The choice for South Africa was clear. I mean, clearly fucked up. This week, the African National Congress had its party convention for the first time in five years. As the largest party in South Africa and the party of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, whoever the convention selected as the next president of the party would be, without a doubt, the next president of South Africa. And since South Africa is a bigger and richer nation in sub-Saharan Africa, what happens there affects the rest of the region which looks up to South Africa.
The choice was between a two-term president who cannot be re-elected, Thabo Mbeki, and his former deputy president, Jacob Zuma. President Mbeki is an educated man who lived abroad during the apartheid years. He was only the second post-apartheid president after Nelson Mandela. But he has some problems.
Apparently, in Africa, there is thing called AIDS caused by a virus called HIV. It is a very serious problem, and millions of people have it. But some people deny that HIV causes AIDS, and, though you’d be wrong, you would also be the president of South Africa.
Mbeki would routinely deny that AIDS was a problem and had to be sued by the Treatment Action Campaign up to the Supreme Court to force him to deliver nevirapine to pregnant mothers. Mbeki has also delivered a growing economy with growing gaps and massive crime that the people just won’t take anymore. The ANC and his business-friendliness even privatized water in Soweto and led many people to question whether racial apartheid was ended just to keep economic apartheid around.
In comes Jacob Zuma, the uneducated populist promising economic redistribution. A left-wing firebrand, he was endorsed by the two other partners of the ANC, the South African unions and the Communist Party. Zuma is Zulu and has two wives.
But Zuma has been charged with raping an woman with HIV. He admitted he had sex with her, but he didn’t use a condom. But that was okay, because he “took a shower afterwards” and that keeps you from getting AIDS. And this is supposed by the pro-AIDS patients candidate? AIDS organizations refused to endorse either candidate. Oh, and the ANC Women’s league still endorsed him.
And I forgot to mention that he is in a bribery scandal involving defense contracts which might explode after his election win. All these looming questions led Archbishop Desmond Tutu to tell ANC voters not to support Zuma. But he won anyway, and they played his campaign song, “Bring me my Machine Gun.” An ANC favorite they say.
Think about South Africa the next time you complain about American presidential candidates.
Independent Online (South Africa) – International press hail ‘machine gun man’
CorpWatch – Neoliberalism in South Africa
Guardian (U.K.) – Mandela attacks Mbeki AIDS policy
Der Spiegel (Germany) – Jacob Zuma interview
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