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article imageElection Fever Hits South Africa: Fears of ‘Banana Republic’

By Christopher Szabo     Apr 5, 2009 in World
South Africa is in the throes of election fever. With national and provincial elections less than three weeks away, parties are vying for votes in what promises to be a crucial poll.
Observers see the upcoming election as being the most important since the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. According to analysts, two key issues are whether the ruling African National Congress (ANC) can keep its two-thirds majority and the fate of ANC leader Jacob Zuma, who faces fraud and corruption charges.
The Port Elizabeth newspaper Daily Dispatch put it like this:
South Africa is holding its breath this weekend as the most important decision over a criminal trial in South Africa’s recent history falls due on Monday when ANC president Jacob Zuma will learn his fate.
The reason for the dramatic tone is fear for the constitution and the rule of law. Zuma’s allies in the ANC have been trying to prevent his facing the charges in open court, arguing that this could destabilize the country. Media, civil society and opposition political parties argue that if a so-called “political solution” were found, then fears of a double standard — one for politicians, another for everyone else — would be justified.
Zuma’s former financial adviser, Shabir Shaik, although found guilty of fraud, spent only a short time in jail and has recently been released on medical parole. This at a time when other prisoners are dying of cancer and AIDS. Earlier, another ANC top official, Tony Yengeni, was also freed earlier than usual.
Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) leader Bantu Holomisa warned about a deal being struck between the ruling party and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA): “If they proceed with such a decision the leadership of the NPA and of the ANC will forever be associated with a blatant cover-up.”
The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC)’s Mzwanele Nyhontso said: “It would mean South Africa has degenerated into a banana republic. You can’t have any person above the law.”
The Mail and Guardian weekly, quoting an internal ANC poll, reported the party would indeed lose its two-thirds majority, although not by much.
Party Posters the Order of the Day
Party Posters the Order of the Day
Christopher Szabo
Other polls claim the ruling party could lose some of South Africa’s nine provinces, with the biggest threat coming from the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). The DA has often said it would be prepared to build an opposition coalition, which would mean the first-ever serious parliamentary challenge to the ANC since the end of Apartheid in 1994.
More about South arica, Elections, Zuma, Law, Constitution
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