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South Africa’s ANC President Zuma Promises to Address Poverty

The leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party is pledging to address what he described as the perennial poverty problem in the country. Jacob Zuma made this pronouncement when he visited mainly white neighborhood outside the capital, Pretoria and reportedly said he was shocked and embarrassed after he saw families living without running water or electricity. He adds that the high level of poverty among black people does not necessarily mean white South Africans did not suffer too. But some critics of the ruling ANC said Zuma was pandering ahead of this year's general elections in which he is expected to have a strong showing since the ruling party has an overwhelming support in the country.

Professor Shadrack Gutto is a constitutional law expert and a political analyst. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from Johannesburg that Zuma is trying to breach South Africa's racial divide.

"I think it is important to see that as a newly elected leader of the ANC, he is trying to reach out to say he cares. I think because there has been quite some activism among some white organized groups about poverty among Afrikaners, talking about the question to put time frame to affirmative action so that it should come to an end now and so on. His going there is first of all to just say he is the man of the people, and he cares for the down trodden and the poor," Gutto noted.

He reiterated that Zuma aimed to breach South Africa's racial divide ahead of this year's election.

"The aim is to breach the racial gap that he is somebody that is there for blacks and whites. But beyond that even the level of what is called poverty. Which he (Zuma) was witnessing, if you look at it they were having a fairly good lunch, unlike the poorest of the poor," he said.

Gutto denied black South Africans would be peeved by Zuma's statement of addressing white poverty.

"I don't think they would because I don't think he is going to do much about it, it was more of a PR (Public Relations) exercise than anything else. After all he (Zuma) can't device policies that is just geared towards whites. It would run against everything that the ANC government is talking about, even under the so-called new leadership under the ANC. I don't think much policy would change on that and I think people treated it as such," Gutto pointed out.

Meanwhile, a new report by the charity, which helps mostly poor white communities, suggests that more than 130,000 white South Africans are homeless.

Gutto sharply differed about a recent poll, which overwhelmingly suggested that President Thabo Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" approach towards resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe.

"First of all, one has to see which group was the survey conducted? Because one is quite aware that most of the press, bit not all of it in South Africa has been extremely hostile against Mbeki. They more or less simply echo what is said in Washington and London, and of course some of the things as you know South Africa is full of what Zimbabweans call Rhode, that is the white Rhodesians who run to South Africa just before 1980, and immediately after that running away from black rule. Most of them are intellectuals and some of them are in the media and so on, and many actually do set tones in terms of what they want to be done about Zimbabwe. But I think history has proved that President Mbeki was always right," Gutto said.