Zuma: Zomething Different


Two years ago, South African deputy President Jacob Zuma resigned his office after being charged with financial corruption. Months later he was accused of rape by a dead friend's daughter. During the trial he claimed that he wasn't too worried about her being HIV+ because he took a shower after the sex.

You can guess where this is going: Zuma just won the leadership of the African National Congress and he's the frontrunner for the 2009 election.

Max Boot has some commentary here, and James Kirchick has written in the past about outgoing President Thabo Mbeki's problems (he's clueless about AIDS in a country with 5 million HIV+ people). Mbeki was exceedingly power-hungry, but brilliant. Zuma isn't brilliant. Cato's Marian Tupy and former South African opposition leader Tony Leon are pleading but not optimistic:

The new president should have the courage to adopt economic reforms that result in faster economic growth. South Africa's money-guzzling, public-private corporations, like South African Airways, which gets billions of rands in annual subsidies, ought to be privatized.

The new president should also liberalize the labor market. In spite of a growing economy, rigid labor laws keep unemployment stubbornly high, at 26%. Worryingly, the number of people in South Africa who live in absolute poverty doubled between 1994 and 2007. Unfortunately, Zuma may be too beholden to the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which was very supportive of his candidacy, to do what is necessary.

Leon's experience was illustrative of a South African problem, though. He led the Democracy Alliance, the old white anti-Apartheid party, and drove it past the old National Party to become the official opposition. And yet as a white neoliberal with a few flashes of libertarianism, he was called "patronizing," and his party couldn't become a real competitor to the ANC.

Terrible headline explained here.