WILL the new South African president, Jacob Zuma, break into spontaneous dance whenever he delivers a speech to the international community?
So far ( as far as I know), he has managed to keep his rousing rendition of the now out-of-context Umkhonto we Sizwe war cry Mshini Wami confined to national fora such as political rallies and other platforms he has been provided with to defend his innocence against the many charges levelled against him in the recent past.
The reason I ask is simple. Beyond his amazing agility and moves to rival Michael Jackson in the prime of his musical career, Zuma does not seem to offer much else. I have serious problems in looking beyond the misgivings of a man who claims that taking a shower after unprotected sex with an HIV-positive person can prevent transmission of the virus. That statement will forever stick in my mind whenever Zumaâ€™s name is mentioned to me.
While he will never be an Obama in terms of his oratory, Zuma needs to start sounding a bit more convincing that he is a changed man and not some reluctant school kid forced to stand up and read his short story to the rest of the class.
Speech has power to convince. You only need look at the immortal place that Martin Luther King Jnr holds in history because of his â€œI have a dreamâ€ speech. For me, thereâ€™s nothing to savour about Msholoziâ€™s political character yet â€” until, of course, he breaks into that ubiquitous theme song and jumps across the podium belting out â€œMshini Wami, Mshini Wamiâ€.
Have you ever noticed how the South African media focuses so intently on this aspect of Zuma in its coverage of him? With dance moves that crisp, he could put many a young man less than half his age to shame. Yes, that forms part of his â€œeverymanâ€ appeal. But that should not become the hallmark of his persona. Zuma has to appeal to a larger audience than just South Africans who have recently become disgruntled with the ANC and thus see him as the agent of necessary reform.
He has to appeal to regional and global audiences, to represent South Africa, and Africa as a respectable statesman in the mould of his predecessors who include Nelson Mandela.
And sadly for him, he will have to do all of that without the dancing.
For me, my greatest hope for Zumaâ€™s reign is that he can combat the HIV epidemic that is currently wreaking havoc in South Africa and sending shockwaves throughout southern Africa. For one who himself peddled gross misinformation about ways to prevent HIV transmission, this would represent the greatest victory in overcoming the very ignorance that continues to kill so many.
I sincerely hope that come May 9, at the presidential inauguration of Zuma, I will become more convinced by this man who holds the hopes and destiny of not only his nation, but the whole region.