JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — South Africa’s ruling party leader Jacob Zuma began campaigning for next year’s election last Saturday — two days after the party ousted his rival Thabo Mbeki from the presidency.
The populist Zuma, who is widely expected to win the elections, was deliberately left out of the new caretaker government led by President Kgalema Motlanthe so he can focus on campaigning, his African National Congress (ANC) said.
Zuma gave a speech last Saturday that focused on crime, jobs and reassuring voters that South Africa is “a stable democratic country” that can “weather any political storm.”
Addressing the South African Communist Party, home to some of his staunchest supporters, Zuma said the “painful decision” to recall Mbeki was done so the “country could move forward.”
“We are going to focus all our energies on getting the ANC ready for elections,” he said.
Zuma’s alliance with the Communists and the trade unions, however, has given rise to concerns that he may veer from Mbeki’s market-friendly monetary policies.
Ever-mindful of his audience, Zuma said job creation would be a primary focus of the government’s economic policy.
“In seeking much-needed foreign and domestic investments, we will not compromise the rights of workers and the poor,” he said.
South Africa’s new government faces tough challenges in its assault on poverty, unemployment and crime — areas in which Mbeki is accused of failing.
The country, which is to host Africa’s first soccer World Cup in 2010, has one of the highest crime rates in the world with 50 people a day being murdered. Its police force and justice system have been battered by corruption scandals.
Zuma said that when it comes to crime, the country’s “laws must bite.”
“We are not going to allow crime to divert our attention from fighting poverty and building a better life for our people,” he said.
Zuma also promised a “revitalization” of the country’s health system — a pledge that will likely be welcomed in a country with the world’s highest number of people with HIV. There are some 5.4 million people infected with the virus that causes AIDS.
Motlanthe, just hours after taking office, immediately won praise by announcing he would remove Manto Tshabalala-Msimang as health minister, and replaced her with anti-apartheid veteran Barbara Hogan. Tshabalala-Msimang was widely criticized for shunning antiretroviral treatment for AIDS patients and instead advocating nutritional remedies such as garlic, lemon and beetroot.
Meanwhile, the fallout over Mbeki’s ouster continued last Saturday with the resignation of Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad. A number of officials from Mbeki’s government have quit, including the defense minister and a key Zimbabwe mediator.
President Thabo Mbeki bowed to heavy pressure from his
own party to resign, tossed to the sidelines as punishment for
allegedly abusing his power in trying to quash popular rival Jacob Zuma. The swiftness of Mbeki’s ouster will likely stoke
fears about the political and financial direction of South Africa. More »
President Thabo Mbeki bowed to heavy pressure from his own party to resign, tossed to the sidelines as punishment for allegedly abusing his power in trying to quash popular rival Jacob Zuma. The swiftness of Mbeki’s ouster will likely stoke fears about the political and financial direction of South Africa. More »
Nelson Mandela was flanked by President Thabo Mbeki and ANC president Jacob Zuma. The two fought bitterly over the party leadership last year. The battle seriously damaged the reputation of the party as it heads for general elections next year. More »
Padraig O'Malley's first victim was South Africa President Thabo Mbeki, whom the professor claims is out of touch with the realities of the country, largely because Mbeki did not live in South Africa during most of the apartheid era and was educated in the United Kingdom. Thus, O'Malley concludes, Mbeki only cares about the interests of upper middle-class blacks. More »