View Full Version : 'Machine Gun' Zuma Set to Take Power

Monday, September 22nd, 2008, 05:23 AM


CAPE TOWN, South Africa - South African President Thabo Mbeki told the nation Sunday that he had resigned, having lost a power struggle to a rival tainted by allegations of corruption but poised now to lead the country.

In a somber but dignified speech focusing on the successes and shortcomings of his nine-year presidency, Mbeki said he had submitted a letter to the speaker of Parliament "to tender my resignation from the high position of President of the Republic of South Africa."

He said he would stand down at a date to be determined by Parliament, which will convene in the coming days to select an interim president to serve until next year's elections.

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete, who is also chairwoman of the African National Congress, is widely tipped to become the interim head of state, paving the way for Mbeki's nemesis, Jacob Zuma, to take over after the elections.

The ANC has a huge majority and is expected to romp to victory in the polls despite its upheavals.

Mbeki, 66, lost the final battle in the long struggle against ANC President Zuma, his former deputy, on Saturday. Mbeki was pressured to quit after a judge threw out a corruption case against Zuma earlier this month on a legal technicality and implied that Mbeki's administration had put political pressure on prosecutors.

In his television address, Mbeki said "categorically" that he had never interfered in the work of prosecutors. He said that included "the painful matter" of the Zuma case. Zuma has been under a cloud for the past eight years from allegations relating to a big arms deal.

Mbeki had been on the losing end of a power-struggle to Zuma for months. He lost his bid for a third term as ANC president to Zuma at the party congress last December and the knives had been out for him ever since.

Mbeki fired Zuma as national deputy president in 2005, after Zuma's financial adviser Schabir Shaik was convicted of trying to solicit a bribe to deflect investigations into the arms deal.

Initial charges against Zuma were withdrawn, but the chief prosecutor said last December that he had enough evidence to bring new ones. That was within days of Zuma being elected ANC chief. Judge Chris Nicholson threw out the new charges last week on a technicality and implied they were the result of political interference.

But he made no pronouncement on Zuma's guilt or innocence.

Nicholson's verdict gave Mbeki opponents the ammunition they needed.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said even opposition parties were stunned at the suddenness of Mbeki's ouster.

"The vicious way in which Mbeki was forced out by his enemies has shocked the nation," she said.

Zille said Mbeki leaves a "checkered legacy" because of his refusal to accept the causes and seriousness of the AIDS epidemic, which now kills more than 900 South Africans per day, and his refusal to criticize Mugage.


He may be the most controversial figure in African politics a skirt-chasing, self-described "Zulu Boy" shrouded by accusations of corruption and rape who marches to a catchy tune called "Bring Me My Machine Gun."

South Africa, meet your next president.

Jacob Zuma, the 65-year-old "100 Percent Zulu Boy" and new leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC), has garnered the popular support of communists and young people

During his rape trial, Zuma took a "short skirt" excuse, claiming it was his duty as a Zulu warrior to have sex with a woman if she wore a short kanga (an African wrap), and that he could not leave her "unfulfilled."

Zuma told the court that he knew the woman was "clearly aroused" by the fact that her kanga was "quite short" meaning knee-length.

"In the Zulu culture, you cannot just leave a woman if she is ready," he explained.

According to his defense team, Zulu men have sexual primacy over women. Therefore, he could not be guilty.

"To deny her sex, that would have been tantamount to rape," Zuma claimed.

The accusing woman, who was 31 and HIV-positive at the time of the incident, is the daughter of one of Zuma's now-dead liberation-war comrades.

She alleged that when she went for advice in late 2005 to the home of the man she had known since childhood and had always called "uncle," Zuma forced his 250-pound frame upon her.

During the subsequent trial, thousands of Zuma's supporters congregated outside the courthouse, chanting "kill the bitch" and pelting the accuser with rocks as she arrived each morning. She was given police protection due to death threats.

At one point, Zuma was caught attempting to bribe the victim's aunt with an offer of two cows and a new garden fence in exchange for persuading the victim to withdraw the allegations.

But was Zuma, the former head of the National AIDS Council in a country where one in seven citizens are HIV-positive, and aware of the woman's HIV-positive status, concerned about unprotected sex?

"I had a shower afterwards," Zuma explained after announcing that he had chosen not to use a condom.

In a country where, according to human rights groups, a woman is raped every 26 seconds, Zuma was found not guilty. His accuser has been granted asylum in the Netherlands.

Zuma has also been accused of taking bribes in a defense-contract scandal for which he still faces trial, as well as charges of consorting with criminals, prostitutes and corruption.

Despite claims that the judiciary is independent, he will have significant influence over his own prosecution as the head of the ANC.

A recent KPMG auditing report alleges that the man at the center of the defense-contract scandal, fraud convict Schabir Shaik, spent over $21 million on Zuma's children, including allowances, cars and cash payment for a wedding.

The report also suggests that Shaik and his companies footed the bill for Zuma's household and travel expenses.

Zuma faces 16 charges, including one charge of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering and 12 counts of fraud.

Ironically, Zuma's problems have only increased his support among the poverty-stricken and the oppressed.

Under President Mbeki, discontent has escalated in the black population.

Most South African blacks still live in shocking conditions, with one person murdered every 20 minutes and unemployment at 90 percent in some townships.

In his striking political comeback, Zuma, who often wears a traditional cowhide robe and Zulu shield, led his thousands of supporters Tuesday, many from the Young Communist League, in preparation to succeed Mbeki as the new ANC leader.

Zuma left home at 16 and joined the ANC as a foot soldier for the armed wing of the liberation movement, Umkhonto we Sizwe or "Spear of the Nation."

At 21, he was arrested for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government and served 10 years in prison alongside liberation hero Nelson Mandela as well as his rape accuser's father in the notorious jail on Robben Island just offshore from Cape Town.

A series of corruption scandals, including the theft of millions intended for vital drugs, increased opinion against Mbeki.

Zuma has signaled his intent to "Africanize" the country, and there rumors he plans to seize some white-owned South African farms.

In neighboring Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe's "Africanization" land-reform policies have brought famine to his country through the seizure of white-owned farms.

Thirteen years after emerging from apartheid and starting down the path of Mandela's "Rainbow Nation", South Africa, Africa's superpower and largest economy now embarks down the road of "Bring Me My Machine Gun."