Just in case this got your hopes up, this is about South Africa (with a topical comment on Zimbabwe at the end). The outcome of this and some other cases of corruption allegations in the South African administration will test just how robust institutions of that emerging democracy are.

The major case surrounds allegations that the Deputy President Jacob Zuma was involved in attempting to get a bribe to allocate an arms procurement contract. Zuma has been seen as a favorite to take over from Thabo Mbeke when his terms of office run out. The case has come to a head now as an aide of Zuma’s has been found guilty. At the same time 21 mostly former MPs have been charged with misapporpriation of funds over travel expenses. Those involved excess claims for travel from Pretoria to Cape Town, the formal and administrative capitals.

Discussion of the Zuma affair by the Opposition in Parliament has been stopped by the Speaker and it looks like the main corruption police team, the Scorpions, is being undermined and political decisions are being made not to prosecute Zuma. It could have profound effects on South African politics and even break the strangehold that the ANC has.  

When Mbeke was Deputy to Nelson Mandela he expressed concerns over corruption in public life. This makes the calls from a number of South African newspapers for him to sack Zuma more telling. The BBC reports a Business Day editorial:

“If Mbeki does not remove Zuma on his return from Chile today his remaining years in office will be a nightmare,” it warns.

“He will lose all authority and his government will lose all legitimacy.”

It also accuses former President Nelson Mandela of committing “one of the worst calls of his long political life” in backing Mr Zuma. “In failing to press Zuma to do the honourable thing and resign,” it declares, “Mandela has hung his successor , President Thabo Mbeki, out to dry”.

The Zuma scandal news first broke when Mandela was still in office. One of the problems in South African politics is the lack of an altrnative to virtual single party rule by the ANC. Even the party that came out of the former apartheid reigme has abolished itself with its members joining the ANC.  Almost their only opposition are a very few right wing White Supremacists with a band of old fashioned Suzman liberals in Parliament itself. While there are many brave and hornorable people within the ANC, the lessons of neighbouring Zimbabwe and the Zuma affair show that  democracy will only really be secure in southern Africa when they move beyond “liberation politics”. As the Cape Times (again quoted by the BBC) puts it:

While we have a noble constitution, it will become just another piece of paper if its ideals are not consistently upheld.


There are signs of hope. In South Africa and Zambia the press are free to openly criticise their politicians. Zimbabwe may well be coming to a head. After stealing the recent elections, Mugabe is now trying to “politically cleanse” the cities by destroying the shanty towns that have sprung up in the major cities and which are the backbones of the MDC opposition. An estimated 200,000 plus have been made homeless in the past couple of weeks. Having to sleep rough in to cold of a southern African winter on top of the Mugabe imposed famine may just be the tipping point. There is already bloodshed in that beautiful broken land. Let’s all hope that the numbers will not be too great as they overthow a tyrant.    

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