What exactly defines a presidency?

This question cropped up in discussion and debate during the last week when the news came through that the choir of praise singers are attempting to rehabilitate the dismal reputation of one George. W. Bush.

The same guy that calmly lied to his people about the fictitious Weapons of Mass Destruction (atomic bombs) possessed by Saddam Hussein.

His supporters that were bussed in claim that he was unaware of the lies and that it was concocted by intelligence agencies but the fact remains that the debacle happened on his watch.

It was his administration that responded at snail’s pace to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina amid allegations that black people did not warrant the same priority as whites.

The racial aspects aside any government prepared to spend billions on a war that was built on a fairy tale should be able to respond adequately to a natural disaster in their own country.

Whether the Bush choir manage to rehabilitate this dismal Bush legacy is a moot point but the fact remains that presidencies are marked and defined around a few turning points, moments where decisions are taken and choices are made that cannot be revoked.

Thabo Mbeki is written in history as the Aids denialist, the president that devoted precious time to researching conspiracy theories and conferring with snake oil salesmen. He stated that there is no proof of the HIV virus as around him people died, orphans were left and raped women contracted a virus that could have been prevented with anti retro viral treatment.

His minister of health went off to an international conference peddling her theories about African potatoes and beetroot being a cure for Aids.

The world laughed at us and Mbeki was eventually forced by his own cabinet to cease and desist from meddling in medical science and consorting with con artists. This denialist moment still defines his presidency regardless of what else he did or achieved.

President Jacob Zuma has had his memorable moments with the shower episode claiming that a shower after sex prevents transmission of the HIV virus, The Protection of State Information Bill, South African soldiers dying in a backyard brawl in the Central African Republic and Nkandla.

The multiple charges of corruption against President Jacob Zuma that melted into thin air with the assistance of his political connections must also loom large on any presidential legacy radar screen.

But Nkandla gets my vote as the skulduggery, bribery and corruption that has gone on so that Zuma can build a palace and bunker from which he could become the de facto dictator of South Africa has to make it into prime spot in the annals of South African presidential history.

During their presidencies both Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma supported and encouraged Robert Mugabe in maintaining his vice-like grip on Zimbabwe even as the country has been disappearing before our very eyes.

And as for Robert Mugabe the best that can be said about his legacy is that he was a freedom fighter because after independence he never actually took any responsibility in governing but simply let the country die.

Or maybe the farm invasions that he orchestrated or simply allowed to develop will be the event or set of events that will in the end define the lifetime that Zimbabwe has had to endure under his hawk like watch.

They destroyed a thriving economy, thousands of jobs, set up countless refugees to wander forever in exile and made the country dependent on food imports. A country that was a breadbasket in Africa was crumpled like a piece of paper and set alight.

Maybe there is more to a comparison between Bush and Mugabe than meets the eye. Both were prepared to destroy and kill to achieve a goal that they had set themselves. Bush has his acolytes and praise singers and when he is no longer president so will Mugabe have his own choir.

The defining moments in a presidency cannot be divided into right and wrong but are expedient decisions made with allies to support and encourage them.

George. W. Bush had Tony Blair to watch his back while he went about the nefarious invasion of Iraq and Robert Mugabe has had Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma to watch his back and prevent sanctions while he goes about the nefarious act of simply looting and killing a country.

Democracy is a journey and not a destination.

This blog was penned before the Guptas infiltrate military airspace in a civilian airliner.


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