South Africa is facing a policy paralysis because the Presidency is unable to give direction to the governing coalition, renowned author William Gumede has said.
Giving a public lecture at the Tshwane University of Technology on Thursday night, Gumede said President Zuma was weak and unable to control the tripartite coalition members.
Each was saying something different from the others, so much so that public servants were confused as to which policies to follow or who to listen to.
The title of his lecture was: "Is the battle for the soul of the ANC over?"
Gumede said Zuma was trying to please all members of the coalition in order to remain in power.
Zuma, he said, secured the presidency with the support of the coalition - Cosatu, the SACP, nationalists and populists - who were united by their opposition to former president Thabo Mbeki.
"It is proving difficult in government to hold such a widely ideologically divergent coalition together as Zuma is trying to do," Gumede said.
The problem was that during the elections, Zuma had over-promised the different constituencies.
"Zuma is governing by trying to balance all interests - which on occasion means no policy at all.
"This has on many occasions led to inertia, policy confusion and paralysis.
"Uncertainty reigns over where the government stands on policy as every group within the coalition daily issues diametrically opposing policy proclamations.
"This has led to paralysis in government as senior public servants fear making decisions, lest it alienates the wrong faction."
Gumede said the lack of leadership at the centre of the ANC and government had given free rein to local party bosses to strengthen their control in their own local fiefdoms.
The competition for leadership had become deadly, he said, and had translated into competition for access to state resources.
Many in the ANC had become part of the "bling culture" - getting rich quickly, using short cuts, Gumede said.
"This bling lifestyle has now become the new standard for achievement, a sign that one has made it," he said. But in politics short cuts often meant attaching oneself to a political party boss, or even to a crime boss.
"Nobody needs to work or study hard any more as everyone is looking for a short cut," he said.
Gumede said the bling culture had led to praise-singing the leadership even when it was wrong, supporting actions that went against prudent values, and keeping quiet when leaders did things that were blatantly wrong.
This blind behaviour, he said, led to securing of tenders and being deployed in lucrative government positions while having no idea of how to provide services.
One of the most unfortunate things was that while this bling culture was being pursued by people in the ANC and the government, no new factories were being built and mass poverty was increasing.
Zuma had also allowed his presidency to be mostly defensive as he was always hogging the headlines for the wrong reasons - mostly concerning his private life, he said.
Originally published by Pretoria News