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South Africa’s Ex-VP Takes Lead in Party Provincial Elections

In South Africa, the latest provincial election results of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party show deputy president Jacob Zuma taking a commanding lead over President Thabo Mbeki ahead of next month’s elections to choose who leads the party. Zuma had a strong showing after he got 40 percent of votes cast in both West and Eastern Cape Provinces, believed to be the strongholds of Mbeki. In the Kwazulu Natal Province believed to be the stronghold of the deputy president, he won an overwhelming 98 percent of the votes cast.

While Zuma has reportedly portrayed himself as a man of the people, which analysts say endears him to powerful unions and the ANC rank-and-file, Mbeki is seen as a consummate political tactician inside his ruling ANC. But he has been accused of stifling dissent. Mbeki’s pro-business policies are credited with yielding one of the most prosperous eras in South Africa's history.

Meanwhile, Zuma said he is ready to be the next president of South Africa. Adams Habib is a South African political analyst. From Johannesburg, he weighs in on the political temperature of the ANC with reporter Peter Clottey.

“I think we should not be surprised, the race has heated up quite dramatically in South Africa over the last week. In fact the provincial elections took place this weekend the ANC provincial branches are counting the votes for the leadership succession and who the nominees are for the presidency, deputy president, the chairperson, the treasurer and the secretary general and the assistant secretary general. So this was opportune timing, if you like, for Jacob Zuma to send a forceful signal to the public that he is ready to govern and this is what he stands for,” Habib pointed out.

He explained how some South Africans view ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma.

“I think that there is a large layer of poor people that would be very supportive of a Jacob Zuma presidency. They feel that under Thabo Mbeki that there have been some significant gains, but that the rich has done far better than the poor in the society… I think there are sections of business the urban upper middle classes, if you like, that are more reticent about Jacob Zuma presidency. They feel that the corruption charges against him reduce his ability, reduce his stature as a presidential candidate. I think there is a center for urban chauvinism in part that informs this. For a variety of reasons they think he is a tainted candidate and therefore, would not be a good presidency,” he said.

Habib said provincial results so far released gave Zuma an advantage over Mbeki.

“The provincial votes that came out of the ANC provincial elections put Jacob Zuma at about 300 to 400 ahead of Thabo Mbeki. So this is a presidential race that looks increasingly likely that Jacob Zuma will win if it were to reach that position where there is a race of a conference floor,’ Habib noted.