Zuma Won't Survive a Brazilan 'Lula Moment'

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Zuma Won't Survive a Brazilan 'Lula Moment'

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Zuma, Co wouldn't survive a 'Lula Moment'

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sundayindependent / 21 March 2016 at 15:40pm / By: Peter Fabricius

President Jacob Zuma and his acolytes will surely be praying that the Lula Moment does not ever arrive in SA, writes Peter Fabricius.

The ruling alliance in South Africa used to gaze yearningly across the southern Atlantic to its Brics and Ibsa partner, Brazil, for inspiration. The “Lula Moment” used to be a slogan that was brandished by them as they pondered how to emulate former president Lula da Silva’s success in tackling poverty and inequality.

Brazil and South Africa once enjoyed the dubious distinction of being among the most unequal countries in the world. Lula managed to close some of the gap by an integrated development programme of policy interventions.

This contrasted with South Africa, where inequality remained stubbornly resistant to government policies.

Now, though, President Jacob Zuma and his acolytes will surely be praying that the Lula Moment does not ever arrive here.

Dilma Rousseff, who succeed Lula as leader of the Workers’ Party and the country, is facing gigantic street protests against her management of the economy - which plunged by 3.8 percent last year and is still going down. These include charges of corruption implicating her, Lula and several other senior politicians.

She is fighting to stave off impeachment charges for her alleged complicity in the huge corruption scandal swirling around kickbacks from state-run oil company Petrobras.

Lula is facing criminal charges for allegedly receiving houses from a construction company also embroiled in the scandal.

Despite that - or, as it later emerged, probably because of that - this week Rousseff appointed Lula to her cabinet as her chief of staff. Then federal Judge Sergio Moro, who is investigating Lula, released phone recordings of conversations between Rousseff and Lula that seemed to suggest Rousseff had only offered Lula the job to shield him from the criminal probe.

Rousseff has of course denied that and is insisting she appointed Lula only to strengthen the government at a moment of deep economic crisis.

Apart from their joint membership of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) and its predecessor, the India, Brazil, South Africa (Ibsa) forum, there are many other parallels between the two countries which might be disconcerting to Zuma’s government.

Perhaps the economic problems in both countries originate in the end of the global commodities super-cycle, though with a significantly larger impact on Brazil.

In both countries, though, that external factor has been greatly aggravated by mismanagement of the economy, including growing corruption.

As a result, Rousseff, whose popularity has been down to single figures for some time, is now seeing her ruling coalition crumble. This week, the PRB abandoned her while the PMDB party, the largest in the coalition, led by national vice-president Michel Temer - who has also been implicated in the Petrobras scandal - is believed to be on the verge of leaving too.

A portent perhaps of widening cracks in the tripartite alliance over Guptagate?

Financial markets rallied in Brazil this week on bets that the phone taps which suggested she had appointed Lula to protect him from prosecution would give new momentum to the impeachment proceedings against her.

Was the rise in the rand this week similarly propelled by hopes the ANC national executive council would ditch Zuma at its meeting this weekend?

One thing which seems to be cushioning Zuma and Co against the sort of pressure Rousseff and Lula are now feeling, is the relative indulgence of the South Africa “street” compared to Brazil’s.

South Africans are out on the street every day, protesting violently against everything from losing their illegal electricity connections to having to pay for university fees.

These tributaries of protest have not converged into the torrent of protest now seen in Brazil. Or not yet.

Yet, if anything, the severity of the corruption in Brazil is less than in South Africa, when measured by personal culpability, at least as far as Rousseff herself is concerned.

The growing accusations of state capture by Zuma’s business cronies, if replicated in Brazil, would probably have already brought down Rousseff’s government by now.


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