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'Bringing Democracy' to South Africa's Ruling Party

Interviewee: Princeton N. Lyman, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewer: Stephanie Hanson, News Editor, CFR.org
October 7, 2008

The sudden resignation of South African President Thabo Mbeki in late September has left South Africa in political limbo and raised international concern about the country's economic trajectory. Princeton Lyman, adjunct senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, says there is a "purge" happening throughout the government in which Mbeki supporters are being replaced with supporters of Jacob Zuma, the president of the ruling ANC party. He says the rift within the party is very serious but the interim president, Kgalema Motlanthe, is a centrist who might help keep the party together.

On Zuma, who is expected to become president in mid-2009, Lyman says "there is cause for concern" due to radical elements-the ANC youth league and the Communist party-that support him. Zuma has been working to reassure people that he will not make major changes in the economy, but Lyman suggests that he may slow the pace of privatization in South Africa. Some experts have also expressed concerns that recent events might mark a setback for democracy in the country. In particular, the battle between the Mbeki and Zuma camps has called into question the independence of the judiciary.

"It's an open question whether this is a move forward or a step back," says Lyman. But he notes a Zuma presidency could be beneficial for a stronger South African position on Zimbabwe, and improved relations with Angola.


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