“Our universe grants every soul a twin – a reflection of themselves- the kindred spirit.” None of Trump’s numerous significant others have managed to fit this script, but guess who does. Another unprepared, unqualified, charismatic, anti-establishment president whose impeachment has been the desire of the masses from the get, South Africa’s President Zuma. Clearly the reason why these men have gone through so many wives is because they have yet to recognize each other as they actually are, kindred spirits, true soulmates.
Forty-eight hours shy of Trump’s inauguration, I jumped ship and flew on over to South Africa. It didn’t take long to realize that South Africa is America’s African twin as more and more political parallels continued to build.
America, we spent the entire campaign season shocked that someone as unqualified for the presidency as Trump could really be running, meanwhile President Zuma has no more than a 6th grade education. Both Trump and Zuma have also been openly accused of sexual assault, admitted to it and are still sitting in a white house influencing decisions on women’s health and much more. While Trump has lined his Cabinet with his alt-right yes men, Zuma recently reshuffled his cabinet without discussing it with his party officials, also getting rid of a Financial Minister he disagreed with, much like Comey’s dismissal once he crossed Trump.
Trevor Noah was not lying when he said on the Daily Show that South Africa can be our guide as to what the future of our country may look like under this leadership. Both countries have had to transition from effective, intellectual presidents to the ones we are stuck with now who are being investigated for illegal interactions with Russia, controversially set up business deals for their children to profit off of their status, threaten to prosecute political opponents and believe its the media that is crazy, not them.
To be fair (and attempt some diplomacy), while these men may not be the best presidential options, they have shown competency in their lives given their respective interests. Trump became a mogul due to his great business sense (we’ll overlook the bankruptcies for the sake of squeezing out a complement). While Zuma may not have had the luxury of formal education, he spent his adulthood working with the African National Congress (ANC) and served 10 years on Robben Island in the process. But corruption and greed are real, so here we are. At some point y’all parents have got to stop telling all of your kids that they can be president.
Any country that can have that many similarities in leadership, is bound to have more similarities historically that lead us to this point. In Trevor Noah’s book, Born A Crime, he makes the comparison, “In America you had the forced removal of the native onto reservations coupled with slavery followed by segregation. Imagine all three of those things happening to the same group of people at the same time. That was the apartheid.”
That being said, there is the obvious similarity of intense racial oppression that has played out differently in our countries during different time periods. As time progresses it became largely institutional but the remnants of slavery and apartheid are still very present in both countries given the neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, etc. In both countries, many facilities are separate, few are equal.
For all of our similarities there are definitely still very nuanced differences. Nonetheless, both countries have such vitality, we can only hope that this moment in history does not determine our long-term trajectories. The struggle knows no borders, so for all of my South Africans thinking America’s got its act together, think again. For any Americans thinking we’re so much better than those living on this side, don’t.
I will say this, on behalf of us Americans, to all of my lovely South African people: