A tumultuous African National Congress which witnessed heated arguments between supporters of outgoing President Mbeki and his rival for power, Jacob Zuma, concluded with the election of Zuma into the role of head of the African National Congress. Since the ANC is the dominant political party in South Africa, it is almost automatic that whoever it selects to be its leader will also become president of South Africa. Mbeki expressed his concerns about the character of Zuma who he believes has the potential to encourage corruption as well as many charges regarding his sexual misconduct. Zuma ran on a populist platform that promised to redress needs of those in poverty who feel left out of South Africa’s booming economy. He had strong support from trade unions and those on the political left. helen Zille, head of the opposition Democratic Alliance expressed fears that Zuma will undo the constitutional government that has evolved in South Africa and which has avoided conflict between those of African and those of white European backgrounds. She fears that Jacob Zuma has less commitment to such constitutional guarantees as freedom of the press and speech. It was notable during the ANC convention that many members of the media clashed with security guards whom they believed were trying to halt their right to report.
South Africa is Africa’s leading democratic nation and one which smoothly made the transition from being a nation controlled by whites to one in which black skinned people are the majority, but they also ensure equal rights to whites. Jacob Zuma’s reputation indicates he may not have that strong a commitment to a society based on equal rights for all. His rhetoric of populism and promises of redressing inequality can serve as a springboard for real reforms or it can be used as a springboard to stifle those of European background and cause them to leave the nation. A departure of whites would create economic chaos in South Africa since it would frighten world businessmen and make it difficult for a South African government to obtain needed financial support from the world’s banking community.