Zuma walks a tightrope to equality

All eyes are on Jacob Zuma as his allies on the left are calling in favours before he has even set foot in the Union Buildings as president of South Africa.

All eyes are on Jacob Zuma as his allies on the left are calling in favours before he has even set foot in the Union Buildings as president of South Africa.

Our president-elect has a tough week ahead.

Public-service doctors and Joburg bus drivers are on strike. The South African Democratic Teachers Union is defying a court order to return to work.

The National Union of Metalworkers wants Zuma to halt job losses in the imploding vehicle manufacturing industry. And Cosatu wants him to deal with poverty and inequality.

But we also face our first recession in 17 years.

JZ has assured big business that his ANC will not make radical changes to the the economic policies that made South Africa the richest country on the continent.

The president can sweet-talk the captains of industry all he wants, but there is no doubt who put him in power.

The Polokwane revolution was all about the left taking control of the ANC from Thabo Mbeki's perceived neo-conservatives. The left chose Zuma, a lifelong member of the Communist Party and a symbol of their disenfranchised interests under Mbeki, to champion the cause of the impoverished majority.

Now they want their due.

For though the economy thrived under Mbeki, South Africa is a case study in the failure of trickle-down economics: the rich got richer, the poor got poorer.

But in a country where half the citizens are unemployed or under-employed, and where only 10percent pay income tax, the president has limited options.

Every R1billion spent on special interests is another R1billion withdrawn from general development funds.

Zuma will need the wisdom of Solomon to sustain Africa's biggest and most dynamic economy, yet fulfil the expectations of the poor, who put him in power.

We need a thriving economy to uplift the marginalised masses in our society and the new-look ANC must walk a tightrope to ensure they don't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

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