changers (ACG) party different:

“What makes it different is firstly, it doesn’t incorporate any of the historic ties. It’s not trying to fit into just one mould of what a political construct would be…it’s a movement that…is inclusive of everybody regardless of race, creed, culture, traditional practices, religion…

“This is something that people have to get involved in, people that want to make a difference. So hence the name, Game Changers, because to change a game is to change a system of what’s happening in our country, the status quo economically and politically, whatever that means to the person that wants to make the difference, as long as it’s beneficial to the country.

“We’re here to work with people. We’re not here to win people over. We’re not the traditional politician that’s going to do the song and dance, is going to stand on the soapbox and say all sorts of weird and wonderful things…we’re practical people. If you look at what it is that we do, it’s always from a pragmatic perspective. We’re on the ground, we interact, we work with communities at all levels. And I think that’s what differentiates us from everyone else. We’re not afraid to get our hands dirty….

“…our mission is to change the mindset of the South African citizen, how we engage each other, the conversations we have, the narratives that are driven from outside, the level of respect which is down in the dumps, we need to raise it for each other, the level of discipline within society, whether it be the people of the country, whether it be our law enforcement agencies, our judiciary, our parliament, we need have a whole lot more respect for each other, how we address each other.”

The service delivery crisis in Durban:

“It’s unacceptable that we have varying issues. I’m sitting in Durban right now and my view right now is the Durban ocean and harbour to my right….there’s…water supply issues in affluent areas…in leafy suburbs, where people wouldn’t expect these issues to happen. The ordinary South African would expect to drive through the township or the rural area and see these visuals, and we’re seeing it right on our doorstep.

“So that tells us that there is an issue, you know, as much as people want to fingerpoint, let’s stop the fingerpoint to understand what the issues are: we understand the roles and responsibilities and the people that haven’t performed and haven’t been held accountable. And that’s one of our main focuses. And that’s why I say the first thing that we do is get rid of people: are there people that haven’t been held accountable that need to be held accountable?

“We cannot have a situation two years later where in Durban, for example, the tourism trade has taken a massive dip and this is one of the places in the country that’s faced these issues. We’ve had sewage treatment plants that haven’t been working. So you’ve had two Decembers where people have lost out on income because a simple problem hasn’t been resolved. 

“If government is having an issue, if it’s budget, if it’s a backlog of inventory and whatever it is that they’re putting up as reasons or excuses, it’s private sector that’s there. Let the private individuals that can sort this problem out, sort it out. And if it means that people with capacity are able to run that plant on behalf of the state, then so be it. It’s not good enough having these excuses and everyone else is suffering.”

Closer ties between private players and the State:

“If there’s a stop gap measure and if it’s a private stop gap measure, then so be it. And then I feel like a lot of these issues will be resolved by a closer understanding between private players and the state. 

“But more importantly, the state is opening up a bit more space and room for private players to do what they need to do, make whatever money they need to make. Obviously not at a greedy pace…”

Are big investors and expats willing to return? 

“The reason they left was mainly because of safety and security. Safety and security is up there in the discussion and then corruption as well. And the experience with how a system is being corrupted and that’s why there’s this lack of service delivery and and and… So my response to that would be most definitely as long as there is advice to get to investment grade and to get to a place where investors feel like this is home. 

“We have to get our crime completely, completely down. Will crime ever disappear totally? That’s up for debate. I don’t think so. But I think that the issue we have here is not a petty crime issue, it’s serious and violent crimes. A lot of people are losing their lives and it’s unacceptable. So unless we sort out the issue of criminality in this country, which links to our law enforcement, our judiciary, and how slow the wheels of justice turn, they’re definitely not going to come back. 

“If we don’t get this right in the next three to five years, you know, it’s going to determine the trajectory of this country for the next 50 to 100 years. We have to get it right now. We don’t have a choice.”

A Welfare State not being the answer:

“…you look at some of the policies and the economic framework, you look at some of our issues in the Constitution, there’s one or two points that need to be tweaked…it’s not a negative thing, (but) unless we tweak these points and then we give people a level playing field, it’s not going to work. So leveling the playing field and saying to the poorest of the poor, the middle class, whoever it is, opportunities will be there. If you’re up for grabbing the opportunities, you will do so. And if you’re a lazy bugger, you’re going to sit in the background and fall by the wayside. That’s your problem. But we’re not going to be here. We’re not promising handouts. We’re not here to put people on welfare because I don’t believe that’s the right thing to do. 

“Are people in a desperate state? Yes. Do people need support? Yes. Do the ones who need support, should they be getting support? Yes. That’s the old frail disabled individual out there that would not be able to apply their trade or to earn an income. But there are a lot of able-bodied people that are just sitting on street corners waiting to receive. That’s not going to happen. We’re not here to build a welfare state. We’re here to build a state of capable people, of go-getters, of people that are going to build this country brick by brick.”

South Africa at the nexus:

“I think we are definitely at a nexus. We are at a point where a whole lot is going to change within the political landscape. Let’s not be the people that just wait around to pick up the pieces. Let’s not let this situation overtake us. And let’s not let South Africa fall apart.”

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