South Africa Celebrates 15 years of Freedom and Democracy

Chinazor Onianwah | 4/29/2009, 4:30 p.m.

Jacob Zuma€s ANC wins Landslide victory in national electionIn the midst of celebrating 15 years of Freedom and Democracy, South Africans went to the poll on April 22, 2009 and elected Jacob Zuma as President in what is considered a free and fair election.

Though the 67 years old Jacob Zuma won€t be officially elected President until May 6, 2009, his African National Congress (ANC) landslide victory (65.9%) assures his victory.

Jacob Zuma was Deputy President under Thabo Mbeki from 1999 to 2005. He was charged with rape in 2005, but was later acquitted. In addition, he fought a long legal battle over allegations of racketeering and corruption, after his financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, was convicted of corruption and fraud. On 6 April 2009, the National Prosecuting Authority decided to drop the charges citing political interference.

Leading to the election, on Monday April 20, 2009, the South African Embassy in Washington DC held a panel discussion on €Constitutionalism and Democracy in South Africa.€

The discussion, which was moderated by South Africa Ambassador to the US, Mr. Welile Nhlapo highlighted the transformation of laws in South Africa from apartheid to one that guarantees all South Africans €non-racialism€ (79.5% Black, 9.2% White 8.9% Colored, 2.5% Asian) and human dignity. According to Prof. Zyad Motala, a panelist, €South Africa after 40 years of apartheid is now woven into a single entity devoid of tribalism and sexism. In fact, the erstwhile party of apartheid, the National Party is now immersed in the ANC. All these made possible by social engineering.€

By UN classification South Africa is a middle-income country with an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange (the JSE Limited), that ranks among the top twenty in the world, and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the entire region. South Africa is ranked 25th in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) as of 2007.

Advanced development is significantly localized around four areas: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Pretoria/Johannesburg. Beyond these four economic centers, development is marginal and poverty is still prevalent despite government efforts. Consequently, the vast majority of South Africans are poor. Even though South Africa has the seventh highest per capita income in Africa, only behind Libya, Mauritius it suffers from large income gaps and a dual economy marking it as a developing country.

The spread of AIDS (acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome) is an alarming problem in South Africa with up to 31% of pregnant women found to be HIV infected in 2005 and the infection rate among adults estimated at 20%. The link between HIV, a virus spread primarily by sexual contact, and AIDS was long denied by prior president Thabo Mbeki and then health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who insisted that the many deaths in the country are due to malnutrition, and hence poverty, and not HIV. In 2007, in response to international pressure, the government made efforts to fight AIDS. In September 2008 Thabo Mbeki was ousted by the ANC and Kgalema Motlanthe was appointed for the interim. One of Mr. Motlanthe's first actions was to replace Mrs. Tshabalala-Msimang with the current minister, Barbara Hogan.

AIDS affects mainly those who are sexually active and is far more prevalent in the black population. Most deaths are people who are also economically active, resulting in many families losing their primary wage earners. This has resulted in many 'AIDS orphans' who in many cases depend on the state for care and financial support. It is estimated that there are 1,200,000 orphans in South Africa. Many elderly people also lose the support from lost younger members of their family. Roughly, 5 million people are infected with the disease.