Chronology of a president’s long walk to self-implosion

  May 9 2009:

  South Africans can be forgiven for believing, just for a moment, that something good could come out of a Jacob Zuma presidency.

The ugly pre-Polokwane ANC leadership battle is out of the way and Zuma is inaugurated. Zuma, standing on the podium with the revered (now late) chief justice Pius Langa among the dignitaries on stage, puts up a convincing show as a statesman.

Quoting Nelson Mandela, he says: “He set us on the path of nation-building and prosperity and made us a respected member of the world community of nations.”

After the Polokwane elective conference debacle in 2007, which led to the premature ousting of former president Thabo Mbeki the following year, Zuma extends an olive branch: “In his last address to the nation as head of state in September last year, he [Mbeki] demonstrated his patriotism and put the interest of the country above his personal interests.”

Calling on South Africans to work together for a better country, Zuma says: “We must safeguard the independence and integrity of those institutions tasked with the defence of democracy, and that must act as a check on the abuse of power.”

South Africans had no idea what was coming next.

Jacob Zuma inauguration
Prescient: Jacob Zuma spoke with conviction about curbing the abuse of power at his 2009 inauguration.

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