South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma works best as a retail politician, a phrase that does not exist in South Africa but probably should. He has immense charm but narrow ability. His governing style veers uneasily between overreach and lack of ambition. And he is now less popular than ever — according to a poll released in July, a majority of the country’s youth have no faith in his leadership and consider him incompetent. They see his policy proposals as lacking in substance and question his contribution to the country over the past three years.

Like much of the public sector, Zuma is widely perceived as being inefficient, unfocused, and compromised. To survive politically, he has aligned himself with the South African Communist Party (SACP), which is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Yet South Africa’s significant leftist and labor factions are angry with an ANC government that “talks left and walks right”: promising socialist policies while acceding to big business and fiscal conservatism.The government will have to make some concessions to the Communists. To ignore them would be to make the same mistake Mbeki made; the SACP helped oust him in 2007.

South Africa’s Retail Politician, by Roy Robins - Foreign Policy

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