Will this Robin Hood turn into a Goldfinger?

Robin Hood took from the rich and gave to the poor. In many African countries, new leaders launched their rule by pledging to play Robin Hood or an all-weather Santa Claus to their people.

Robin Hood took from the rich and gave to the poor. In many African countries, new leaders launched their rule by pledging to play Robin Hood or an all-weather Santa Claus to their people.

Unfortunately, for most, the temptation to play Goldfinger, Ian Fleming's villain in the James Bond novel of the same title, was irresistible.

Jacob Zuma, who beat Thabo Mbeki in the contest for the soul of the ANC earlier this week, had never publicly proclaimed his intention to play Robin Hood.

In fact, he didn't have to. Mbeki had, throughout his presidency, not once pretended to be inspired by Robin Hood's exploits: he consorted unashamedly with big business, insisting there was nothing inherently evil in someone trained in the former Soviet Union playing "buddies" with the hated capitalists.

Most people would say he paid the ultimate price for his preference for big business: he lost the ANC presidency to his former deputy, a man charged and acquitted of having ravished a young woman with HIV.

Can he live up to the image of this swashbuckling champion of the poor, challenging the capitalists to share their cake with the common people - or else?

Zuma is no enigma, like Mbeki was thought to be - aloof, the intellectual ready to quote Shakespeare or Robert Burns. Zuma is more a product of the liberation struggle culture than Mbeki ever was. To Zuma, as to the trade unionists and the youth league members who catapulted him to political superiority in Polokwane, the struggle was waged so that the people could take over the reins of power.

Sadly, some may even have pondered a takeover of the wealth of the country. This happened in some countries like Zimbabwe. In the early days of independence, there were people who found it perfectly acceptable to move into the former white suburbs without so much as a "by your leave".

Mbeki, for all his faults, did not encourage this wholesale takeover of everything white. Most of this was during the time he was being mentored by Nelson Mandela, to whom both Zuma and Mbeki must owe their rise to power. Madiba's role in shaping the future of South Africa can never be over-emphasised. His calming influence was responsible for the almost unimpeded economic and political progress the country achieved.

In fact, it would be right to demand from both men that they end their rivalry in honour of Mandela's sacrifice.

Zuma, portrayed as a Robin Hood who will take from rich whites and give to poor blacks, may not be ready to upset the applecart put together by Mandela and Mbeki.

Zuma's weaknesses manifested themselves fairly early after 1994. The accusation against his enemies that they trumped up charges against him begins to sound a little weird when you juxtapose them against his ravishing of the woman with HIV. Even if this was the first time they had done more than canoodling, what kind of man is Zuma where women are concerned, as Henry Higgins asked of Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady?

Goldfinger?

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