South African President Thabo Mbeki who has been attacked for his lack of leadership in dealing with the anti-foreign riots which have swept his nation, is now being forced to confront questions about present handling the crisis. Two weeks have passed during which time rioters have attacked immigrants, burned their shacks, and, in some cases, killed these innocent people, but the president of the nation apparently has other things to do than visit scenes of the violence and offer reassurance to the afflicted. According to Olmo von Meijenfeldt, of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, “a strong appeal to the South African people from the president would be very welcome indeed.”‘ He noted Mbeki has a distant style of leadership, and he is not the sort of man “to put himself in the forefront.”
Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils admitted the government knew tensions were growing. “Of course we were aware there was something brewing. It is one thing to know there is a social probelm and another thing to know when that outburst will occur.” Of course, it was no secret there were tensions over foreigners getting jobs in a nation which has extensive poverty, but that was even more cause to take proactive measures to head off the problem.
Moesties Mbeki, the president’s own brother believes “the current government has lost its credibility.” His brother failed to exert leadership during the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe and his comment that no crisis existed made him the laughing stock of Africa.
The African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma will most probably become the next president of South Africa. Unless he initiates vast programs to deal with poverty, there will be other riots in the coming years.