The election of Jacob Zuma as ANC leader is a good sign for Africa, that democracy can prevail even in ruling parties across the continent used to leaders who grow roots in the seats of power. Not that Zuma is the best man for the eventual job of South African president, but Thabo Mbeki is to blame.
He should have, at the earliest possible time, gave a clear indication that he would leave at the end of his two term tenure. Others more capable than Zuma could have emerged to compete among themselves while Mbeki watched on the sidelines.
Mbeki should have followed the path left by his predecessor, Nelson Mandela, who gave up the presidency after only one term. Had Mandela wanted, he would have stayed on, Mugabe-style, even into his late 80s. After all he had the charisma as well as the love of the people he presided, not ruled, over. If anything, Mandela is still loved not only in South Africa but all over the world and everyone could have sympathised with him and granted him the favour of carrying on.
Yes, Mbeki is the intellectual who has presided over a strong South African economy, but he lost it politically by trying to cling on to power even by proxy as party president. The ANC rank and file would not have it and just pulled the rag from under his feet. That he has been given a bruising by Zuma, is in itself a vote of no confidence and one wonders how he is going to work in his executive capacity with the new team in the ruling party.
The most logical thing to do is to vacate the presidency and call for national elections so that Zuma can take over as state president as well.
Mbeki’s defeat should send serious signals to the rest of Africa where the likes of Bakili Muluzi still want to come back to power, the Mugabes still run unopposed at ZANU congresses and in Zambia, the ruling party is still flip-flopping on a possible successor. Zambia risks a Zuma-like take over with a possibly “undesirable” element likely to take over. Such is the sorry state in which the African continent is in politically.
The ANC, being the oldest political party on the continent, has shown the way to proper democracy for the rest of Africa.
Hamba Kahle, Thabo.