South Africa has made tremendous strides over the past two decades in confronting its ethnic and racal divisions, but recent events surrounding the forced resignation of President Thabo Mbeki raise new questions concerning the nation’s future. The resignation of Mbeki undoubtedly spared the nation a divisive and bitter conflict over the presidency, but it also revealed a deep seated rift between Zulu and Xhosa leaders. Nelson Mandela is a Xhosa Chief as it Mbeki, but Jacob Zuma, his rival for power, represents Zulu interests. Zuma has been known to promise his supporters that if elected, he will “cleanse the ANC(African National Congress) of Xhosas.” Mbeki is gone in a cloud of confusion as to whether or not he ever played a role in trying to bring down Zuma by instituting charges of corruption against his foe.
South Africa is usually described as a nation that still has deep seated conflicts between the white economic rulers of the country and its black majority. However, the Zuma-Mbeki reveals the existence of an equally divisive ethnic rivalry among black leaders. Will the end result be emergence of a new Xhosa-white coalition to confront Zulu leaders? The last thing South Africa needs is for the Xhosa-Zulu rivalry to lead to a black-white conflict.