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South Africa’s Ruling Party Supports Zuma Presidency Despite Corruption Charges

The National Executive Committee of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has thrown its weight behind Jacob Zuma as presidential candidate ahead of next year’s general elections. The committee, which met for the first time Tuesday since its recent election in Polokwane also, questioned the credibility of the corruption charges against Zuma. Supporters of Zuma have maintained that the corruption charges are a conspiracy calculated to thwart his presidential ambitions.

But some political analysts believe the ANC could find itself in an awkward position if Zuma is found guilty of the corruption charges. Adams Habib is a South African political science professor. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from Johannesburg that many political observers were taken aback by the NEC’s support for Zuma.

“I think it was a bit of a surprise by analysts that the ANC leadership felt it so necessary to declare so early that he (Zuma) would be the candidate for the presidential nomination in 2009. Remember the former process only happens at the second half of 2008 when the ANC has a list conference, where it lists all of the potential nominees for members of parliament, and as part of that process it will list its nominee for the president of the country. I was taken aback by the need to feel that they had to make the announcement so early, and at the first NEC meeting,” Habib pointed out.

He said the NEC endorsement is an indication of strong support for the president of the party.

“The signal it is sending is that its endorsing its leader, the statement made by the ANC leadership is they could not have done anything else that this is their president, and they have to support the president,” he said.

Habib said by requesting for a copy of the charges against Zuma, the NEC wants to ascertain its next line of action.

“They also decided to actually establish a seven or eight person committee and they’ve requested a particular document, which investigated the arms deal from the state so that they could be appraised of the background to the case around Jacob Zuma. And then ultimately they can decide what form of support they could render him. However, I don’t think we should take it for granted that he will necessarily be the presidential candidate in 2009. I think it does really depend on how things evolve over the next 12 months. What happens in the court case, what it is going to look like to have the sitting president of the ANC being charged for corruption in the middle of an election campaign, and all of those political dynamics might get the ANC to reconsider or might even get Jacob Zuma to reconsider his decision,” Habib noted.

He differed with reports criticizing the ANC for not having an emergency plan if Zuma is found guilty of the corruption charges.

“I would be surprised if they didn’t have a contingency plan. I do know that there is a body of opinion in the ANC some of which is representative of the NEC that does believe that if Jacob Zuma were to be charged then he would be asked to stand down. And that if he had to stand down then Kgalema Motlanthe might be an able candidate as the deputy president. The big question is clearly they did not feel compelled enough at this stage to make that view heard,” he noted.