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South African opposition leader Helen Zille has not endeared herself to the majority of voters who recently handed the ruling African National Congress a landslide victory in the national polls.
Zille came under fire from her political enemies for her appointment of a predominantly white and almost completely male cabinet in the Western Cape, the province where her DA party took power from the ANC.
She retaliated by attacking President Jacob Zuma, calling him a “self-confessed womaniser with deeply sexist views, who put all his wives at risk by having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman”.
That referred to Zuma’s acknowledgement that he had such contact during a trial on rape charges of which he was acquitted. The row has ended any suggestion that after Zuma’s election, there might be a period of better relations between the government and opposition.
Thousands of South Africans danced, cheered and sang hymns to celebrate President Jacob Zuma’s swearing in. Zuma, they said, as a man of the people, would give them houses and electricity, fight AIDS and crime, and ensure prosperity even as South Africa is on the brink of its first recession in 17 years.
But appointments to key ministries have raised questions over how well the new government will function.
South Africa’s national elections last week have reshaped the contours of the country’s political landscape. It has almost certainly killed off the careers of many opposition leaders who have become institutions and their parties with them. It virtually obliterated the peer parties of the ANC, with their roots as liberation movements, such as the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) and the Azanian Peoples’ Organisation (Azapo). It is clear the electorate believes these parties are irrelevant, outdated and under poor leadership. The Inkatha Freedom Party, whose founder, Mangosuthu Buthelezi also professed that it has its origins in liberation movement politics has also been brought down to size.
The IFP has dominated the KwaZulu Natal province since the 1960s, but embarrassingly lost out to the ANC now. ANC President Jacob Zuma’s overt appeal to Zulu speakers in the province who have supported the IFP in the past, by arguing that is better to support him (Zuma) for the presidency, and have a Zulu-speaker in the presidency, has evidently worked. Many IFP supporters have voted for Zuma merely on the basis of ethnic affinity, rather than his record in government.
“The new President of the Republic will be a president for all, and he will work to unite the country around a programme of action that will see an improvement in the delivery of services,” Zuma said after the African National Congress won its sweeping victory.
The Zuma administration’s foreign policy will be determined to a great extent by the struggle to satisfy national needs and demands. These can best be understood if we take into account not only the country’s increasing level of corruption and violent crime, but also high level of expectations from the urban and rural unemployed, the poor and the working class expecting the qualitative improvement in their material conditions.
The Zuma administration will commit itself in practice to the value of continuity in South Africa’s foreign policy. Central to this tradition will be popular foreign policy objectives pursued by South Africa since the end of apartheid.
They include support for peaceful resolution of conflict on the African continent and beyond, support for the regional and continental organisations and integration as well as multilateralism. It will continue with the country’s practical and theoretical call for continental socio-political and economic renaissance or transformation.
South Africa under the leadership of Thabo Mbeki used the African Renaissance to contribute towards the resolution of conflicts in African countries conducive for the operations of its capital and the realisation of the objectives of its socio-economic policy objectives.
It regarded its active participation in conflict resolution as key to peace, security and stability in Africa. It viewed continental socio-economic transformation or renaissance as the process to be achieved through peace and stability creation and consolidation, actions against corruption and implementation of socio-economic policies conducive for the operations of foreign investment.
The Mbeki administration was reluctant to lead Africa in international relations. It called for a further integration of Africa into the global capitalist system and African solidarity and unity to fight what Mbeki refers to as global apartheid and to contribute towards an equitable world.
These two central aspects of South Africa’s foreign policy, focusing firstly on Africa and secondly on developed countries, raised high level of expectations within Africa and the rest of the world and placed its policy on grounds vulnerable to criticism from individuals with different positions and interests in its efforts to serve as a leader of Africa in its transformation and its relations with the rest of the world particularly developed countries.
These problems are a dilemma it faced in its attempts to serve as the representative of Africa to the developed countries and the representative of developed countries in Africa. This policy helped to explain why South Africa under Mbeki was unable to substantiate its declared theoretical position on African Renaissance in practice. It impelled it not to antagonise developed countries in its African Renaissance project and to seek support from weak African countries.
Under Mbeki, South Africa put itself on the level that Africa expected more than it could deliver in resolving Africa’s problems.
It pretended that it could meet requirements of this expectation. It did not substantiate Mbeki’s progressive position that its role in the resolution of the African conflicts should be guided by the struggle to achieve African transformation in the interests of the masses of the people. South Africa remained central to the consolidation of dominance of Africa by developed countries.
The Zuma administration will be a substantial and welcome addition to the struggle against Africa’s problems.
It will use the country as the regional and continental power to criticise African leaders who are enemies of their people and strive for free, independent exercise of foreign policy.
There will be a shift in the direction towards South Africa realising its potential as a centre of independent development on the African continent.
It will be under enormous internal progressive pressure to ensure that the country constitutes a strategic continental threat to the internal and external interests inimical to the interests of the continent and its people.
Based on current information on Jacob Zuma’s beliefs, ideas and practices, what are the prospects for his soon-to-be installed administration in South Africa?
My overall thesis is that Zuma is no less enigmatic than former President Thabo Mbeki, his old rival.
South Africa votes on 22 April with not only its globally admired efforts to build democracy in tatters, but against the backdrop of many other promising attempts to build viable democracies across Africa now backsliding.
Corruption charges against Jacob Zuma have been dropped, as expected. It’s not an acquittal, the prosecutors said. The ANC leader will have to go back to court for the charges to be formally withdrawn.
Even when they are, critics make the point that a cloud will still hang over the man expected to become South Africa’s next president.
South African prosecutors are considering a legal request by ruling ANC leader Jacob Zuma to drop the graft charges against the man who is expected to be the next president after the elections in April. Zuma has always denied any wrongdoing and his followers say the charges were politically motivated.
A decision to drop the charges would give the African National Congress a big boost ahead of what is expected to be the most closely-contested poll since apartheid ended in 1994. It would also remove a major distraction for Zuma in office and the prospect of court appearances that could tarnish South Africa’s standing abroad.