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
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.
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