Leading article: Jacob Zuma's economic tightrope

Share
Related Topics

Jacob Zuma will arrive in Britain this week with two priorities. He will be doing all he can to strengthen trade links and he will be pressing for an end to the sanctions targeted on the ruling elite in his neighbour Zimbabwe. Gordon Brown should embrace the former but give little heed to overtures to slacken international disapproval of the Mugabe regime.

Zimbabwe is a good drum for Mr Zuma to beat, for it will draw attention away from the deepening divisions among the supporters of his government and from the latest embarrassing row about his sex life. On the political front his supporters on the left this week condemned the Zuma government budget speech, saying it was not doing enough to deliver jobs and homes for the poor. Mr Zuma responded with sympathetic noises, but also made noises designed to reassure international businessmen that economic policy will not shift and that their investments were safe.

How long he can walk this social and economic tightrope is unclear. But on the personal front he stumbled this week when he had to issue a personal apology to the nation after it became known that the polygamous president has a four-month-old illegitimate child by the daughter of the president of South Africa's World Cup organising committee. Mr Zuma's chequered sex life hardly sets a good example in a country which has more Aids cases than anywhere else in the world.

On trade the interests of London and Pretoria coincide. Britain was South Africa's fourth largest export partner in 2008 and its biggest source of tourists. And Downing Street will be interested in Mr Zuma's idea that the Commonwealth has a role to play in reforming international bodies like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to make them more sensitive to the needs of developing countries.

But there is little strength to Mr Zuma's argument that it is time to end sanctions on the Mugabe elite in order to improve the working of Zimbabwe's power-sharing government. That is faltering because Mr Mugabe does his cynical best to undermine it at every turn. Before he came to power Mr Zuma called for South Africa to take a much harder unilateral line. Gordon Brown should gently remind him of that.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’  

Children's TV shows like Grange Hill used to connect us to the real world

Grace Dent
An Indian bookseller waits for customers at a roadside stall on World Book and Copyright Day in Mumbai  

Novel translation lets us know what is really happening in the world

Boyd Tonkin
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine