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Zuma’s television boo boo(s)

President Jacob Zuma conducts a cringeworthy TV interview that reveals his total lack of understanding of the challenges facing the SA economy.

There are few interviews with heads of state that have been as embarrassing for a country as the one President Jacob Zuma did this week.

The Chinese television station CCTV interviewed a visibly nervous Zuma this week as part of the channel’s coverage of this week’s G20 summit held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.

It was not Zuma’s finest hour – or 18 minutes and 36 seconds – to say the least. In fact, it was as cringeworthy as it gets and underlines his lack of understanding of the challenges facing the South African economy. He gave incoherent answers without real substance. The answers ignored the structural problems of the economy such as the dysfunctional educational system, systemic corruption, a bloated and inefficient public service, poor labour relations and massive policy uncertainty to name a few.

Instead, Zuma provided the following answer to a question about what tools are available to South Africa to address sluggish economic growth:

“Well, this is part of what we’ve been discussing as the G20 – as to what do we do to boost up the economy, to if you want, ‘reignite’ the economy – what is that we can do. And I think the proposals coming from China through the president were very clear, that we need to break and look at innovation as a critical driver of the economic growth and you must have inclusive economic growth. There are many other kinds of things that people are looking at: how do we do the situation; how do we create jobs.

“We need to agree, because right now if we say the economy is sluggish, it means investors are hesitant to invest. They’re sort of holding their money and we are saying, let them be encouraged to do so. As a government in South Africa we have in fact done a lot of job creation, trying to invest, trying to encourage the private sector. Now if for an example you are saying ‘let us grow the economy’ and then you invest or you protect your investment – we are using the term ‘protectionist’ – but the workers who are working they want higher wages, there is no sensitivity where we should all come together to say ‘since the economy is under challenge what is it that we can sacrifice, all of us, in order to ensure that we can grow the economy”.

(He gives the answer at 12 minutes 25 seconds during the interview.)

The interview was conducted by veteran journalist Tian Wei of the World Insight programme. She has been referred to as the Chinese version of CNN’s Richard Quest and has interviewed many word leaders. World Insight is one of CCTV’s premier international news shows and provides global political and economic insights from a Chinese perspective.

The interview may also explain why finance minister Pravin Gordhan was the point man at the WEF meeting in Davos this year and why Zuma also controversially missed a panel discussion about Africa’s economic challenges during this event.

But don’t take my word for it, watch for yourself….

(The video and the full transcript of the interview appear below.)


Tian Wei :During this year’s G20 summit [the] Chinese president has made very clear at the very beginning that Africa will be one of the focal points, but it also depends on the other 19 economies of the G20 whether that will be the case and whether there will be concrete results.

Zuma: Of course President Xi Jinping made that point very clear, loud and clear, and nobody opposed that proposal. So everybody accepted that proposal, partly because they know the position of Africa, where Africa comes from. They also know the challenges of Africa and therefore it is accepted that there is a specific approach that is given to Africa.


Tian Wei : And during this process Mr  President what should be Africa’s role – because you are the only African leader that is present there at the G20 economies – so what should be, could be, and will be Africa’s role?

Zuma:  Well, Africa … firstly Africa has a particular history. Africa, I think of all the regions of the world was the only one which was totally colonised and stayed therefore for long time without Africa doing its own things, when the countries from Europe were actually suppressing them for many years. I think it was only in the decade of the sixties [1960s] that they began to get their independence. So whilst other countries moving, they were in a sense ‘trapped’ in the colonial situation and they had(?) to get a phase where they were fighting for their liberation. But also the colonialists had come to occupy and dominate their resources so to speak, so whatever Africa is trying to do now is coming up from a very heavy kind of suppression and therefore Africa is lagging behind.

But Africa is saying it’s a region that is emerging, that is now for the first time trying to come together so that they have a collective kind of an approach as a region and therefore it sees its future – and of course South Africa is one of the big economies in the in the continent, it is a member of a G20 and South Africa does not represent itself only, it represents the continent and therefore it speaks on behalf of the continent whilst is it is speaking also on his own behalf.


Tian Wei:  Infrastructure projects usually take a lot of cash. I understand there has been an establishment of the BRICS New Development Bank; it has been running for one year. Even the South African has now become (?) head of that organisation and also the AIIB which has just started with their first …global board meeting. What do you think Mr President, will these two entities provide … your country with more alternatives, even the African continent?

Zuma: The continent had taken a very deliberate decision to establish infrastructure that is going to connect the entire continent and heads of states are actually leading that kind of – there’s a committee that is leading that kind of -infrastructure to ensure that infrastructure is there. But also, the question  of funding will always be a challenge, so the emergence of the BRICS bank has been one of the most important kind of happening in our society, because BRICS bank is different from other big banks that would have stringent conditions, what it [should] do … and therefore Africa and South Africa, all of us, are looking at the BRICS bank as the bank that is going to make things easier and the BRICS itself has that understanding that Africa … that’s why whilst the headquarters of the bank are here in China in Shanghai but a regional BRICS bank is going to be in Africa, in South Africa.


Tian Wei: It’s an African centre of the BRICS banks. But what is [likely?] to be the role of this African centre?

Zuma: … one of main roles will be to find to fund the infrastructure in Africa, that is what it is going to do. Already they are projects that have been submitted to the bank here that now need to be looked at so that they can continue. So the emergence of the BRICS bank has been a step forward for us


Tian Wei:  President Zuma industrialisation of the African countries have been quite a debate over the past few years. But how, how to do industrialisation? It has its positive connotations, sometimes negative connotations. So what do you think is the approach that African countries, including yours, should adopt in order to have industrialisation?

Zuma: Well there are many things that we need to do. The question of industrialisation in our own continent has one side only, does not have a negative side.

Tian Wei:  
Really okay tell us about it.

Zuma: Why, because we’ve never been industrialised in the past. Industrialisation waves that have come and gone, Africa was not touched. In other countries industrialised, for the first time we are industrialising. Because colonialists were not there to industrialise Africa. But in South Africa you have a different kind of situation wherein there was industrialisation, but not by the indigenous people, the majority, by those who came to settle. Now what we are saying is that the black people themselves must create the industry. So for the first time we are creating middle-class; we are creating people who are going to own businesses for the first time. So it can’t have a negative side; positive side all the time. We are going to create jobs; we are for example training our people, skilling them for the purposes of industrialisation with us. So that’s what we are looking at. Part of what President Xii Ping was saying, [is] to focus on the continent is actually to support among others, industrialisation itself.


Tian Wei: Talking about industrialisation, people look at China – whether it’s a China model or not, that’s for debate. But certainly the China experience, what does that mean to you Mr president and also other African nations?

Zuma: What is critical with China is that the openness, much as they say so, but they are doing business as business, but guided by the Chinese characteristics. But what is important is that that in itself is a lesson to other people. How have the Chinese succeeded? It is because they have discipline in the job they do – that’s what people have got to adopt. I’ve said it to many people: you can wish to be Chinese, you’ll never be because you’ve got to have what guides them as an ideological approach, so to speak. But that’s [not to] say you cannot do it.


Tian Wei: What do you make of these dramatic changes when it comes to the demands of qualities of political leadership?

Zuma: Well, South Africa is a democratic country – it is just 20 years. The experience is very clear: any former national liberation movement in 20 years, there are challenges politically that challenge the political party. What becomes important: how is that party responding to those challenges. That is important. I don’t think the ANC is different from other formal political parties. What is important [is] that the party must understand what is happening and it must say what do we do to deal with this.

For example, 20 years in South Africa: it means democracy has matured and people generally, are beginning to make the choices having thought in the one form the other and it means … for an example for the first time in South Africa, we have just gone through the local government elections, wherein people have made their choices and we’ve had three metros at the big [??] that they were tying for the first time. And then there’s been an introduction of a new element of coalitions, because there is no one party that could rule without talking to smaller parties. so that’s a new element that is coming, that even small parties can now determine which direction a metro goes, or a municipality goes. That is a new kind of politics.


Tian Wei: What does that mean for the used-to-be major party?

Zuma: ANC used to be a major party, it means we have reached a point where democracy is now taking another kind of turn. The ANC then has to say, how do we handle this situation as a big party in the question of coalitions. We must now begin to plan and factor in the issue of coalitions when we go for elections – that’s what it is all about. And this is a maturing of democracy and that’s what it is.

If you look at old democracies they don’t have too many parties because they’ve been there for  a while, and parties have been sort of shrinking into either two or three. So it is a process of the democratic process that we are now 20 years and therefore the politics, if you talk about winning elections, are beginning to introduce a coalition factor, which has not been a factor before.


Tian Wei: Mr Nelson Mandela had been so respected around the world. I remember a few years ago when Mr Mandela passed away, you were the one announcing the news to the rest of the world. What do you think is the most important part of his legacy and what would that mean for all politicians, including yourself Mr President, of your country?

Zuma: President Mandela was made by the ANC to be great – that is very important to know. It is the ANC that is much much much important to many of us, including President Mandela. He was part of shaping the policies of the ANC and the ANC has not changed policy. So its leaders will always be there. But times are moving and Mandela’s legacy will always be remembered; not just Mandela alone … Oliver Tambo and others. And we are sticking to what Mandela practiced as the policy he believed in and he believed in until … he departed this world.

So we are the organisation of Mandela. We are using the lessons from Mandela to run the organisation, to run the country. So we think of Mandela as our leader who gave to us the lessons within the ANC framework and we stick to them and we will follow what Mandela did and following that will never go wrong.


Tian Wei: Mr President, there are issues with your economy. For example, there are some estimates suggesting zero growth. So people are wondering what kind of tools do you have in hand in order to change that situation, to put your economy on a better track?

Zuma: Well this is part of what we we’ve been discussing as the G20 – as to what do we do to boost up the economy, to if you want, ‘reignite’ the economy – what is that we can do. And I think the proposals coming from China through the president were very clear, that we need to break and look at innovation as a critical driver of the economic growth and you must have inclusive economic growth. There are many other kinds of things that people are looking at: how do we do the situation; how do we create jobs.

We need to agree, because right now if we say the economy is sluggish, it means investors are hesitant to invest. They’re sort of holding their money and we are saying, let them be encouraged to do so. As a government in South Africa we have in fact done a lot of job creation, trying(?) to invest, trying to encourage the private sector. Now if for an example you are saying ‘let us grow the economy’ and then you invest or you protect your investment – we are using the term ‘protectionist’ – but the workers who are working they want higher wages, there is no sensitivity where we should all come together to say ‘since the economy is under challenge what is it that we can sacrifice, all of us, in order to ensure that we can grow the economy’.


Tian Wei: One of the  things that your economy is facing is the energy prices – the fluctuation of the energy prices. Of course you try to seek ways out, but still at this moment difficult. What do you make of that dependence your economy has on energy?

Zuma: That is one of the difficulties. Perhaps our economy… one of the areas would be energy. The energy has a history as well – because everything in our own country has its own history, because it was not worked on to take care of the entire population, because of our history. So we are almost like starting from new, but what we have been doing a lot of kind of progress from that point of view. And therefore to us it is important, because energy is important for the economy to grow. And we are working hard to ensure … we are for an example having a programme of mixed energy so that we do all types of energy, so that we can in a sense increase the volume of energy, so that that can help to generate the kind of economy that must go there.

Of course, the price of energy – depending what we are talking about … for an example, other countries in Africa they were affected with regard to the going down of fuel, of oil rather, in other countries … that base themselves on the oil and that caused a problem. We get more affected because we are a mining country: the commodities coming from the mine also were no longer being attractive out there. So that in itself affected the kind of economy and these are the matters that we have got to say, how do we handle this situation as we go forward.


16: 24
Tian Wei: Mr. President when you look at the African continent, what do you make of the role of South Africa? What do you think should be the role that South Africa plays on your continent, or representing our continent worldwide?

Zuma: Well South Africa is playing the role already. Firstly in the African continent, we take it as a priority that we work with them. We are participating in shaping the approach that Africa makes. We are participating in addressing the problems of the continent; for an example, we are there to keep peace; we are there to influence that there should be peace; we are there to defend those who’d be troubled by violence etc. We use the capacity we have. We … don’t do this as one country; we do this as part of a collective of the AU and there we play a part. wE PLAY A  PART outside of the continent by sensitising the world about the challenges of the continent.

Right now South Africa is the member of the G20. It’s not raising its own matters only; it raises the matters of the continent – that’s part of the role it is playing. When BRICS came for the first time to meet in South Africa, South Africa asked the leaders of the continent – particularly those who have specific responsibilities – to meet with BRICS, to raise the issues with BRICS, and it was a very useful kind of meeting. That act has introduced in BRICS leaders what is now called ‘the outreach’, that when BRICS meets, leaders in the region would also come … that’s how South Africa sees its role, and it is acting on this role.


Tian Wei: Thank you very much we really appreciate it thank you for your trust and your confidence Mr President

Zuma: Thank you very much indeed.

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Surely his answers, understanding, and thought processes are a product of his education

You’re very wrong with such thinking. I guess your response show the level of education you have.. Why do you judge a person based on his level of education. Does education mean a university qualification ?

I’m sure you can think and respond better than this with the level of education you may profess to have.

The level of education is an indication of the level of knowledge the person has. His behaviour and attitudes and his ability to perform his duties honestly and in line with world standards is the confirmation as to whether he is smart or an idiot.

In the case of Zuma, it is quite clear where he is positioned when judging his abilities.

Gen Louis Botha, the first premier of the Union of South Africa as it was then also had a standard three education. However he was highly accomplished in his agriculture, military and political roles.
You may read about Zuma’s history in RW Johnson’s book “How long will South Africa survive”. He knew Zuma as a domestic servant. Later Zuma showed himself to be a friend of local crime lords.
Zuma seems to be driven by ideology, “tribal tradition” and greed.

a most wonderful interview!!! i am very much happy!!!

He must come from the same place as the minister with the hole in her head.

They both seem to think that by waffling for protracted periods and throwing in some of the ANC buzzwords that people can be fooled. Either that or they are genuinely that stupid that they actually believe that their answers hold some intellectual value for the audience.

To Monwabisa, yes it is associated with his level of education (whether formal or informal). It is also associated with his level of competence for his position. As head of state, if he did not have formal education to develop a general understanding of the world economy (which would include some detail in world history) as well as the functionings of the South African and African economies prior to assuming office, you would expect that after 6 years he would have at the very least have studied enough to be able to answer the questions that would typically be posed to world leaders about their countries and regions with some gravitas.

My formal education ended 20 years ago, but I make sure that I keep myself update by reading and learning from other people so that I keep myself competent within my job, and relevant to the world in which I work. The ANC sheep out there should remember that Zuma is not a king. He is a worker. He has a job. He is incompetent at his job, and has several hundred charges of fraud, theft and corruption against him. In the real (non-ANC) world, he would have at the very least been suspended by now, and would most likely have been fired or be in jail.


What an embarrassment it is for South Africa that we have a total klutz out there as the face of South Africa that the world see and hear. I would question his general knowledge limits.

Tian Wei must be splitting her sides. She is to be admired for not laughing at Mr. Klutz while he was waffling.

I actually don’t think the transcript of the interview is that bad and is actually on point. He may lack the education and eloquent speech, but the comments he makes about Africa playing catch up due to never being industrialised are fair as is the fact that local industrialists need to be grown and nurtured in order to be locally competitive.

I truly agree with you. Yes such answers may have not reached the standard that everyone would expect but his responses are not an embarrassment as such.

Monwabisa it is this particular mentality of yours that prevents Africa to rise. The blind leading the blind. In a modern ,fast changing and challenging environment you can under no circumstances allow a person who does not understand modern economics and surely does not have the skills , to lead a country ,let alone a continent. It is like asking a motorist to navigate and pilot an airplane He will crash very hard!. Zuma is piloting Africa now with little , if any , understanding of the state of our economy and the negative dynamics he is responsible for.

Yes, it all goes hand-in-hand with Zumaspeak, like his famous “Hepatiss” utterance whilst reading a speech on the medical challenges SA face.

One can perhaps ignore the man’s limitations when it comes to education … it’s the corruption and determination to reward incompetence that he stands for that we must take issue with.

This interview clearly indicates why the economy is performing very badly. The man is stuck in all sorts of excuses and justifications and doesn’t show any grasp of a clear strategic plan for the economic future of South Africa or Africa. He should spend more time understanding and studying the success of other nations that have uplifted themselves from absolute poverty. He should learn from China, South Korea and Singapore. He should also stop spending too much time on personally enriching himself. I think its all too late now and the nation clearly understands that we have the wrong person in place and its time that the nation move on with someone new.

He is incapable of doing his job.

We know that you don’t like Jacob Zuma but I don’t think it’s appropriate for Moneyweb to write everything negative about him. If you continue doing this you’re discrediting your credibility.

We know what he has done and we know his level of education but that doesn’t mean everything he says is garbage.

Please refrain from such. I don’t think his responses are as bad as you’ve shown in your title.

Otherwise if your continue with such reporting I’ll stop reading your articles.

Agree. Thought he did quite well. His comments about minority parties and the need for coalitions could well benefit all South Africans.


Sorry, but you are missing the point.

It is not Moneyweb that is discrediting Zuma.

It is Zuma who is doing such an excellent job
discrediting himself.

Zuma is an embarrassment not only to himself, but his supporters and the ANC members that placed him in that position!
The situation SA finds itself in, is due to Zuma and the ANC, not the man alone!

Monwabisa, you cannot blame Moneyweb for writing “negative articles” when they are reporting the facts. it’s not Moneyweb’s fault that JZ preeches alot of rubbish that he’s the only one that believes it (certainly not believed by the Minister of Finance).

Reading the transcript without the benefit of watching the video required imaginative effort to visualise the interviewee in action:

All I could see was a performer in a yellow and green clown suite with a big red knob on his nose trying to juggle some over-ripe bananas and dropping each and every one in the process.

Two oil refineries in Durban. Four oil refineries in Cape Town. Mossgas and Sasol.

Motor assembly plants in all of the former 4 provinces. Coal power electricity generation plants and one nuclear electricity generation plant.

Precious metal and gemstone mines all around the country.

Zuma, what are you saying about not being industrialised before 1994?

Good point Khulubuse!
A lot of the local industry has been bought out by foreigners as well.

Yes but you miss the point. You are talking about “western” industrialisation. Zuma wants an “African” version. Stop all this roads and boats and planes nonsense and get down to the tricky part of inventing some sort of circle out of wood, then join 2 of them together (how? I dunno) so they could be used to drag stuff from one place to another.

I think we would be a lot better off with the interviewer as our president, professional, forward looking, confident, well informed and to the point.

I watched it for a third time. I am left with no doubts as to the esteemed presidents abilities or lack thereof. It seems as though he is trapped in a revolving door that is spinning backwards at high speed and no rear mirror to view the exit spot.

Industrialisation one would think means a lot more that hopping up and down waiving your fist and wearing animal skins or a loin cloth and a supercilious grin while carrying a shield and a spear while your high tech mobile, VISA credit cards, fancy tax payer provided vehicle and home and your private jet (or is that jets) lie in wait for you to fly off to greet and eat at the worlds expense while your fellow country men are starving because the industrialisation provided by the colonialist you keep ranting and raving about is being burnt or destroyed or simply not recognised by you or your comrades because the person calling the shots wears blinkers or cannot get his hands on the cash tied up in that infrastructure.

What a nice story to tell.

I have now read and reread the transcript. There is not one paragraph that is coherent…. Surely we can better than this!!! REALLY ANC ?? And somehow you still want him in the front seat? Maybe the ANC is the same. ?

Wow that’s a kind of President we are having. he doesn’t talk of the attempt to use and motivate economic participants to move to renewable energy. He doesn’t even realise industrialisation perhaps its positive side in the economy. beyond that industrialisation is the avenue where we have to trend carefully as south Africans, as much as we need it but we need to consider the impact it may have on our environment and in turn our tourism industry. Our president is the man of history, always referring everything to the past, he doesn’t talk about the NDP AND ITS FUTURE FOCUS. sham

It’s time to pause and reflect.
We cannot solve our problems without rectifying our past, we are who we are because of ………..

Zuma may be……….but he is not stupid sure the guy has an informal PHD in dominance/power and mind games. It takes brevity or courage to take on the western super powers, I give credit to him for shaking the unshakable.

Economics Everything Politics Nothing.


One can talk up the past till the cows come home … in fact, untill they are stolen would be a better analogy … it remains the same that in this day and age 20 years has passed (us by) and we have stood absolutely, irretrievably still on the international stage of responsible countries. Zuma deserves no credit whatsoever for “courage” displayed at Western super powers … he is so far removed from their league it’s beyond an embarrassment to us any longer. What you are witnessing is a clear display of not one iota of understanding of what this country needs to press forward, never mind good governance.

Like I said economics everything politics nothing, all I see happening now is the BRICS vs. the Western World we are just caught in between with Zuma shielding new emperors instead of going with the old vipers. “CHOOSE THE BETTER DEVIL”

The history I am talking about is not apartheid but economic emperors.
why do we have a tendency of forgetting the foundations of economics when we talk politics? I think we need some balance.

EAST vs WEST game on.

End of comments.





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