Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Zuma Promises Smooth Transition After South African Elections

Zuma promises smooth transition


The African National Congress (ANC) will secure a decisive victory in the elections and the transition to a new government will be smooth, ANC president Jacob Zuma promised on Tuesday.

The ANC had "better policies" than any other party in South Africa and it had "done what was necessary" to secure a "huge, decisive mandate" for the party, he told a press briefing in Johannesburg.

The elections are the fourth since the 1994 polls that brought Nelson Mandela as president following the fall of apartheid.

Polls predict the ANC will take at least 60% of the vote in Wednesday's general elections, making Zuma a shoo-in for president when Parliament meets in two weeks to elect a new head of state.

"We anticipate a massive turnout at the polls tomorrow and we expect that the people of this country will once again give the ANC a huge and decisive mandate," Zuma told reporters.

"We reiterate that we will use our majority responsibly, and will not ride roughshod over the rights of the people, or bulldoze other parties into submission," he added.

Zuma assured South Africa and the world that Wednesday's elections would be free and fair.

He congratulated South Africans and political parties for running a vibrant political campaign.

"Although emotions were intense, incidents of violence and intolerance were minimal."

He appealed to law enforcement agencies to protect South Africans, and to the citizens of the country to respect the rights of their fellows to cast their votes freely.

He described the 2009 elections as "more exciting" than South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994.

Zuma said he would remain accessible even after he was placed in the Union Buildings as the country's fourth democratically elected president.

"Yes, I will be accessible all the time ... Interaction removes suspicion ... I will see you guys regularly."

The press briefing, attended by many international and local journalists, saw Zuma answering questions ranging from the Bus Rapid Transport system, to who he planned to include in his Cabinet once elected.

Zuma declined to respond to a question about whether Finance Minister Trevor Manuel would remain in his post under the new administration.

London's Financial Times reported on Tuesday that Manuel is poised to retain a Cabinet seat according to government officials and businessmen close to the ANC.

"Mr Manuel has in the past been criticised by left-wing trades unionists and economists close to Jacob Zuma, the party's presidential candidate, and many market analysts had expected him to leave the government.

"However, with South Africa teetering on the edge of recession and facing potential difficulties in financing its current account deficit of more than five percent of gross domestic product, Mr Manuel's presence would reassure potentially nervous foreign investors," the report said.

The report cites an unnamed government official as saying: "It would be really surprising if he were not in the Cabinet ... if one person could steer us through the storms that are beginning to hit us he would be that person."

Record number of voters

Meanwhile, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) expects a record number of voters to turn out for the elections, with more than 20-million people expected to cast ballots, said spokesperson Kate Bapela.

"All of our 19 726 stations will be open at 7am on Wednesday, at this stage we do not foresee any disruptions or hiccups," she told Agence France-Presse.

Bapela said the IEC is confident the vote will be free and fair, adding that even the once volatile east coast province of KwaZulu-Natal has seen fewer cases of political intolerance than in the past.

Police have been deployed to a number of areas identified as possible hotspots, she said.

"We do not regard these areas to be a major security concern. We believe that security forces will be able to maintain peace and prevent any possible disruption," Bapela said.

The ANC's dominance is being challenged by a new breakaway group, the Congress of the People (Cope), formed after divisions caused by the ouster of former president Thabo Mbeki in September 2008.

Cope is among 40 parties that will contest the elections, 26 at national level and 14 provincial level.

The ANC is gunning to secure another two thirds majority, which it has held since 2004 and which allows the party to change the Constitution at will. Analysts say the party could lose its super-majority, making the size of the ANC victory the key question in the election.

Last weekend, the ANC hosted a mass rally in Johannesburg which was boosted by a surprise appearance by Mandela, whose attendance was seen as a major endorsement.

Speculation is rife about a Zuma presidency, a man who is revered by the poor but distrusted by the middle class because of his tainted image.

Zuma had been the subject of a corruption investigation stemming from a 1999 arms deal, but the charges were dropped two weeks ago.

Prosecutors argued that political meddling had compromised the legal process, but insisted they remained confident of the case against him -- leaving a cloud of doubt over his role in the scandal.

Zuma again tried to dispel doubts about his integrity, telling reporters: "There's absolutely no cloud. I've never seen a cloud around me."

He insisted that Cope, which has tried to eat into the ANC support base since its formation five months ago, will not be able to make any significant electoral inroads.

Standard Chartered analyst Razia Khan said if the ANC does win a new super-majority, she believed the party would likely show restraint in its ability to amend the Constitution.

"Should the ANC win the two thirds parliamentary majority that would allow it to change the Constitution, markets will correctly interpret this to mean that the electorate have been calling for change," Khan said.

"Markets may nonetheless still react negatively to the achievement of a two-thirds majority by the ANC. We believe that these fears are largely unfounded," she added. -- Sapa-AFP

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-04-21-zuma-promises-smooth-transition

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