Monday, January 5, 2009



Sunday Times
Johannesburg, South Africa

By Justice Malala:
Jan 05, 2009

They have the power to shape our lives in the year ahead

THERE is no doubt that South Africa faces turbulent and challenging times this year. Economies worldwide are reeling, the Israel- Palestine conflict is firmly back on the agenda, Robert Mugabe remains a terrible affliction on the face of humanity, and Jacob Zuma stands poised to take over at the Union Buildings.

So who are the people who will have an impact on our lives this year? Who is ready to make a meaningful contribution to our country? Here are some people I believe we should all watch, and watch closely.

Danny Jordaan: South Africa hosts the 2010 soccer World Cup next year and this man has been at the centre of the effort to deliver the soccer spectacular to this country. He has been single-minded, resilient and successful in steering us to near-success as the stadiums have been built. His biggest obstacle to success has been the execrable way our politicians have behaved by supporting regimes such as Mugabe’s and denying the existence of crime. If Jordaan remains on course, and he will be watched by the whole world, then South Africa will succeed.

Jacob Zuma: The man from Nkandla will remain a feature of South African politics over the next few years, irrespective of whether he leads the new government.

If he becomes president, he will continue to face questions about his character and conduct. If he is shunted aside by the ANC, which is increasingly worried about its electoral performance, then two centres of power will have been created.

Can the party survive its “Zuma problem”? Can Zuma himself realis e that he is leading the movement to which he has dedicated his whole life into the possibility of electoral loss and continued fracture?

Thabo Mbeki: The African continent’s most formidable intellectual, now without the state power he wielded for over two decades, is a man diminished by the spectacular failures of HIV-Aids and Zimbabwe. But he is a man who has immense talent and can make a massive contribution still in the regeneration and growth of Africa. His new institute, based at the University of South Africa, could become an important global seat of ideas for Africa.

If Mbeki can carve a new intellectual space for himself he could become an important player on the continent and globally.

Barack Obama: The skinny boy with a funny name ascends to the highest office in the US this month with a full and intimidating in-tray. The Middle East, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan will be the foreign policy challenges ringing in his ears while he charts a way forward from the mess left behind by George Bush. In the meantime, the American economy is imploding in spectacular fashion.

Africans who say Obama will be good for Africa are in cloud-cuckoo land. He is a US president and will do this continent no favours.

Trevor Manuel and Tito Mboweni: 2009 is the year of the economy and these two men stand at the heart of whether South Africa will quickly slide into an economic pariah-hood or stay on the course started by Mbeki 10 years ago. They will be pressured by the left and elements within the ANC. Plus, the new ANC leadership might feel that it is time for Manuel to be shown the door. How these two men act — and there are whispers about them throwing in their lot with the new Congress of the People — will have long-lasting implications for this country.

Terror Lekota and Helen Zille: Helen Zille and the Democratic Alliance will remain a force in politics and, as the by-elections in Western Cape last month showed, she is likely to increase her hold on that province and nationally. Lekota’s Congress of the People, from being addressed with disdain, is becoming a small package of dynamite that many now say will garner at least 10 percent of the vote in this year’s general election.

These two leaders therefore have the opportunity to give our politics a new face and a new direction. Will they grasp the opportunity or will they squander it? Can they work together and not fall into useless squabbles? What will they do with their collective win?

Patrice Motsepe and Tokyo Sexwale: These two are the new faces of South African business and probably the most high-profile beneficiaries and proponents of black economic empowerment.

The challenge will be whether, in these increasingly tough economic times, when BEE faces huge challenges, they can fashion a new ethos, a new direction, for business as a whole and particularly for black business.

Their mines will shed jobs, their banks and media houses will show little or no profit. Their debt will become harder to service. With these challenges in mind, will they be exposed as business carpetbaggers or will they chart a sensible new way forward?

Robert Mugabe: Our own version of Hitler. Our history is all the more bloodier for him and his friends. The longer he stays, the greater this continent’s chances of recovery diminish.