Day By Day

Thursday, October 20, 2005

South Africa Heats Up -- Bring Back My Old Machine Gun

The upcoming graft trial of Deputy President Jacob Zuma has brought simmering tensions to the fore and is threatening the rule of President Thabo Mbeki.

Reuters reports:
JOHANNESBURG, Oct 17 (Reuters) - South Africa's ruling ANC is fighting to win back grassroots members in revolt over issues from a lack of jobs and crumbling municipal services to the graft trial of popular sacked Deputy President Jacob Zuma. [pictured above]

New hotlines at the party's Johannesburg headquarters have been taking calls from members across the country. And on Sunday President Thabo Mbeki took the lead, delighting rural audiences in the Vaal district with a speech denouncing corrupt local officials. But some analysts say it may be too late for Mbeki and his allies to unify the party, not least because the initiative is controlled by the central leadership seen to be detached.

The wave of popular support for Zuma, who was sacked in June and then charged with corruption, has stung the African National Congress (ANC), polarising the 90-year-old movement and exacerbating discontent in the ranks.

It is almost impossible to believe it is the same party that launched Nelson Mandela to power in 1994 as South Africa's first black president and cruised to a two-thirds majority in parliament in the last general elections just over a year ago.

Popular anger in ANC strongholds over a jobless rate of over 26 percent has spilled into the streets. Township residents protesting poor municipal services have ripped water pipes while commuters angry at delayed trains have set carriages ablaze.

Last week in Durban when Zuma made a court appearance, his supporters sang insults and burned ANC T-shirts emblazoned with Mbeki's face. Protesters targeted Mbeki allies, pelting the regional premier with urine-filled bottles, according to witnesses. At one point Zuma led them in chanting the liberation song "Bring back my old machinegun".
Western officials have time and again urged President Mbeki to take a stronger role in international affars, particularly in opposing the mad reign of Bobby Mugabe in neighboring Zimbabwe, but such calls are futile. Mbeki has his hands full with domestic discontent and many among the opposition are strong supporters of Mugabe's racist/maoist reforms.

Imagine the problems of governance in a country where the refrain of a popular song is "bring back my old machine gun."

Read the whole thing here.

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