SOUTH Africa matters for the future of Africa and for the future of the West's relationship with Africa. The ending of the sad presidency of Thabo Mbeki, Nelson Mandela's personal choice as his successor, showed how quickly hopes for a stable future in South Africa can dissolve. Currently the country is being run by a caretaker president whose only qualification is his loyalty to Jacob Zuma, the president of the African National Congress who expects to become the country's president after elections next year. Mr Zuma is a popular but controversial figure who still has outstanding accusations of corruption to answer in the courts. If he were to become President many fear that politics in South Africa would take a more dictatorial turn as Zuma used an in-built African National Congress majority to push through his radical policies and upset the delicate black-white balance that has been maintained since the end of apartheid. However, the assumption that the African National Congress will always have an unbeatable majority in parliament has taken a knock with the creation of a more moderate party known as Congress of the People (COPE). This has been formed by Mosiuoa Lekota, a former defence minister and close ally of Thabo Mbeki, who has quickly rallied considerable support in all nine of South Africa's provinces. It is unlikely that Cope could win the coming elections but it could take enough votes to form a coalition with other parties and frustrate Zuma's ambitions.
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