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South Africa’s Zuma Faces Recession, Corruption Challenges

BY Admin  April 27, 2009 at 12:15 PM EDT

Jacob Zuma

Official election results released Saturday gave the ANC 65.9 percent of the vote and 264 of 400 parliamentary seats, according to the Agence France-Presse. Parliament, which elects the president in South Africa, is expected to vote Zuma into office May 6.

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, endorsed Zuma at an ANC rally ahead of the April 22 elections. Zuma is expected to become the next president despite corruption charges, which were dropped several weeks ago due to prosecutorial misconduct. The opposition is demanding a judicial review of that decision, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Now that elections are over, attention has turned to the makeup of Zuma’s cabinet. ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu said any discussions on posts would still only be at the informal level and the cabinet would be named after Zuma’s inauguration on May 9, Reuters reported.

But according to the Sunday Times newspaper, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel is expected to head a new national planning commission tasked with monitoring government performance. And possible new finance ministers could be businessman Cyril Ramaphosa and current deputy Nhlanhla Nene.

Under Zuma, South Africa is expected to take a tougher line on neighboring Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe and political rival Morgan Tsvangirai have put in place a power-sharing administration to try to rescue Zimbabwe from economic collapse, according to Reuters.

Zuma said Saturday that he would work to improve public services, including an expanded social safety net, better health care and schools, and increased efforts to combat a growing crime rate, the Agence France-Presse reported.

“The new president of the republic will be a president for all, and he will work to unite the country,” Zuma pledged, adding that South Africa must enter a new period of hope and progress.

He also faces growing economic problems: The International Monetary Fund is predicting South Africa’s economy will contract by 0.3 percent this year due to falling commodity prices and lower foreign investment. And up to 300,000 job losses are predicted this year, according to the AFP.