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Tue, 12.18.2007

African National Congress Elects Jacob Zuma as President

Zuma, Jacob

On this date in 2007, Jacob Zuma was elected leader of the governing African National Congress (ANC).

Zuma, a populist whose political career survived rape and corruption charges, received 2,329 votes, ahead of incumbent Thabo Mbeki's 1,505 votes, following one of the most divisive campaigns the party has seen. The win put Zuma into a position to become South Africa's president in 2009. As the results were announced, chaos erupted in the hall; then Mbeki and Zuma, both 65-year-old veterans of the ANC in exile, mounted the stage together and embraced.

Zuma had rallied ANC members who wanted a change from Mbeki. Although Mbeki had guided post-apartheid South Africa to sustained economic growth over recent years, he was accused of moving too slowly to lift millions of black Africans out of poverty.

Much had been made of the personality and class differences between Mbeki and Zuma. Mbeki is a foreign-educated academic who sprinkled his speeches with Shakespeare. Zuma had no formal schooling, was a leader of the exiled ANC's military wing, and, like Mandela, served time at the Robben Island prison.

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