The Quiet Revolution in South Africa

12 May

I was reading the Time 100 recently, and it included Jacob Zuma, the President of the ruling ANC party.

A very important point was made. Zuma, for all his faults (which are numerous, and will hopefully be found out in the South African courts in August) succeeded, despite his seemingly impenetrable traditional veneer, to conduct a very unafrican process in South Africa: the taking down of an entrenched and established centralised autocrat from within (Thabo Mbeki); without bloodshed and without civil war.

As this weekend’s tripartite summit proves, Mbeki is a lame duck president. This may have more to do with Mbeki’s atrocious handling of this country, and less to do with the enigmatic yet flawed Zuma.

But there is a glimmer of hope. As was stated previously to me at a dinner party, all politicians are on some level crooked; I agree. And Jacob Zuma might be as bad as any, again I’d agree. But the real victors in the impending removal of Thabo Mbeki from the high office in this country is that it sends a strong message to all future presidents, first and foremost Zuma, that civil society in South Africa, especially amongst the black majority, will not tolerate an autocrat.

Now that is a very interesting and powerful thing; and a true sign that the African renaissance is taking place – but not in the way Mbeki had suspected it would.


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