Thursday, December 4, 2008




By David Ohito
Controversial South African politician Jacob Zuma made a brief stopover in the country on Tuesday night and met Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other ODM leaders.

The two-hour closed-door meeting took place at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s VIP lounge and was attended by ODM Chairman and Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey, Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi, Agriculture Minister William Ruto and Lands Minister James Orengo.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai also arrived in the country last night and was scheduled to meet Raila. Zuma, who heads the Africa National Congress (ANC) and is set for the presidency after defeating former South African President Thabo Mbeki in September, arrived in Nairobi at 6.20pm in a chartered plane on his way to Lebanon. He was with ANC Treasurer Mathews Phosa.

The populist politician, who is expected to become South Africa’s president in next year’s elections, emerged from the meeting and confirmed an alliance between ANC and ODM.

"Africa has reached a point where the link of progressive political parties is very crucial to shape up the continent," Zuma told The Standard.

Though Zuma portrayed the ANC as a progressive party, it has been accused of increasing intolerance that has led to cracks and the possibility of a split and formation of a new party.

Zuma was Deputy President of South Africa between 1999 and 2005.

Zuma warned African despots that their time was up, and urged them to pave way for democracy across the continent.

"Political parties must be active in their role to rid Africa of despots. We must take it upon ourselves and face the challenges head on," Zuma said.

Old problems

When asked to explain how political parties would survive the stranglehold of the continent’s dictators, he said: "Africa has old problems it has been discussing in vain. We must find new ways of resolving them … through interaction among parties like ODM and ANC," he said.

Zuma went on: "We must discuss them in a different way and find ways to address the pertinent issues. Political parties remain crucial to Africa’s democracy. That is why ODM and ANC have started anew relationship.

"We took advantage of the stop-over in Nairobi to look at new frontiers in our cooperation with ODM and reached specific fruitful resolutions how to make further contacts and better the alliance," Zuma said.

Raila explained: "Zuma’s visit was consultative. We want to draw from ANC’s vast and rich history and see how to strengthen ODM. As you know, ANC is the oldest political movement on the African soil."

However, the ANC — which was founded on January 8, 1912 — is fighting for its survival due to internal power struggles.

This is likely to dim its glorious track record as a movement that dramatised the ills of apartheid and mobilised a worldwide movement that kept chipping away at the social and political barriers in South Africa.

Eventually, former President Nelson Mandela led it to power in 1994.

The South Africa president is picked from the largest party in Parliament. Zuma is widely expected to clinch it next year, having taken over the ANC leadership in September.

Acting South African President Kgalema Motlanthe is expected to announce an election date hopefully in April.

Raila said during the session, they shared experiences and challenges that leaders face in their parties.

"We briefed Zuma and the ANC team on how the coalition Government is working. They, too, have a lot to learn from our experience," Raila said.

The PM explained that the meeting also discussed the Zimbabwe political crisis, which is deepening by the day. Zimbabwe is also experimenting with power sharing between Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF following a bungled election.

"We shared views on the Zimbabwe situation and how we can help salvage it," Raila said.

The South African parliament has 400 seats compared to Kenya’s 222. ANC has 290 MPs, while ODM has 103 MPs — including three from its allies.

Pro-poor rhetoric

Zuma, 66, an unabashed populist who revels in polygamy, is synonymous with controversy.

His pro-poor rhetoric resonates with many ordinary South Africans who analysts argue have not benefited from Mbeki’s business-friendly policies.

Beset by a raft of court cases ranging from allegations of rape to corruption, Zuma has survived all and appears poised to ascend to power next year.

He would have to work harder than his predecessors to mop up massive joblessness, crime and HIV and Aids that have blighted Africa’s economic powerhouse.

He will also have to mend the fragile social fabric torn in xenophobic attacks in May in which 42 people were killed, most of them African immigrants.