Report from South Africa


Deputy presidents are normally unknown quantities outside their own countries, unless they become potential presidential successors or get into hot water. South Africa’s Jacob Zuma has managed to do both simultaneously. Last month, the sixty-four-year-old Zuma, number-two leader of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s largest political party, was acquitted of rape in a bruising trial in Johannesburg. Zuma still faces another, perhaps even more daunting trial, this one on corruption charges involving a French arms firm. If he is acquitted, all eyes will be on the December 2007 ANC conference, at which the party will elect new leaders. In South Africa, presidents are not elected directly. Instead, the leader of the winning party in the general election (certain to be the ANC) becomes South Africa’s next president. It could be Zuma.

The ANC is a political colossus. It swept to power after the demise of apartheid, and has increased that power during the presidencies of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. The ANC currently holds a two-thirds majority in Parliament, giving it the capacity to change even the constitution. It has powerful allies in the Congress of South African Trade Unions and in the Communist Party, and is the only political show in town. By comparison, the opposition is a pathetic group of squabbling dwarves.

South Africa is currently enjoying a booming economy,...

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About the Author

Chris Chatteris, SJ, works for the Jesuit Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa (