Barney Pityana. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Barney Pityana. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

PROMINENT academic Barney Pityana is driven by a personal dislike of President Jacob Zuma and is in danger of making himself politically irrelevant, says African National Congress (ANC) spokesman Keith Khoza.

In a letter published by the Sunday Independent on Sunday, Mr Pityana, a former vice-chancellor of the University of South Africa, said Mr Zuma should resign and that the ANC was governed by mob rule.

Since Mr Zuma’s re-election as president of the ANC in December, there have been increased calls for him to articulate a bold vision for South Africa. Mr Pityana said the fortunes of the country had declined on every level since 2009 and that the president had to step aside to allow a more capable leader to take over.

"Leadership matters. I cannot go along with the idea that leadership does not matter; neither do I accept the notion bandied about in the ANC, that leadership is by collective. A so-called ‘collective leadership’ strikes me as mob rule."

Mr Pityana said the country was on the precipice of a "moral cliff" where any sense of public good or virtue, loyalty or restraint was gone, with the nation’s morality being in paralysis. He said Mr Zuma and his government were not interested in positive criticism, and were afraid of any voice of opposition pointing to widespread abuse of the state.

Mr Pityana said the Zuma government’s lack of passion was seen in the collapse of the education system in provinces like Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, and poor health provision in Gauteng.

He said his letter was intended to stir up debate over South Africa’s political governance and to get visionary leadership with a transformative and radical policy orientation.

However, Mr Khoza said Mr Zuma had pointed out in his state of the nation address that South Africa was still the biggest economy in Africa and it was doing well in a recessionary global environment.

"The Ernst & Young report on competitiveness still ranked South Africa high. Other countries are also facing difficult times. The UK received a ratings downgrade this weekend," said Mr Khoza.

He said government had adopted the National Development Plan as its core vision for the future. "To say there is no leadership is not true. His comments are emotionally driven and his personal dislike of President Zuma is not rational."

FW de Klerk Foundation executive director Dave Steward said: "There is increasing concern among all groups that Mr Zuma is not doing a good enough job to unite South Africa and present the leadership and vision to take it forward."