Mbeki Takes Over From Mandela
Nelson Mandela, whose term as president cemented his reputation as one of the world's most farsighted and magnanimous statesmen, retired in 1999. On June 2, 1999, Thabo Mbeki, the pragmatic deputy president and leader of the ANC, was elected president in a landslide, having already assumed many of Mandela's governing responsibilities.
In his first term, Mbeki wrestled with a slumping economy and a skyrocketing crime rate. South Africa, the country with the highest number of HIV-positive people in the world (6.5 million in 2005), has been hampered in fighting the epidemic by its president's highly controversial views. Mbeki has denied the link between HIV and AIDS and claimed that the West has exaggerated the epidemic to boost drug profits. The international community as well as most South African leaders, including Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, have condemned Mbeki's stance. In 2006, 60 international scientists called the government's policies “disastrous and pseudo-scientific.”
As expected, on April 15, 2004, the African National Congress won South Africa's general election in a landslide, taking about 70% of the vote, and Thabo Mbeki was sworn in for a second term.
In Dec. 2007, African National Committee delegates chose Jacob Zuma as their leader, ousting Mbeki, who had been in control of the party for the last ten years. Zuma was acquitted of rape charges in 2006. In late December, prosecutors reopened corruption charges against Zuma and ordered him to face trial for "various counts of racketeering, money laundering, corruption, and fraud." He was accused of accepting more than $440,000 in bribes in exchange for helping a friend, Schabir Shaik, secure $5 billion in an arms deal and other government contracts. Zuma's lawyers accused Mbeki of trying to sabotage Zuma's political career. A High Court judge dismissed the corruption charges against Zuma in September 2008, saying the government mishandled the prosecution. The judge also criticized President Mbeki for attempting to influence the prosecution of Zuma.