April 20, 2009

Curtain Raiser on the Election

The Economist puts Jacob Zuma on its cover and raises the curtain on Wednesday's election:
WITHIN weeks, Jacob Zuma is set to become the most powerful man in Africa, a continent of a billion souls that is still the poorest and, despite recent improvements, the worst governed on the planet.... As the party’s candidate, Mr Zuma is unquestionably Africa’s next “Big Man”. But it is a phrase that goes to the heart of the continent’s troubles. Too many African countries have been ruined by political chiefs for whom government is the accumulation of personal power and the dispensation of favours.

But his flaws are just as patent. He has been entangled for years in a thicket of embarrassing legal cases from which he has only recently been extricated—on a technicality. His financial adviser was sentenced to 15 years in prison for soliciting bribes for Mr Zuma. He has also been tried, and acquitted, on a rape charge. At the least, he has sailed perilously close to the wind. To put the kindest interpretation on his financial dealings, he has been naive and sloppy, not the best qualities for looking after Africa’s biggest economy. During his trial for the rape of an HIV-infected family friend, at the height of the AIDS plague in a country which has the world’s highest recorded rate of rapes, he showed gross chauvinism and staggering ignorance, notoriously explaining that after having sex he had showered to stave off the disease. He is an illiberal populist, sneering at gays and hinting at bringing back the death penalty.

There's a longer article about South Africa as well.

The election is Wednesday. It's a holiday and I'm intrigued to see what it will bring. As I've noted before, I'll especially be watching the turnout.