Monday, January 26, 2009



By The Editor,
The Times Newspaper
Jan 26, 2009

THERE is already talk that the West Wing caretaker, President Kgalema Motlanthe, is considering returning to Luthuli House rather than face a sustained attempt to assassinate his characte

Recent newspaper reports about Motlanthe’s private life — he is estranged from his wife and, allegedly, is involved with two other women, one of whom is said to be just 24 years old and pregnant — no doubt benefit his political enemies.

Motlanthe was foolish to believe he could hold onto his privacy once he took the oath of office to become South Africa’s president.

Politics is not for the retiring, media-shy among us.
Look no further for proof of this than the contrasting fortunes of Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki. Two men less alike are hard to find.

One man was a deeply unpopular president, the other is a populist who is likely to become president.

One is an outgoing, singing, dancing, engaging, openly polygamous man who — despite acknowledging that he practised unsafe sex with an HIV-positive woman and faces corruption charges — still charms the pants off the electorate.

The other is a stiff, sombre individual who still favours the royal, third-person “we ” when speaking of himself. On the day he was fighting for his political life at Polokwane, Mbeki refused to look his audience in the eye.

Shortly after Polokwane the ANC retired Mbeki. Zuma is a man whose life, as they say, is an open book (or two).

Motlanthe, however, is a notoriously private individual. His attempt to hold onto his privacy —his spokesman told the nation we had no right to ask questions about the identity of the first lady — was naive.

But his personal life should not detract from the qualities he brings to the Union Buildings. Remember how sorely Bill Clinton was missed when George W Bush took office.