South African Elections: Another victory for Jacob Zuma

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More than 23 million South Africans will go to the polls on Wednesday to elect their members of parliament for the fourth time since the end of apartheid in 1994. These legislative elections will will pave the way for the parliament’s election of a new South African president. Unless there is a last minute surprise, Jacob Zuma, leader of the ANC should be appointed to head the South Africa, Africa’s leading economic power. His party, however, is expected to lose its two-thirds majority of Parliament.

The African National Congress (ANC), in power since the first multiracial elections, fifteen years ago, is expected to win the majority in the legislative elections scheduled for Wednesday in South Africa. According to recent polls, the party will win with more than 60% of votes cast. Its leader, the controversial Jacob Zuma, is guaranteed to become the next head of state to be appointed by the South African Parliament on the 6th of May. After that, nothing should stop them. The court decided on April 8, to dismiss a fraud and corruption lawsuit brought against him in December 2007. “Abuse of power” committed by the investigating officer discredit the proceedings, the Attorney General indicated.

Sunday’s presence of Nelson Mandela, symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle, at the general meeting of the African National Congress, served as a great morale boost for Jacob Zuma. In his speech, delivered in front of more than 100 000 supporters, the leader of the ANC leader showed himself as a nation builder. South Africa, he said, “Belongs to all, blacks and whites.” His campaign saw him trying to woo the white population who represent only 9% of the South African population and yet wields great economic power in the country. Mr Zuma, the great Zulu orator, said that Afrikaners, descendants of Dutch settlers closely linked to the regime of apartheid, were as African as the Zulus.

“We will use our majority with responsibility and we will not trample on the rights of citizens, or ask other parties to submit”, the head of the ANC promised.

Cope, ANC’s weakspot

Except by utter surprise, the ANC should win the general election on Wednesday. The only disappointment being that the party, which controlled 70% of the Parliament in 2004, could see its majority dwingling to about 60%, that is, below the threshold of the two-thirds majority required to effect change in the country’s constitution. Nelson Mandela’s party has indeed been weakened by the emergence of COPE (Congress of the People) a breakaway ANC party following the resignation of Thabo Mbeki, former leader of the ANC as the head of the country. “With the emergence of the People’s Congress (Cope), these elections will be the most competitive since 1994,” said Aubrey Matshiqi, a political analyst quoted by 20 Minutes.

Cope is certainly still young but it could obtain about 10% of the total votes cast, observers have indicated. With the Democratic Alliance (DA), the main opposition party in South Africa, the two parties could gather enough votes to end the absolute supremacy and the golden era of Jacob Zuma’s party.

The ANC leader’s legal battles have seriously damaged the image of the party. Collette Schulz-Herzenberg, of the Institute of Security Studies, interviewed by The Telegram, indicated that many do not vote ANC by virtue of their total support but rather because they do not regard the other parties. In fact, more than half of voters do not believe that Mr Zuma is completely innocent in the corruption cases. A recent survey showed that more than 47% of voters are less confident in the party than they were in 1994.

“Eradicating Poverty”

Despite ANC’s great achievements: the construction of millions of social housing, infrastructure ,education, improved access to water and electricity, a growth of 5% over the last three years …. the rainbow nation still faces serious socio-economic problems, to which the ANC in its fifteen year rule, has not been able to find any solutions: 43% of the population still lives below the poverty line, unemployment remains very high (between 20% and 40% among the country’s labor force, according to sources). Approximately 1 000 people die of AIDS each day. Crime remains a national scourge, with an average of 50 homicides per day.

After appearing at Sunday’s gathering without warning, Nelson Mandela reminded the leaders of the ANC that their “first task is to eradicate poverty and ensure a better life for all.”

This is the goal that the controversial Jacob Zuma, most likely to be the country’s president at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, should not lose sight of.

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