Jacob Zuma’s grasp of the world beggars belief for someone charged with the responsibility of leading a complex, modern economy. But during most of his period as South Africa’s President, the former goat herder has been inscrutably restrained in public. Until Wednesday evening that is, when fresh from his personal triumph of firing a globally respected Finance Minister, Zuma threw away the script of the speech prepared for delivery to billionaire Patrice Motsepe and around 50 of his friends who had attended a business conference in Johannesburg earlier in the day. The SABC’s cameras, slavishly following their master’s every move, were there to record for posterity the ad-libbing Zuma. What emerged ain’t pretty. We learn much of the man’s cerebral quality by watching him trot out rubbish as reality, witness “All other continents can fit into Africa.” But it’s what follows that shows us how embarrassingly far out of his depth this man is. Read through the transcript and you’ll wonder how a country can be led by a man so detached from the real world. For instance, how can you take someone seriously when they claim prices are not determined by supply and demand. Or that the French are behind his ex-wife’s problems at the African Union. That’s just for starters. Why has nobody whispered to Zuma that he is embarrassing himself and everyone within earshot? Perhaps it’s for the same reason ZANU PF members wouldn’t interrupt their 91 year old President-for-Llfe Robert Mugabe at the opening of Zimbabwe’s parliament earlier this year – where he alone didn’t realise he was reading an old speech. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And when you have absolute power, friends are rewarded with largesse and those with different perspectives simply not tolerated. Even when they are patently correct. Even when all the evidence shows you are wrong. The kings of yore enjoyed such power. Elected officials do not. On the strength of this speech alone, surely his Rubicon, Zuma’s “recall” by the ANC must be imminent. If not, heaven help South Africa. – Alec Hogg
Transcript of President Jacob Zuma’s ad-libbed speech after firing Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene
Thank you. Thank you very much, Director of the program. Professor Patrick Mtomi and other partners from across the continent, Mr Patrice Motsepe and other business leaders present here, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentleman: thank you very much for the opportunity to come here.
I must apologise that I’m late. The kind of work I do…there is no time to clock in and clock out. You work 24/7 and there are things that you cannot postpone. Normally people would always say, “These people think they are big. They want to come when everybody’s there so that some of these people clap hands, etcetera.” Not at all. In fact, when you clap hands we get very shy. We want to hide. Thank you very much indeed.
Let me say something as a child of this continent because I think it is important. I generally have a passion about things that I know will succeed. I am very resilient as well and I can persist partly because of the story of Africa – the Africans in particular. It’s a complex, painful story.
This continent is the biggest continent in the world, not separated by a river. The rivers that are there flow with the continent. They don’t cut it in half or quarter.
All continents together would fit into Africa.
Those who know things say that human beings originated from this continent and went away in different directions. Some claim civilisation started here.
Recently, I got to know that one of the contributors in the Bible – Paul – is an African who born in the Sudan and wrote his part in the bible when he was in Turkey.
There are many stories which, because of our history, we have not told. I feel very strongly about Africa and the Africans. I did so when I was a young man because all the challenges of the world have faced the black person. Leaving aside the period when they were no differences among people, except perhaps for where they came from etcetera. If you take the period of slaves, for some reason the bulk of slaves came from Africa. They were sold as commodities and were subjected to very harsh conditions. Many died on the way and things that have been done to us are beyond any description.
I always advise Africans that if you’re an African, you have not gone to the countries in the continent where slaves were sold, where they departed from Africa against their will, and leaving Africa forever. We have not seen Africans. We don’t know Africans. You can talk about them. You can theorise about them but if you haven’t seen them and gotten the story about what happened…
Part of the painful stories that some Africans were selling other Africans: it was not only sold by those who are not Africans. It was the harshest system that impacted on us more than anybody else and because economy is an important thing, that free labour of the slaves made a major contribution to the economy of other people.
Well Africans were finally colonised. A group of people from Europe met in Germany and discussed Africa without Africans, took a decision to divide Africa among themselves and said, “Let us not fight. Africa is big enough. You’ll have your own piece and do whatever you want.” They came to Africa and divided Africa into many, many parts. When they came… With the slaves, I’m told that before they left Africa, they were made – whilst they were in Africa – to forget where they come from.
When they were gone, the home – even if they were homesick – they knew it was something they’d never see again and many never saw it again. Well, slavery was fought and abolished, finally but decisions had been taken, i.e. “Let us go and colonise Africa” so if you talk about slavery, we carried the biggest burden of it and sacrificed our lives – our everything.
Wits University Vice Chancellor Adam Habib has called on the ANC to recall President Jacob Zuma.
— SAfm news (@SAfmnews) December 11, 2015
Then when we were colonised, colonialists wanted to change us from what we were in Africa to almost look after their own image. They turned us, made us hate ourselves, hate our way of life, hate everything, and wish to be them. Finally, we decided, “What then would happen with colonialism?” The land was taken away. The political power was taken away. The economic power was taken away. The social being was undermined. We just remained, almost like articles of commerce. That’s us in the main.
We decided to fight for our freedom, to free ourselves from oppression. A process that was very difficult, starting it from wherever it was started. It has taken a long time indeed, for us to begin to appreciate that being an African is not a curse. We’re all made by God in His image, irrespective of colour and began a struggle fight against wrong tendencies that are done by others, to others and said, “Let us be free. Let Africa be decolonised.”
Colonised by different countries. If you’re in South Africa and you were able to be educated very little (Standard 6), you were then a better African. You were then exempted from the laws of that government – the natives – and would be given a different identity. That gives you some little privileges. If you were in Portuguese economies and get Standard 6, you will then be recognised – they use a different language ‘asimilado’.
You were assimilated and the French became even cleverer than others, partly because they learned from the first country that became a country of black people when they were defeated. They learned to deepen this kind of tendency to make us like the British – like everybody else. Those who were colonised by the Portuguese were made to believe their capital was Lisbon. Every weekend they go there to come back to Africa.
Those who were oppressed by England – London was their capital. We down here, those who were colonised by the French, Paris [language 18:54] but we decided to fight – to free ourselves. In other words, to bring back political power (freedom). We have talked about political power more than anything. What I wanted to say…why I’m giving this background is because I always say, “If you’re an African, know where you come from” so that you know why we are here, why we are in this position, and what you need to do to make yourself an African who is full and isn’t running short of anything.
— Leandri J van Vuuren (@Lean3JvV) December 10, 2015
At a young age, I decided to join the struggle and took a decision that I’ll fight. If I die, it’s just hard luck but I’ll fight to liberate our country. Many things have happened and in the course of the struggle, those who were struggling went through another difficult period. They were seen as rebellious Africans who needed to be dealt with in a different way. You were either burned or not allowed to speak. If you’re a bad influence as leaders or if you belonged to organisations, your organisations would be banned by others. Not in other countries. Areas were different. Where colonialists were just administrators, it was better than where they decided to be a part of and settle.
Then, if you don’t listen you’ll be arrested and tortured badly. In the process, if you’re not lucky you’ll be tortured to death. It was not an issue. I’m sure you must have all heard about a man, called Biko. He became more known than many who were tortured to death. I’m just making an example. Your life was not worth anything. Or, you’d be sent to prison and spend many years. I’m sure we’ve heard about some young man, called Nelson Mandela who finished 27 years in prison. The issue was that we were fighting for freedom.
What was important? It was the need for us to know why we were fighting to liberate ourselves because if you did not know, many of us made a lot of mistakes if we did not appreciate what it means. We were likely to develop a particular behaviour that makes you angry, that will cause you to be full of revenge, that instead of solving the problem you will create more problems.
48 hrs into the question of Nene's removal, ANC has not given an adequate explanation to the country: it's clear they'v lost control of Zuma
— Mbuyiseni Ndlozi (@MbuyiseniNdlozi) December 11, 2015
You needed to be clearer about where you were going and why you were fighting. At a given stage, a need came that we ought to define what it is that we’re talking about if we talk about freedom. Freedom. What is freedom? If you didn’t understand what freedom was all about, you’d not be able (after gaining it) to defend it because you would not have understand fully the importance of freedom and what constitutes freedom. I’m giving this background because I always appreciate if we all understand who we are and what we need to do. If the understanding is limited as it has happened in history, those that you’ll call your enemies can divide you and use some of us against us in many ways. In the past, there used to be very crude methods. Today, it would be very sophisticated methods.
You would not even know that you are playing a role to help those who are not your friends. Maybe one day we’ll have more time to talk about us. I love talking about Africans because I love Africans. I always feel bad if Africans don’t understand themselves. One of the things that makes me (in this country) feel very agitated is when I realise we don’t realise who we are. We don’t realise what we have – this thing we call freedom. We don’t value it. We don’t even understand that we have not got complete freedom. We’ve just abandoned the struggle, so to speak.
Its one thing I always say to my close friends. “When I die, one thing that will cause me to be a spook will be what the Africans have done – to fail to understand themselves.” You can’t call them and talk to them. It’s very difficult. For example, we are made at time to hate one another. At times, we are used to actually fight one another to please other people who have no problem and no feelings about us.
If we are not clear where we are going and who we are, we are likely to suffer for many, many decades to come – if not sanctuaries. I’m a politician and therefore, don’t worry. I’m not talking about commodities, what it determines, the value of a commodity, and then the answer will be ‘it’s the law of supply and demand’. That’s not my business.
For example, we are made at times to hate one another. At times, we are used to actually, fight one another, to please other people, who have no problem and no feelings about us. If we are not clear, where we are going and who we are, we are likely to suffer for many decades to come, if not Centuries. I’m a politician, and therefore don’t worry about that. I’m not talking about commodities, what it determines, the value of a commodity and then the answer will be ‘it’s the law of supply demand’. That’s not my business.
That’s not my business because I’m not a businessperson. When I retire, I might because I think there is a bigger struggle to fight, to liberate ourselves, economically. Even that definition I’m talking about, you said there are professors here. Even that definition – I rebelled against it that what determines the value of a commodity is the law of supply and demand. [Lang 0:02:05.3]. I define it differently, the value of a commodity. It is the necessary labour time, taking in the production of the commodity. That is what determines the value. I’m making these remarks deliberately because it’s important to understand ourselves fully. Not half or just a quarter – I’m an African. It’s important. We fought for our freedom throughout Africa and we got it. We have democracy.
We got the vote, we voted, and it satisfied what you could call a political power. We have got the political power. Freedom, politically, without the economic freedom – it’s not a full freedom. It’s not. You can have your political power and have no economic power. We are useless. Those who have economic power will run you with your power because they’ve got economic power. There is what is called political economy and at times people will say I’m a politician, I’m not an economist or whatever, or I’m a businessman, I’m not a politician. There is nothing like that. We are all politicians and we are all economists. You separate these two for your own panel because they go together and in the majority of cases, just look at these two powers, politics and economy. Which is the real power that you are going to choose?
R15,45/US$. Well done, Jacob Zuma. You must be proud
— Duncan McLeod (@mcleodd) December 10, 2015
You can have your political power and staff to deal with it but if you’ve got economic power, you’ve got power to influence, you’ve got power to do everything, so if we have not addressed the economic power – we have not arrived. The problem that I have with the Africans that with the political power, they think they’ve arrived. That is a problem. They don’t even see the relationship between these two. Where do you end up, with political power? Even surgeons will coup doctors and become in charge. We are now playing with the political power, driven by those who handle the economic power. There was a time in Africa, if they did not like a political leader that leader will be killed in a coup or arrested.
Those who had the economic power…If you say something they don’t like they kill you. What happened to Lumumba, one of the finest politicians we had, a leader, a famous one. He visited some country and never came back. Just to show you these two, which one is more important, what we are faced with in Africa is to reverse what happened in the past. As I said, some clever people met and said, “Let us divide Africa.” If you were under the British, you were a British. You understood nothing else. Your neighbour – you would not be knowing your neighbour, deliberately and they were made to be so far from one another, whilst you were so close to one another.
Up until very recently, if you wanted to go to any country on the Continent of Africa, precisely because we are so far from one another, while we are so close. We have to fly overnight to Europe and connect there tomorrow, in the evening, back to Africa, where you are going. That is what it has been – power of economy. For those who are at Economet the air transport, they had everything but it was so done that you would travel two or three days, just going here in Africa. The borders are so hard amongst the countries that if you are crossing from one country to another, it’s the biggest problem, to travel from one point into the other in Africa. Until the political leadership realised we need to do something about this, to reverse this. It’s very difficult. If we had time, I would tell you detailed stories but there is no time for that.
What has happened in Africa? We have five economic regions under the AU. The establishment of the OAU in 1963 was an important move by our very wise leaders of this Continent. To begin to say ‘we were once one people – we need to unite’. That organisation has done a lot, which we call now, the AU. In the AU, we’ve been discussing this issue, why are we so far from one another, while we are so near. Hence, today we are talking about infrastructure continentally to begin to address the issue that parties were addressing of very little inter-trade in the Continent. We trade with everybody else, except amongst ourselves. We are addressing that. In other words, we are beginning to address the matters of the economic struggle. That’s a struggle to bring back our economy, so that we can be in charge. I’m telling this story to say, what you are doing today you are continuing the struggle to complete freedom.
FW De Klerk foundation says Nene's opposition to Zuma's R1 trillion nuclear reactor deal with Russia led to his dismissal & the Airbus deal
— Leanne Manas (@LeanneManas) December 11, 2015
We need to use our political power to gain our economic power, and it is us nobody will do it for us, only us. I take this journey that we have decided to take today as one of the most historic and important journeys. I’ve said what I’ve said because I want us to be conscious about it because if we are not conscious, even our effort would be very indecisive, weak. I go because I want to… We need to take it as a struggle that was waged by Mandela, to liberate South Africa, by Mugabe – to liberate Africa, by Samora Machel – to liberate Africa, by Agostinho Neto – to liberate Africa. That’s how we should take it. In other words if, politically, the efforts that you put in the struggle in each and every country was to liberate that country, it was in a sense, to liberate Africa. If we look at the economic regions, it should be that we need to liberate Africa. Not to define ourselves as Francophone, and whatever – define ourselves as Africans.
There are things, you know it is painful, and there are things that you can’t discuss with your brothers because the thinking is not the same, not so? For an example, we’ve been running the OAU and the AU but clearly, there were some people behind who were running it, until we said, “What?” I just want to tell you what happened because even politically. Part of the reason you see people in their organisations fighting amongst themselves. They don’t understand. They don’t understand the challenge that faces us. They’re fighting about legal things that I want to be the Chairman or I want to be the Secretary, and they fight to death, when they still have a huge task to undertake. We wanted the AU to operate differently and I’m telling this because it is absolutely important.
We thought one of our cadres, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma because it is our turn so let us send her to be the Chair of the AU. Do you know the struggle that we fought among ourselves, on that issue? Hey, you don’t know. I was in the South of France on a G20 Meeting and somebody read a French journal for me because I don’t know how to read French, and I was being attacked by the French media, in a manner we’ve never seen. I said, “What’s the problem?” I was told later because the French talked to some journalist, would never allow the former freedom fighters to run AU, because that will make us to lose the control of the AU.
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I’m happy, because I’ve said it to a number of Heads of State. We met in one country to come to discuss that issue. In others, the views were totally different but the sad thing it was not because the Africans wanted us… We did not want to disagree. Somebody behind us was telling us, “Don’t allow this. Don’t accept this. Accept this.” If we are not clearer, I’m saying these things because I want us to be very clear that if we are not clear you can defeat your own kind of process because we are told something else. The economic struggle to liberate ourselves is critical. I take this as a beginning. I’m happy because I saw the younger population of Africa here, those who have the future. We have done many things. Fortunately, AU today is open to be influenced, unlike in the past. It is open. There is youth participating, women participating in the AU, and they’ve demanded to be there, the social kind of people from civil society.
I think the time has come for businesses in Africa to claim it’s space in the AU, and this is the way to go because you can’t go there as an individual. You have to go there in an organised fashion and come with an organised voice, but to be clear what contribution are you making in the Continent? This Continent, as old as it is, but in another sense, it is young. We are a Continent with a younger population. She’s growing, and who shares everything you need in the world. It’s a question of how do you put your hands on it, to control it. It’s the economy. We have everything we can talk of. It just needs us to be organised to realise that and control it. You need to establish African companies, to run the African economies, absolutely critical. That’s the reason why, when we had discussions with, as it has been explained. I said to myself, thanks God that these people look younger than those that I grew up with, at least they can see things differently because this is the way to go.
You need an instrument. You need a vehicle for us to be in Africa. We have made three regions to come together to be the Free Trade Zone – COMESA, East African community and SADC. We are now negotiating to help the last two, so that the five economic regions become one. We are almost killing totally, this thing of saying, “I am English, I am French, we are all Africans.” It is crucial that we become more conscious, we, and I’m happy that you said there are going to be conferences because I think this organisation they are establishing, you could develop an annual coming together of the African business people to discuss the problems of the Continent. If you go to Davos, you go there because everybody is there but let us have our own indaba. Let us have our own indaba, to talk about our own. The possibilities in Africa are beyond anything.
There are many Africans who have the skills that help other people somewhere because in Africa they don’t know where to go. I met some of them in Paris some years ago I was still a Deputy President. I said, “Why are you here?” They said, “Well, where do we go? There is no country we can go to in Africa and exercise our skills. Can South Africa help?” Some come from, in fact all countries and they know one another. They are there. They need us to come and make Africa a success, global region. We need to free ourselves economically. We need to be economically free. Once that happens, it will protect your political freedom and power thereof. These two go together, political power and economic power. If these two, you hold the political power. They hold the economic power – we are going to dance for their music. They will even tell you laws to make and not to make, with your power. To me, this is absolutely important.
I wish Africans could understand where Africans come from, and why we are here in the form in which we are, and where do we need to go. We need to define our destiny ourselves and we must reach it in our lifetime, economically. I am very happy. I think, don’t worry I talk too much. I was once a Commissar. A Commissar is a political soldier. I have deep views about Africans in Africa, and they will never go away. During the struggle I was called, all of this; terrorists, prisoners, and everything that was not the issue. Today we are still called everything. When we are there, they relate it as if there’s no leader, and said, “There’s no leader. There are no leaders here. We led a struggle and defeated one of the powerful forces here. We are now leading South Africa and we are making it go forward.
No matter what the other people say, we know exactly where we are going and we know what to do to get there. There’s no doubt about that but if all of us can understand the importance of the Continent, our importance and, therefore why we should work together. When I was a MEC, in one Province in 1994, I talked to business people. I’ve said to business people recently, don’t buy shares in the mines, and buy the mines. I think that’s what Motsepe has done. One day I will talk economy. Today I talk politics partly because I want to anchor, politically first, so that we can anchor economically. There are people on the Continent who are now big business. I think Motsepe says, “Make them advisors.” No, I’m saying make them part of you to be commanders because they have the capacity – they must be with you. They must be part of the forces but of course, it’s correct, they must be generals. They must be part of the army, young people – the future is yours. Make it now. Make it to happen now. Thank you very much.