Is African politics inferior to American politics?

The Financial Times has a story that points to some disturbing features of South African politics:

It is the kind of fervent devotion that has driven a wave of support for the former president [Jacob Zuma] ahead of a critical general election on May 29. Yet as recently as January, the 82-year-old African National Congress veteran appeared to have been cast into the political wilderness after he was suspended from the party he once helmed for launching “vitriolic attacks” against the leadership and backing a rival one.

So Zuma was a highly corrupt and semi-authoritarian president, who retired in disgrace. And now he’s launching a comeback at an age when most people are retired? And he’s launching “vitriolic attacks” against the establishment?

Zuma’s candidacy is being challenged over a criminal conviction and South Africa’s highest court has been asked to hear the matter. But that has simply fuelled his supporters, who have previously rioted on Zuma’s behalf and say the current charges are politically motivated. Some analysts fear Zuma may seek to discredit the electoral process if he is unable to contest.

Wait, he’s launching a comeback despite a political conviction? And his supporters rioted on his behalf? And people fear Zuma may try to discredit the election process? What’s wrong with Africa?

Zakhele Ndlovu, a politics lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said Zuma’s appeal was primarily based on his image as a defender of the Zulu nation. This also played on a stereotype that many top ANC leaders have been Xhosas, South Africa’s second-biggest ethnic group.

You mean he appeals to his own ethnic group, and demonizes minorities? That’s horrible.

Jabulani Mkhize, who was one of those out canvassing for Zuma’s party in Durban’s informal settlement of Cato Crest on a hot afternoon this month, said “lives were better” when the former president ran South Africa.

“Zuma was a better president in terms of economic transformation . . . I’m talking about simple things, like even the bread was cheaper,” he said

Sure, things were mostly better. But are South African voters so stupid that they don’t understand that in the last few years of his administration Zuma put in place “populist” policies that pushed South Africa down to the road to ruin? Do they actually believe that his policies had nothing to do with the current inflation?

Zuma is no stranger to using court battles as political platforms, given his many years of fighting corruption allegations. . . . “He plays the victim card in the same way that so many populists play the victim card around the world,” said Richard Calland, a public law professor at the University of Cape Town.

The victim card? That’s unworthy of a great nation like South Africa. Africa’s most developed economy. That’s the sort of thing you’d expect in a banana republic. Perhaps Africans cannot handle democracy?



13 Responses to “Is African politics inferior to American politics?”

  1. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    17. April 2024 at 07:16

    You seem to use the term “can’t handle democracy” a lot. You also use that to describe the conservative party.

    For the record, and this should be obvious, the United States and South Africa are both republics. Indeed, most countries today are republics, because they sought to emulate the Federalist papers.

    A republic is not a democracy. Please learn the difference between the two.

    Indeed, a pure democracy is dangerous, because it leads to the tyranny of the majority. The founders knew that. They read the classical works. Pure democracy was the downfall of Greece. In, Greece the majority pummeled the minority until it led to factions and war. In Greece, there were no inalienable rights, no codified constitution; they simply followed the whims of the majority, which led to Mob rule. The Roman republic was an improvement. That’s why it lasted a lot longer than Greece.

    The South African republic is doing poorly, especially in recent years, because of the mass exodus of capital. The corruption and high crime, and emigration of wealthy whites who want to escape the racism, have increased poverty substantially. South Africa has employed CRT since the 90s, so it’s a good baseline model for how dangerous a country can become when a particular skin color is labeled an oppressor.

  2. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    17. April 2024 at 07:48



  3. Gravatar of Quark-Gluon Plasma Quark-Gluon Plasma
    17. April 2024 at 14:33

    “”You mean he appeals to his own ethnic group, and demonizes minorities? That’s horrible.”

    Did you have an opinion on the Xhosa-Zulu conflict before you read the article?

  4. Gravatar of Greg Greg
    18. April 2024 at 00:36

    The parallels between Zuma and Trump are indeed interesting. But South Africans can at least draw comfort from the fact that Zuma is very unlikely to get more than 15% of the vote in the upcoming election and has zero chance of actually returning to power.

  5. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    18. April 2024 at 02:54

    Why do you concern yourself with South African politics?
    South Africa is not your country. Stop imposing yourself on everyone else. Nobody in South Africa gives a damn what you think.

    In our country, immigrants stormed cityhall in New York yesterday, demanding money and jobs.

    And you tell us, everyday, how wonderful these illegal immigrants are because they work on our farms.

    That’s been the leftwing ideology since about 1720. The democrats were all conregated in the south, afraid of work, with similar ideals to the European Aristocracy. They wanted to “import” free labor; in our generation low cost labor.

    If you haven’t noticed Sumtard, our farmers don’t need 10M ilegal immigrants. We don’t have 10M farming jobs available. Not to mention, most of these people do not want to work on a farm. They want easy money, easy work, just like those who fabricate disabilities to get a govt handout, when they’re perfectly capable of picking grapes.

    Instead of importing workers, forcing wages down, why don’t you encourage lazy, fat, unemployed citizens to get off their ass and work. We have more than enough.

  6. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    18. April 2024 at 09:58



  7. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    18. April 2024 at 11:35

    My name’s Ricardo and I have 0 ability to politically analyze anything. For example, I point to republics not being democracies, even though republics are representative democracies, and I ignore the fact that tyranny of the majority can still happen through (representatives).

    Put simply you just don’t understand my glorious king sunshine Trump. Stick to economics and I’ll stick to Trumpology, this is my domain. Viva Trump!

  8. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    18. April 2024 at 11:54

    Plasma, Not before, and not after.

    Sara, Wait, you thought this post was about South Africa?

  9. Gravatar of viennacapitalist viennacapitalist
    19. April 2024 at 00:30

    “…Perhaps Africans cannot handle democracy?..”

    Don’t get whether you are being sarcastic here, but isn’t “us vs. them” a defining feature of democracy?
    How on earth do you rally enough voters to support you? (The Swiss, your favourite example, are notouriosly “us” and proud of their military service obligation)

    Historically, it has come in many flavours (rich vs. poor, oligarchs vs. middle class, blood and soil etc.) and it tends to get uglier the tighter the vote.
    Ofc, not all strategies work equally well under all circumstances, for instance the “free world vs. evil” trope works very well with liberals and boomers and less elsewhere, but there is really nothing “African” about it..

  10. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    19. April 2024 at 08:11

    Viennacapitalist. I’m stunned that people think this post is about Africa. Obviously, I am describing the US political system.

  11. Gravatar of viennacapitalist viennacapitalist
    20. April 2024 at 08:47

    got it, but I was uncertain of what exactly you are trying to say. I mean, ofc there are big similarities (adjusted for the local, or cultural, aspect) between South Africa and the US- they are representative democracies, after all. It is the same animal you are looking at, they sound the same…no mystery there

  12. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    20. April 2024 at 10:31

    Viennacapitalist, For most of my life, the US political system was unlike those of Africa (or other banana republics.) Now it’s quite similar. I find that interesting. Others might not.

  13. Gravatar of viennacapitalist viennacapitalist
    20. April 2024 at 21:32

    the circumstances have changed, the past is a different country:
    – different demographics, population densities (think california),
    – media use, type of media, attention span of average voter
    – culture (religion, etc.)

    in other words: the local flavor has changed, the essence has been there before.
    I do agree, it has been going down and it definitely is interesting to analyse how the changed inputs have contributed to the changed „performance“.

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