4/20/09

South Africa - Zuma Calls For His Machine Gun

. 4/20/09

"Umshini Wami, Umshini Wami," chanted the African National Congress leader, accompanied by more than 50,000 delirious supporters packing Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg to the rafters - "Bring me my machine gun".

The rally was the final campaign event for South Africa's ruling party ahead of the general election this week, which it is certain to win.

Politically, it was spectacular, and not only because of the numbers present and the helicopters in party colours flying overhead.

In a show of unity and mutual support, Mr Zuma had his arm around Mr Mandela, who is 90 and increasingly frail, as he helped him up to and down from the platform on the middle of the rugby pitch.

To have Mr Mandela – who has long reiterated that he has retired from politics – Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Mr Zuma on the same stage was a stunning coup for the ANC.

Gathered together in one spot were the older generation of the party and its current luminaries, although Thabo Mbeki, the former president ousted after Mr Zuma took over the party leadership, was conspicuous by his absence.

In their first public appearance together for years after a bitter divorce, the Mandelas greeted each other warmly, sat next to each other on a couch on the platform and then rarely looked at each other.

It is Mr Mandela's loyalty to the ANC which brought him to the event, despite the multiple scandals that have surrounded Mr Zuma, 67.

A traditionalist Zulu polygamist, the politician has been acquitted of rape and twice had corruption charges against him dropped on legal technicalities, leaving the way clear for his inauguration as head of state after the elections.

Mr Zuma has built his appeal on "pro-poor" policies and has won the support of Mrs Madikizela-Mandela, who despite her convictions for fraud and her alleged role in the kidnapping of Stompie Moeketsi, a 14-year-old activist murdered in 1989, remains popular among South Africa's most poverty-stricken people.

In keeping with that image, she wore a black beret adorned with a Communist star and a T-shirt showing Chris Hani, the assassinated leader of the South African Communist Party.

Mr Zuma is even more controversial than she is, but his defenders point to his popularity – "Zuma is like Jesus" read one poster in the crowd – and his reputation as a conciliator.

Mr Mandela – usually referred to affectionately as 'Madiba', his clan name – built his status on his efforts to create what he called a "rainbow nation" in South Africa, forgiving his former captors and ensuring a relatively peaceful transition to majority rule.

Nonetheless Mr Zuma did not strike a unifying tone at the rally, itself dubbed 'Siyanqoba' or 'We are the conquerors'.

Instead, while he proclaimed that "South Africa belongs to all of us, black and white," he chose to issue an uncompromising message.

"The judiciary is expected to undergo transformation," he said – code for the replacement of the largely white upper levels of South Africa's judges with those who are more representative of the majority- black population.

Given Mr Zuma's past legal problems, and the thinly-veiled threats that his supporters made against judges ahead of key decisions, his words will reignite concerns about the rule of law under the ANC – opposition parties have long accused the organisation of trying to put itself and its leader above the law.

With the key question on the vote being whether the ANC retains its two-thirds majority, which allows it to change the constitution, Mr Zuma said: "There is nothing in the constitution that says a massive majority for the ruling party is bad for democracy, especially a party that has a track record of upholding the constitution like the ANC."

Afterwards party supporters were ecstatic. "He's a real icon," said Xolani Madoda, 27, from Klerksdorp, of Mr Mandela. "He really loves the ANC. He's the reason we are here, he reminds us of the times we have come from. Today I'm happy, everything is perfect thanks to the ANC. Jacob Zuma is going to be the president."
Source: The Telegraph London





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