Here Come the 'Zumacistas'

Can Mbeki—and South Africa—survive the challenge?

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But most analysts, including some of the "coalition of the wounded," have said they have only themselves to blame. They accept that this was more of an anti-Mbeki vote than pro-Zuma. Many critics argue that Mbeki centralized power and was inaccessible, that he and his people took their eyes off the prize and the people, costing him their allegiance..

Some of Zuma's greatest support came from labor and the Communist Party whom Mbeki, once a member, sidelined throughout his presidency. They have embraced Zuma on the strength of a promise to be more responsive to the workers and the poor. Whether realpolitik will allow any radical departures from the current policies remains to be seen. As for the Mbeki side, it seems that the old saw about raining and pouring might be apt. The current government's economic policies have produced a decade of steady growth, which Zuma has said he won't change them, even vowing to keep the current minister of finance..However, a series of rolling power blackouts in the last month led the government declare a national emergency and have caused tempers to rise. The outages have caused huge disruptions throughout the country, including shutting down the mines, the country's major source of income, leading to predictions of layoffs, dips in foreign investment and an assault on the country's hard-won growth.

And who is being blamed for that? In an ironic twist, the very Mbeki government that has produced a bourgeoning economy and rising standards of living that created more demand for electricity. The government has acknowledged that it failed to take action after being warned years ago of the need to increase capacity. In fact, even before this current political and energy crisis, the president apologized for the performance of Eskom, the state-owned utility back in December, generating still another unhappy headline for the Mbeki government: "GUILTY."

All of which adds up to a most challenging time for a country trying to fertilize the roots of its young democracy.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault is a regular contributor to The Root.