Wednesday, 13 February 2008

BBC's 'crook' questions rattle Zuma

By Elizma Nolte

"Are you a crook?" Jacob Zuma laughs, unsure how to respond to the brutally frank question.

He tries to make light of it, then plays for time by asking for a definition of crook.

"It's somebody who takes money from others for corrupt purposes," the BBC journalist responds slickly.

"Ah, serious," he chuckles. It takes him a moment to collect his thoughts and launch into a familiar argument about having been "put on trial by media".

But the damage is done. Within half an hour on Sunday night, thousands of British TV viewers were given the impression that South Africa's democracy and the ANC's moral integrity were on a downward spiral, while crime, unemployment and Aids ravage the country.

In the BBC1 Panorama documentary entitled No More Mandelas, Fergal Keane asks: "How did the presidency pass from Mandela to this man?"

He calls South Africa a "frighteningly violent" country and notes that although the government is increasing its police force, "confidence is not boosted when the chief of police is charged with accepting a bribe or the leading party votes to disband its anti-corruption unit".

To illustrate his point, he asks some teenagers, high on a mix of alcohol and amphetamines, why they commit crime.

"If you don't want to give me your car, I kill you. It's nothing to kill you because I need the money," comes the reply.

"Is this what Mandela spent 27 years in jail for, so you can go around and kill people?" asks Keane, trying to prove his point, rather than elicit a coherent response.

"No, no, no," falters the drunken chorus, before the guy sitting closest turns to the cameraman: "I could rob you, I could steal your camera."

Keane moves away and on to poverty, explaining that despite everything that has been achieved, the "growing economy hasn't delivered jobs".

A man in a squatter camp tells him that he thinks things were better under the apartheid government - at least he had a job back then.

"From answers like these you get a sense of how far the elite of the ANC has drifted away from their constituency - the people of the townships," he concludes.

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