Populist with an instinct for power

– – (Portrait) – (Theme package)By Jean-Pierre Kapp (epd) =Cape Town (epd). Jacob Zuma will not be stopped. After a victory in the parliamentary elections on 22. April, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) will most likely elect its party leader as South Africa's new president. Despite various scandals, the polarizing politician, who belongs to the Zulu people, unites above all the black population behind him. 15 years after the end of apartheid, she still suffers from disadvantages. Zuma is their beacon of hope. "The ANC will remain in power until the return of Jesus," Zuma shouts at a campaign rally in Johannesburg. His supporters rejoice – but church leaders are incensed. The next day, in a church in neighboring Rustenburg, the 67-year-old presents himself as a repentant sinner, qualifies his statement and apologizes with a donation to the poor. Zuma pulls out all the stops. He likes to use song and dance in his speeches to engage his audience. He succeeds in winning the sympathies of broad sections of the population with his direct and jovial manner. And this despite the fact that his political skills are often called into question. Critics compare Zuma's style to Silvio Berlusconi's. Like the Italian prime minister, Zuma appeals to people's secret desires, longings and fears and presents simple solutions. Both politicians also have a lavish lifestyle in common. Zuma owes his luxury mainly to businessmen and their donations – after his appointment as president, they may expect compensation of one kind or another. With his affable manner, Zuma also manages to camouflage his hunger for power. When then president and ANC leader Thabo Mbeki removed him as South African vice president in 2005 because of his involvement in corrupt dealings, Mbeki probably did not expect Zuma to ever be a competitor again.But his rival managed to get three-quarters of the ANC leadership behind him in a short time. Zuma's meteoric rise cost Mbeki the party presidency at the end of 2007 and the office of state president in 2008. Even several scandals could not slow down Zuma's success story. In 2006, a woman suffering from AIDS had sued him for rape. Zuma claimed she consented to sex and was acquitted. He refused an HIV test – on the grounds that he had showered afterwards to protect himself from infection. After the prosecution dropped corruption charges against him in early April of this year, Zuma's path to the South African presidency should finally be clear. Zuma got there partly through his loyalty to the ANC. The young man, who came from a poor background in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, joined the ANC as early as 1959. Three years later, he also joined the armed wing of the liberation movement. Zuma had to leave school at an early age because of his family's precarious financial situation. He was able to catch up on part of his schooling after being arrested in 1963. Ten years of imprisonment on Robben Island followed, where Nelson Mandela was also imprisoned for 18 years. In 1987, Zuma became head of the ANC's intelligence services in Zambia. After the fall of communism in South Africa, Zuma's negotiating skills came into play. As a member of the provincial government in KwaZulu-Natal, he made an important contribution to settling the bloody unrest between supporters of the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party.President Mbeki appointed him vice president at his side after the second free elections in 1999. Zuma knows what he wants. His advocacy of traditional values is also a source of fascination. Zuma often appears before black audiences in leopard costume. Many blacks are convinced that he is the only presidential candidate who really takes their concerns seriously.

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