Southern African Leadership Shakeups
Africa is an oft-missed continent in political news coverage, especially after the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994 and after the dust settled from the Zimbabwe currency crisis in 2008. Cape Town in South Africa has also been in the headlines recently, facing what Norimitsu Onishi and Somini Sengupta of the New York Times calls "the greatest crisis to face a city like Cape Town since 9/11 and World War II" in regards to the city's impending water crisis.
However, both of these nations had massive leadership shakeups this Wednesday placing their political future's in question.
In Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for a Democratic Change, the main opposition in the Parliament of Zimbabwe, died at the age of 65. His party is currently in a scramble to find a replacement leader for elections scheduled for later this year.
Tsvangirai was known to have aggressive colon cancer for a while before today, so his death to the MDC and Zimbabwe at large is not unexpected. However without any clear replacement, it is currently unknown how the MDC will move forward in this year's general election.
Tsvangirai came to international prominence in 2008 upon receiving more votes than former President Robert Mugabe of the ZANU-PF in the first round of elections. The second round was cancelled when Tsvangirai dropped out, citing electoral fraud and violence against his supporters by the government led by Mugabe.
This prompted international actors to step in and make Mugabe share power with Tsvangirai, making Tsvangirai Prime Minister and Mugabe retained his capacity as president. This ended when Mugabe "handedly" beat Tsvangirai in the 2013 elections.
It should be noted that the elections coming in 2018 are in the wake of a coup that happened in December of 2017, which successfully ousted 93 year old President Mugabe. His replacement, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has led Zimbabwe on many reforms opening up the market which the Marxist Mugabe had implemented throughout his 38 years as president.
In neighboring South Africa, President Jacob Zuma was forced to resign by his own African National Congress as leader of the party and President of the Republic. His leadership, plagued with scandal after scandal, came to an end after nearly nine years as President and having survived five votes of no confidence from Parliament.
Zuma was determined to stay in the office until the scheduled national elections in April of 2019, in which he was not able to run as the head of the party due to term limits placed on the presidency. His replacement, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has already been the leader since last year after the ANC's failure to perform well at local elections in 2016, is now taking over Zuma's office of President of the Republic of South Africa.
This sets him up to try and clean up his party of Zuma holdovers as well as appeal to a broader base of South Africans in the upcoming elections. Zuma is notorious for singing the anti-white song "Shoot the Boer" at an ANC campaign rally, turning many anti racisits and most white South Africans away from the Party of Nelson Mandela.
With these issues plaguing the ANC, Ramaphosa has an uphill battle in trying to win a majority in the parliament in 2019. With opposition coming from his right to the ANC's supposed racist positions of supporting land reform and Zuma's "Shoot the Boer" incident to the far left Economic Freedom Fighters, a black supremacist and pan-Africanist communist party that has been gaining seats in parliament and local councils since 2014, Ramaphosa must try and reach some sort of middle ground between all of these issues and the disenfranchised black population, the backbone of the ANC.
Zuma's scandals included one all too close tie between himself in his capacity as president and the wealthy Gupta family, transplanted from India in the late 1980's to the Republic. He has been accused by detractors as well as the National Public Protector and the Constitutional Court that he gave them political favors for their business interests in the country.
Zuma, at the end of last year, opened an investigation into the Gupta's. This led to a feverpitch this morning when the Gupta's family property was raided by the South African Police Force.
With Zuma out of the office and no longer able to supposedly help the Gupta's get out of this situation, they seem to be facing criminal prosecutions. These could potentially call President Zuma in as he allowed the Gupta's to perform what the Public Protector calls "State Capture."
State Capture is where private and personal interests take over the business of the state, which if found guilty, the Gupta's will be sentenced for doing. It would also open up future prosecutions for former President Zuma and some other members of the ANC who worked with him, potentially leading to a crisis within the party and in the Parliament.
Only time will tell how these events will affect the future of the nations in the region and of the continent. With elections coming within 15 months for both countries and leadership turnovers happening so close to election time, the parties involved must do serious introspection and self help if they wish to have any chance in their respective elections.