AS if South Africa did not have problems enough, it has become clear this week that the man likely to become the country's president in two or three months' time is also likely to be facing charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering later in the year. Jacob Zuma is already president of the African National Congress whose domination of politics in South Africa stretches back decades and is unlikely to be shaken in elections due to held in March; the emergence of an opposition party, Congress of the People, made up of disillusioned African National Congress members, will probably not affect the outcome of the election.

This week a South African court directed that a lower court's earlier dismissal of the charges against Mr Zuma should be overruled; his reaction was a shrug of the shoulders and the observation that “it's just another step in court”. He has, in fact, been in and out of the courts on various charges ranging from rape to racketeering for the past six years. Central to the outstanding charges against him is a controversial big arms deal which has already led to his business adviser being sent to jail. Mr Zuma is a charismatic and effective political figure whose credentials include a term of imprisonment on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela. But in the present economic climate and with its role as host of the World Cup in prospect, South Africa surely needs a leader who is not distracted by serious accusations against him.


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