A joint session of South Africa's parliament is expected to affirm last month's election of African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma Wednesday. He would be sworn in on Saturday. Anticipation among Zuma supporters has been running high since the party won an overwhelming majority in the April 22 general elections. The ANC fell short of its expected two-thirds majority in parliament to allow the party to amend the constitution without opposition input.
South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) political editor Xolani Xundu told VOA that South Africans hope things will improve under Zuma's presidency.
"It's a big day for South Africans, and people who are interested in following politics in this country and the region and internationally. Because today, the ANC president and South Africa president-in-waiting Jacob Zuma is going to be sworn in as a member of parliament together with 400 other MP's this afternoon," Xundu said.
He said South Africa has a unique way of electing its leader.
"The way it works in this country is that all the MP's are going to be sworn in, including the ANC president Jacob Zuma. So from there, we move to the afternoon where the ANC president Jacob Zuma is expected to be elected by parliament as the president of the country. Then he becomes the president-elect. And he will only be sworn in as president on Saturday the 9th of May," he said.
Xundu said supporters of the ANC leader are expressing optimism about Zuma's election as president.
"People are excited, and today is a big day," he said.
Xundu said Zuma's incoming government has a Herculean challenge after the recent worldwide financial crisis.
"There is a great deal of expectation on this administration. As you know, South Africa is just like any other country in the world is in the global economic meltdown, and this is affecting our people dearly. There are those expectations from ordinary South Africans that things are going to start getting better, and it is a great burden on this Zuma administration," he noted.
Xundu said South Africans want the incoming administration to help alleviate their suffering.
"People are looking at today's proceedings with a sense of hope that things are going to start turning for the better and that Mr. Zuma and his administration are going to focus on those issues that are of necessity for the poor," Xundu said.
He said the incoming president has an enviable talent for speaking the language of the average South African.
"Zuma has something that other people do not have or the former president does not have. And this is an ability to connect with the ordinary people. Also, he is viewed as a reconciler, having facilitated the peace talks between the ANC and the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party) during the early 1990s," he said.
Xundu said South Africans spoke loudly when they gave the ANC a resounding victory in the April 22 elections, despite various accusations leveled against Zuma.
"There is criticism about what he has done in the past. And for those things, it would seem that a majority of South African have listened to his apology for having, for example, sexual intercourse without a condom and those kinds of things, but then again, he was acquitted. Mr. Zuma, yes he is not a saint. South Africans accept that, and that is why they are willing to give him a chance to lead this country, because in him, they see someone who is like them," Xundu said.
Zuma maintains that he would not tamper with existing fiscal policy after foreign investors express fear that internal political pressure would force him to pursue left-leaning economic policies.
Zuma was sacked as deputy head of state in 2005 after his financial adviser was handed a 15-year prison sentence for paying him bribes. The President of the African National Congress has been in and out of courtrooms on charges of corruption and money-laundering over the past few years. His supporters say the graft charges were politically motivated to prevent him from becoming president, a claim the opposition dismisses.
The accusations against Zuma relate to a multibillion-pound arms deal in the late 1990s and a relationship with his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who had already been convicted, imprisoned, and released on parole for soliciting bribes.
As Zuma and former South African President Thabo Mbeki struggled for power within the ANC, the charges were first laid and then dropped on a technicality, and then re-instated two days after Mbeki was voted out of the party leadership at the Polokwane conference in 2007.
With Mbeki ousted from the presidency last year, and Zuma's allies now in the ascendancy, the national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe made an announcement at the National Prosecuting Authority's headquarters in Pretoria.
He revealed transcripts of telephone calls involving Leonard McCarthy, then head of the department of special operations known as the Scorpions, and close Mbeki ally, Bulelani Ngcuka, a former director of public prosecutions. The expletive-littered calls showed discussions between the two had taken place about when to recommence charges against Zuma.
Some South Africans believe the dropping of charges gave Zuma a big boost ahead of the last month's election and ended a legal battle that could have raised doubts over his ability to govern. But some political analysts and the opposition say suspicion will continue to dog Zuma because the case was never settled in court.