Thursday, June 12, 2008

South African Outlook Not All Gloom

JOHANNESBURG 11 June 2008 Sapa


South Africa is at the peak of a "gloom cycle" but its political future is more promising than people realise, analyst Steven Friedman said on Wednesday.

"People tend to assume that majority rule in Africa will go wrong...that things will end in tears," Friedman, political analyst at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa told a seminar in Johannesburg.

"The gloom cycle is at a high at the moment and has been so for quite a while."

Friedman said the election of Jacob Zuma as ruling party president in December drove depression levels among business people and the public to a peak.

"Their main gripes, such as rolling blackouts, happened under the watch of the leadership that has been voted out.

"They say the government is becoming increasingly ineffective... but who did that [blackout]? The guys who lost the election, not the guys who won the election."

Friedman said Zuma's election should assure people that South Africa was operating under a real democracy, where citizens had the muscle to make sure politicians served them.

"People are demanding a change in leadership and that can only take the country forward."

Friedman said the perception of Zuma was that "he wears traditional clothes, has three wives and sings songs about machine guns."

People were however often pleasantly surprised when they met him.

"There is more debate, more accountability, more fluidity [among the new ANC leadership] ".

Asked whether a Zuma presidency would not scare off investors, Friedman replied: "I probably don't think most of the foreign investors I speak to will want Mr Zuma as a son-in-law, but they won't mind if he is president".

As long as the economy grew and their investments yielded results, they were happy, he said.

On Zuma's pending corruption case, Friedman said chances were
"exceedingly slim" that it would be finalised by the next election, unless the charges were dropped.

"And even if it happens that he is found guilty before the election, we will go into two or three years of appeals."

He said there were seven different groups within the ANC that
elected Zuma at Polokwane, but not all of them agreed he should become president of the country.

"What held this coalition together was that [President Thabo] Mbeki must go."

However Friedman believed Zuma would be South Africa's next

"But don't be surprised if you wake up one morning and read in the newspaper that someone else will be president.

"It is unlikely but certainly not impossible."

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