Rian Malan

Can South Africa’s new president clean up Jacob Zuma’s mess?

In recent years, living in South Africa has been a bit like having cancer. The malaise eating us from within was corruption and there seemed to be no cure, which is why there was no dancing in the streets when our dreadful president, Jacob Zuma, was finally eased out of office on Valentine’s Day. For me, it felt as if the entire nation was hobbling out of hospital after a long and painful stay, almost too weak to walk, but very surprised and grateful to discover that it had somehow survived. So I didn’t dance in the streets. But I did spot a local ANC leader standing in the sun outside the general store. I hobbled over and shook his hand. ‘Comrade,’ I declared. ‘Well done!’ We talked for a while about the way forward and for once, found ourselves in agreement about almost everything. The new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is a good chap. With any luck, he might just manage to muck out the giant pile of ordure left behind by his predecessor. Also, he’s so rich already that he has no need to steal, meaning that government budgets might at last be spent as intended, on the poor.

This is an extract from Rian Malan’s South Africa Notebook, which appears in this week’s Spectator

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