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[ANALYSIS] Zuma’s UN speech: The good, the bad & the stupid

This week President Zuma, among leaders of other nations, delivered a speech during the General Debate of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Watching the session was no different from watching a skit from a satirical comedy show akin to Saturday Night Live.

A lot of the contributions made by leaders of several countries were just plain idiotic. They swapped their dictionaries for the teen language used by dramatic high school students.

US President Donald Trump, for example, made the following statement to express his concern about feeling like an unloved spouse in an empty relationship:

“The United States will forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies. But we can no longer be taken advantage of or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return.”

Then, with no knowledge of any higher-grade adjectives, he called terrorists ‘losers’ by saying the following:

“The United States and our allies are working together throughout the Middle East to crush the loser terrorists and stop the reemergence of safe havens they use to launch attacks on all of our people.”

But, the most unbelievable and laughable metaphor of all was when he referred to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un as ‘Rocket Man’ and said he would destroy them. I think he confused his role as the US president for that of Darth Vader in Star Wars:

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That's what the United Nations is all about. That's what the United Nations is for. Let's see how they do.”

China had the perfect response to Trump’s threat to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea by saying that his political ‘chest-thumping is unhelpful’. At this point, China seems like the only nation willing to restrain the gorilla that is Trump… or is it guerilla?

Then, of course, there was our own spearhead, President Jacob Zuma.

Admittedly, the leader of our great nation made some valuable and wise contributions to the debate, especially regarding climate change, saying it was a ‘real problem’ and confirming its destructive existence. What he is doing about is a different story, but more on that later.

His views on North Korea were more diplomatic in comparison to those from Trump:

“We continue with our call for calm in the Korean Peninsula. The situation cannot be allowed to get out of hand.”

Further, he made a strong statement about his opinion on weapons of mass destruction:

“South Africa is of the firm view that there are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction.”

No truer and wiser words have fallen from the mouth of our president in a while. It deserves recognition. We don’t have a lot to work with here, on a global scale. And to prove that, JZ took a sharp turn for the worst when he addressed the issue of globalisation and sustainable development.

He started out with a few truths:

“While a few enjoy the benefits of globalisation, the majority of the peoples of the world still live in abject poverty and hunger, with no hope of ever improving their living conditions.” Accurate!

“These unequal and unjust economic power relations manifest themselves sharply in Africa. For example, our continent is endowed with mineral resources, but it still has the highest number of least developed countries. Many of the developed countries in the world continue to fuel their development from the resources of the African continent”. Also accurate!

But it was when he dived headfirst with blinders on about financial outflows that things took a turn for the worst. A leopard never changes its spots. He spoke about losing resources through illicit outflows of resources. Mr President, let me call to your attention Nkandla!

Then he moved on to issues concerning money laundering, tax evasion, tax avoidance, corruption, and transfer pricing by multinational companies as some of the biggest challenges to economic growth and stability. Laughable. Mr President, let me call your attention to the Guptas.

Since the leaders can’t lead, it’s probably up to us to take the reins.

Let’s start by directing the president to a church where he can practice what he preaches:

A word of advice your excellency: before demanding that developed countries contribute to the achievement of a fair global economic environment for all, perhaps you should stop chopping our money in the name of illicit financial outflows to benefit yourself at the expense of the people.

We appeal for the cooperation and commitment of every member state of the United Nations, and the international community at large to address this phenomenon.

The UN should also be at the centre of addressing this problem.

Mr President, we continue with our call for calm in the Korean Peninsula. The situation cannot be allowed to get out of hand.

As a country that voluntarily dismantled its nuclear weapons programme, South Africa is of the firm view that there are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction.

The only viable solution to the problems of nuclear weapons is their total elimination as expressed in the recently UN adopted treaty banning nuclear weapons.

It can no longer be acceptable that some few countries keep arsenals and stockpiles of nuclear weapons as part of their strategic defence and security doctrine, while expecting others to remain at their mercy.

We are concerned that any possible accidental detonation would lead to a disaster of epic proportions.

We are making a clarion call to all Member States of the UN to sign and ratify the ban treaty in order to rid the world and humanity of these lethal weapons of mass destruction.

We reaffirm, at the same time, the inalienable rights of states to peaceful uses of nuclear energy as reinforced in the Non Proliferation Treaty.

South Africa is today the biggest and proud producer of medical isotopes used in treatment of cancer patients globally. We will continue to harness the peaceful uses of atoms in addressing challenges of socio-economic development.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment.

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