The continent still has a way to go to transition from Kings to Leaders, and South Africa’s president will change before the 2010 Soccer World Cup. On Human Rights Day, some thoughts on the process.


Zululand has a King. He is much respected, the people love him, and nobody will talk of his successor until his funeral rites are over.

There has always been a scrap over the succession of Zulu kings. The first two Zulu kings had no offspring, and it is only courtesy of Ndlela kaSompisi that there is a blood line at all.

South Africa

Africans love kings. There are no decisions to be made - kings are to be followed. Enter Western democracy - and the need to ask that people make a choice. There is a certain affront to this - the people are not used to being asked. South Africa’s first election with universal suffrage ushered in the ANC, led by the iconic Nelson Mandela. Currently the government is a three-way alliance between the ANC, COSATU (Trade Unions) and the South African Communist Party. Democracy requires an educated electorate - it takes a little time before the responsibilities of the voter are understood.

The majority of rural folk in South Africa ask their chief how they should vote. The chiefs tell the people how to vote, and make sure they do. There is a great deal of pandering to chiefs in the runup to South African elections, usually with some hurried laws passed giving the chiefs more power.

2009 elections

The ANC is in its third 5 year term of government, and has had two presidents - Nelson Mandela, and two terms of Thabo Mbeki. The next elections are due in 2009, and will almost certainly be won again by the ANC. Thabo Mbeki will step down, and there will be a new president of South Africa, in time for the 2010FIFA World cup.

The process

Who will be this president ? (Article from Mail & Guardian) How will thepresident be chosen ? (article from Independent Online) Articleon the Party list system from Desmond Tutu.

The President of SouthAfrica is elected by members of the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, usually being the leader of the largest party,

The President of the ANC is elected by accredited delegates to the ANC national conference, the vast majority of whom, 90 percent, will be representatives of ANC branches. This means that less than 2 percent of the ANC’s total membership will be directly involved in the election of a new ANC national executive committee at the national conference in Limpopo in December 2007.

South Africans as a whole thus have very little say in who runs their country. There have been complaints about Thabo Mbeki, particularly in the fields of AIDS and Zimbabwe. I think he has caused problems in AIDS treatment by keeping a badly-performing Health Minister in her job, and I now blame him for the poor governance inZimbabwe. If Robert Mugabe can get away with fixing elections, and is supported by Thabo Mbeki (who is the only person in a position to exert influence on him), well, the buck passes up the chain.

Other countries

Zimbabwe’s leadership issues could also be described as aconfusion of issues :- leading the country to majority rule does not entitle Robert Mugabe to a lifetime in office - that is what Kings do, and Mugabe is not a king.

Very few countries in Africa have passed the essential democracy test - a peaceful handover of power to another party. South Africa has not passed that hurdle, and, like the Zulu kings, the ANC might resort to weapons if it feels it could lose.

Ghana has passed this test, with Jerry Rawlings of theNDC handing over to John Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party.

Senegal has passed, with Abdoulaye Wade of theSenegalese Democratic Party handing over to Abdou Diouf of theSocialist Party of Senegal .

Kenya has passed, with the Kenya African National Union handing over power to Emilio Mwai Kibaki of the National Rainbow Coalition.

We hope the ANC provides South Africa with a president to be proud of for the 2010 World Cup.