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28 July 2011 at 10:33 - Posted by Anonymous

Clock ticking for Zuma: will he stand up or lie low?


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President Jacob Zuma. File picture.
Image by: GCIS

The Times Editorial: From today, we will run a countdown of the number of days that President Jacob Zuma has left in which to respond to the two reports by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on the signing of leases for police headquarters offices.

Her latest report, on the leasing of office space in Durban, was released on July 14. In it, Madonsela said that the president would have 60 days in which to respond to allegations of maladministration by two of his senior officials: Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and national police commissioner Bheki Cele.

Last week, Zuma's newly acquired adviser, Mac Maharaj, said the president was studying the reports, intimating that at some stage in the future we would hear from the Union Buildings.

The counter on the front page of The Times is not a cheap gimmick, put there to mock Zuma as he makes what must be an enormously difficult decision. After all, he appointed both Cele and Mahlangu-Nkabinde. If he were forced to undo their appointments it would be an admission of failure.

Zuma's response to the Public Protector's two reports - which are filled with pages of damning comment about the subversion of proper process - can certainly be viewed as one of the most important of his presidency.

Frequently accused of vacillating while South Africa burns, a strong and decisive reaction by Zuma will send a signal that he is capable of acknowledging a wrong decision and fixing it.

As the clock counts down to the last of the 60 days, Zuma must know that the nation wants to see a president acting with real intent.

The two reports represent so many things - that some of our Chapter 9 institutions are still working, that there are moments of hope and truth in our young democracy.

But, and this is what lies at Zuma's door, the reports also symbolise what is so very wrong with our democracy and society - that the very powerful and politically connected assume that processes can be altered, and good governance sacrificed, for the sake of allegiances.

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