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from Global News Journal:
There was jubilation, defiance and a sense of history in the making in this farming community this week when some 4,000 South Africans gathered to lay the groundwork for what may be a seismic shift in the political landscape.
It is too early to say whether the birth of the Congress of the People will be the political equivalent of an earthquake or a minor tremor. But there is no denying that the new political party caught the nation's attention with the inaugural conference in Bloemfontein.
Delegates sang anti-apartheid anthems, danced and denounced the ruling African National Congress. Many had recently defected from the ANC, which has ruled since the end of apartheid in 1994. Some admitted they had fallen out of favour with the party after new leader Jacob Zuma took over a year ago.
The COPE faithful speak of a need to save the country from Zuma, who is the frontrunner to become the country's next president after the general election in 2009. They believe he will reverse the gains made under Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, ousted as president by the ANC in September.
South Africans have widely greeted new President Kgalema Motlanthe, many of them with a sense of relief after the bitter and divisive power struggle between his ousted predecessor Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, leader of the ruling African National Congress.
Motlanthe, quiet spoken and dignified, struck exactly the note the public were looking for when he took office, sober but smiling gently – a huge contrast to the theatrical ebullience of Zuma and the aloof, intellectual style of Mbeki, who was seen as arrogant and out of touch with his people.
Jacob Zuma, the embattled leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) launched a big fight for his political life on Aug. 4, asking the Pietermaritzburg High Court to dismiss a graft case against him that could stop him becoming president next year. If his application is rejected, a full corruption trial could follow later this year and South Africa could head into a protracted period of tension and uncertainty. Read the following insights from leading analysts and have your say on how the legal process could affect South Africa:
Keith Gottschalk, the University of the Western Cape (see full analysis)
“Jacob Zuma’s Zuma’s legal team has already proved, year after year that, if you have a bottomless pocket such as taxpayers, you can protract litigation, U.S.-style for the better part of a decade.”
Adenaan Hadien, Cadiz Holdings
Pietermaritzburg may well have been brought to a standstill with the resumed corruption case of Jacob Zuma in the High Court, but I suspect the same would not be true for local markets. Certainly, if last week’s market performances are anything to go by, then reactions are likely to be muted. Last Thursday, the Constitutional Court dismissed all four of Zuma’s appeals to prevent the state from using potentially damaging evidence against him in his corruption trial. On Monday, Zuma’s legal team submitted an application for a permanent stay of prosecution, arguing that his constitutional rights have been violated. This application and the round of appeals which may follow if, as is expected, it was rejected, would again delay things.
On the week, the local currency gained over 4% against South Africa’s trading partners’ currencies and bonds enjoyed gains last seen in the late-1990s. Equities put in a more mixed performance on the week, due to the oscillating woes of resources against financials and industrials. The performances of bonds were even more impressive, given the higher-than-expected consumer inflation figures released on Wednesday. Granted, Thursday’s producer inflation numbers were more encouraging.
Raenette Taljaard, Helen Suzman Foundation
ANC President Jacob Zuma’s quest for a pre-trial stay of prosecution looks certain to perpetuate uncertainty and an uncomfortable ongoing holding pattern and turmoil inherent in these dramatic events.
These compounded uncertainties do not only affect the South African economy with perceptions of political risk ratcheting up as key members of the new ANC leadership step up the rhetoric as Zuma goes to court but also creates tremors for core constitutional institutions and the bench in South Africa. After upholding the search and seizure warrants used against Zuma and rebuking his legal team for what amounts to delaying tactics, the Court also discouraged pre-trial legal wrangles of the kind that started in Pietermaritzburg.
The decision has been met by a storm of international condemnation of the violence, with increasingly powerful voices speaking out from Africa. On Tuesday President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and ANC leader Jacob Zuma joined the condemnation and called for the vote to be postponed.