SOUTH Africa is regarded by much of the rest of the world as the best hope for the African continent, blessed with leaders who skillfully managed the traumatic change from apartheid to black equality and who have since encouraged a thriving free enterprise democracy. In 2010 it will be host to the World Cup. It is understandable therefore that the prospect of the populist Jacob Zuma succeeding the moderate Thabo Mbeki as president of the African National Congress in voting this week and subsequently at elections in 2009 as president of the nation has caused some anxiety. Mr Zuma was an anti-apartheid prisoner with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island but his subsequent career has been controversial, to say the least. It is not only outsiders who are concerned at Mr Zuma's rising popularity in the party and the country. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has urged the Congress not to choose “someone of whom most of us would be ashamed”. In the Bulletin's Media Monitor feature on Sunday the editor of East African Magazines, Lucy Oriang, was quoted as writing that if Zuma were elected many Africans would ask, “If this is the face of Africa's leadership, where shall we hide?” Yesterday Nelson Madela intervened to convey his sadness at “the nature of the differences in the Congress” but all the signs are that Zuma is on a roll that many be difficult to stop.


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