William M. Gumede at PostGlobal

William M. Gumede

South Africa

William M. Gumede is a former deputy editor of The Sowetan, Johannesburg. He is the author of the bestselling Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC. His new book, The Democracy Gap: Africaʼs Wasted Years, will be released in the U.S. in May, 2009. Close.

William M. Gumede

South Africa

William M. Gumede is a former deputy editor of The Sowetan, Johannesburg. more »

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April 22, 2009 11:31 AM

Zuma's Precarious Alliance

Jacob Zuma and his ruling African National Congress are likely to win South Africa's vote today, after successfully turning this election into a face-off between the country's well-off blacks and whites and its poor black majority. That majority will likely sweep Zuma into office. Little has changed for them since the country first become democratic in 1994.

Zuma has successfully portrayed himself as 'poor', drawing parallels between the marginalization of poor South African blacks and his personal marginalization by the administration of former President Thabo Mbeki. He was deputy president in that administration, and Mbeki's close ally, until being sacked for alleged corruption in 2005.

His campaign has distanced him from that government's failures, portraying his faction of the ANC, which is now in charge, as a different party altogether - especially when it comes to corruption. That's a shift well-timed with a dramatic change in the mood of the South African poor, who are fed up with poverty and are demanding their share of the promised economic dividends of democracy. Some poorer South Africans are blaming democracy itself for their marginalization, rather than government incompetence, leadership indifference and infighting within the ANC.

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November 13, 2008 1:12 PM

Swaziland's Troubles Multiply

Swaziland, the tiny country next to South Africa has been under martial law for 34 years. Political parties have been outlawed since 1973. The country is ruled by an absolute monarch, King Mswati III, who runs the tiny kingdom like an ancient despot. Opposition leaders are either in prison, driven to exile or clubbed into silence.

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October 20, 2008 3:19 PM

Crisis Hits Poor Countries Hardest

As the U.S., Europe and rich countries throw billions in lifeboats to end financial crises, spare a thought for poorer developing nations, who without such means are facing absolute disaster.

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September 15, 2008 11:29 AM

Zuma Is Not the Answer

Jacob Zuma, the leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress, may have been left off the hook on a technicality on corruption, fraud and money laundering charges, but it would be better for him to defend himself in court to lift the cloud of allegations of corruption swirling around his head.

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June 27, 2008 11:08 AM

A Way Forward for Zimbabwe

The Current Discussion:Zimbabwe's chaos has brought about unprecedented cooperation in the UN, with even China and Russia switching sides to condemn Mugabe's government. So -- what should this united UN DO to force change?

All countries must reject the sham election in which Robert Mugabe stood as the only candidate, after the withdrawal of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai because of the Mugabe’s regime’s terror campaign against the country’s citizens.

Mugabe refused to cancel the poll, hoping to use its expected one-sided result in his favor as a bargaining chip in future negotiations on his exit. Mugabe must now be given a 24-hour ultimatum to immediately stand down, and accept a proposal for a transitional government of national unity, which should be based on the results of the 29 March 2007 presidential elections that Tsvangirai won. Key members of Zanu-PF, excluding Mugabe, should be included in the transitional government.

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April 23, 2008 10:52 AM

Africa Hungry for Better Leadership

Serious food shortages and inflation, which in some places have spawned unprecedented riots, protests and marches across Africa, are due in part to bad local leadership and lack of democracy. It appears the African and developing countries worst hit by the crippling food shortages are those governed the most autocratically. Some African countries produce staple food for export, yet their people go hungry. This is similar to that phenomenon where some African countries export oil, but their countries' citizens experience oil shortages. In other cases, some African countries produce staple food surpluses, but neighboring countries have shortages. Regional African political institutions have not only been found wanting in dealing with crises such as the meltdown in Zimbabwe, but are also failing to steer food from countries with surpluses to those experiencing shortages. Furthermore, the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa are also now increasingly stunting food production, and in some countries many small farmers are too ill to produce food. Wars between and inside countries are still stilting African farming, although there are thankfully fewer such wars in recent years.

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April 10, 2008 12:18 PM

Time to Intervene in Zimbabwe

Outside intervention now remains perhaps the only solution to save Zimbabwe from imploding.

The country’s strongman, Robert Mugabe, refuses to accept the outcome of the March 29 elections, which were held to simultaneously elect presidential, parliamentary and local representatives.

The main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, won the parliamentary elections -- whose results have been released -- decisively.

The as-yet unreleased presidential vote results show that the opposition won -- a result that independent monitors confirm. The MDC has declared itself the victor. Yet, Zanu-PF has delayed releasing the presidential results to sort out “errors and miscalculations”. And Mugabe has ordered the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to stop releasing further election results, and for good measure told the police to arrest senior electoral officials.

It appears that Mugabe wants to reverse the presidential result from a loss into a narrow, less-than-50% win -- which would require a second run-off for the opposition. The MDC has asked for help from the United Nations and the rest of the world. It will be shameful if their calls are ignored.

International intervention in Zimbabwe, were it to occur, would not be an Iraq-like regime change. The Zimbabwean people are asking the world for help. So far, Zimbabwe’s African countries have scandalously done nothing – by doing so, they only propped up Mugabe, and throw the long-suffering Zimbabwean people under the proverbial bus.

African leaders say they are worried about outside intervention and say neighbors should sort things out. Yet, for African leaders, "sorting things out locally" invariably means cushioning the local tyrant instead of helping the long-suffering people.

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March 24, 2008 11:13 AM

Tough Times Call for More Regulation

The Current Discussion:The global economy is quaking. Are we heading toward a global recession? Who's to blame?

Most developing economic managers spend the past week reassuring worried local markets that their countries’ will survive the financial problems that caused U.S. investment bank Bear Stearns to go belly-up. Although the brunt of the credit crunch so far has only affected developed markets – the U.S., European Union countries, the UK and Japan – developing markets feel the ripples, too. In fact, a delayed reaction may yet hit those markets. A case in point is South Africa. Although the country’s financial system is relatively strong, a global slowdown caused by this financial crisis will hit the country’s high economic growth rates. The South African Treasury has already revised its growth prospects down to 4% from the 5 % average levels for the past four years, partly in anticipation of a global downturn. Emerging market economies are very much tied to global economic tremors. The combination of risk aversion, lending freeze and lower confidence associated with the current financial crisis may cause capital outflows from some emerging markets. It is remarkable how a crisis that started with a local U.S. home loan market problem has, because of the interconnectedness of the global financial system, spilled-over globally. If anything, this financial crisis must lead to decisive reform, in the same active way the U.S. Federal Reserve intervened to prevent the country’s financial system from free-fall, when it took guarantee of US $30 billion of Bear Stearns assets in the biggest central bank bailout in American history.

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March 6, 2008 11:40 AM

West's Lack of Urgency in Mideast Shameful

The Current Discussion: With the Israeli re-invasion of Gaza, it's clear that the "Annapolis Peace Process" is collapsing. Does it matter? Who's to blame?


The lack of urgency by the West to act more resolutely to end the carnage in the Gaza is shameful. The UN Security Council is depressingly impotent. It is splitting hairs over the text to describe Israel’s spectacularly disproportional military attacks to respond to rocket attacks from Gaza. The Israeli blockade of the entire Gaza population, which is essentially collective punishment of all Palestinians for the actions of a few Hamas militants and their leaders, cannot be right. Israeli use of military tanks to bomb Hamas out of power once and for all will not only worsen the already terrible humanitarian crisis, but it will increase Palestinian bitterness.

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January 9, 2008 4:36 PM

Zuma’s Uncharted Territory

The Question: What was the biggest news story in your country last year [in 2007], and why?

Jacob Zuma’s astonishing comeback to win the presidency of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress against the incumbent President Thabo Mbeki ranks as South Africa’s most earth-shattering political event since 1994, when the country turned to democracy.

Zuma is now set to be the ANC’s presidential candidate in the country’s general elections that will take place in 2009. Since the ruling party has no significant opposition, he may then become the country’s next president. Although the country is unlikely to collapse into chaos, Zuma’s election means that post-apartheid South Africa is unexpectedly entering an unsettling, uncertain and turbulent phase. South Africa’s fragile new democratic institutions be tested to the limits. Beyond that, delivering services to the very poor ANC members who voted for Zuma may be undermined by the political uncertainty that his elevation to the top job has and will continue to generate within the ANC and outside of it. Meanwhile, the biggest economic boom South Africa has experienced since 1981 may now drift even further away from poorer citizens, for whom those benefits are still a distant dream.

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