Tuesday, 18 December 2007

South Africa: The ANC Leadership Elections

18th of December 2007. Tonight Jacob Zuma has been swept to leadership as president of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa's ruling party. The election was a two-horse race. The Zuma camp took all leadership positions of the party convincingly.

Jacob Zuma has huge popularity. The first ANC leader to emerge from “the People”. Former leaders were drawn from the "elite". From the middle class, from royal families, from the families of traditional leaders (tribal chiefs) and from the intelligentsia. Zuma, by contrast, has little formal education. He educated himself while imprisoned at Robin Island.

All leadership positions of the party were taken convincingly by the Zuma camp. The Zuma “ticket” has taken all of the party’s top spots.

Thabo Mbeki represents the intellectual middle-class branch of the ANC. He is currently in his second and final term as South Africa's State President. His failings – perceived or actual - include crime, HIV AIDS, poverty, poor service delivery and the “quiet diplomacy” policy to Zimbabwe.

In the lead-up to these elections, Jacob Zuma spoke out against the way that these issues were being handled. The government’s failure to deal effectively with crime. The high levels of crime in the country were an infringement of our human rights, an infringement on our freedom. Similarly with the innefective HIV AIDS policy.

While there have been many successes, Mbeki’s government has failed to deliver on several fronts:

• Crime – particularly violent crime – remains a national curse. People live in fear behind high walls and electric fences
• Anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS sufferers. Mbeki’s infatuation with the AIDS dissidents (or denialists) some years ago was not well received.
• Poverty remains a huge issue. While there are a growing number of wealthy and middle-class black people, the majority remain in poverty.
• Poor service delivery is another issue causing great dissatisfaction
• The quiet diplomacy policy towards Zimbabwe has had no perceivable effect.

The vote for Zuma within the ANC was primarily a vote for change. The perceived failings of the Mbeki’s government provided enough fuel for ZUMA to gain support.

Jacob Zuma has faced and was acquitted of a rape charge. Shabir Shaik is in prison for his role in conducting a generally corrupt relationship with Jacob Zuma. Jacob Zuma will probably be facing charges of corruption within the next few months. There is a possibility that he will be found guilty.

Zuma supporters believe that his rape charge and the corruption allegations were politically inspired. What seems certain is that Jacob Zuma was not alone in benefiting from arms deal corruption if indeed he was involved. Jacob Zuma has strong leadership skills. In the early 1990’s he played a huge role in bringing the armed conflict in Kwa-Zulu to rest. He achieved unity in the province. He is seen as a man of the people.

The next national elections are due in 2009. Until then, Mbeki is likely to remain as State President. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

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