South Africa at Crossroads as Mandela Hospitalized

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Zuma, 70, faces increasing criticism as the nation’s poor blacks, who believed the end of apartheid would bring economic prosperity, face the same poverty as before while politicians and the elite get richer. Meanwhile the economy continues to struggle amid slow growth and the aftermath of violent unrest in the country’s mining industry.

Zuma also faces criticism over millions of dollars of government-paid improvements made at his private homestead. But that’s merely the tip of the corruption allegations swirling around the party, which critics say is increasingly tarnished. Textbooks have gone undelivered to rural schools, while local ANC officials have been arrested and convicted of corruption charges. Others have been attacked or killed in politically tinged violence as the party’s convention draws closer.

“It’s becoming corrupt every day … and it’s growing worse,” said Sidney Matlana, a worshipper at Regina Mundi. “Things are getting worse than it was before.”

Yet Zuma remains a charismatic leader and still gets widespread support from Zulus, South Africa’s largest ethnic group. He appears likely to hold onto power as provincial nominations ahead of the national meeting largely have supported him.

Despite that, those leaving worship Sunday at Regina Mundi stressed the need for South Africa’s politicians to follow Mandela’s example.

It was here that anti-apartheid crusaders gathered to plan, pray and to mourn their dead, a church Mandela himself once called a “battlefield between forces of democracy and those who did not hesitate to violate a place of religion with tear gas, dogs and guns.”

Mandela’s stained-glass image stands just right of another portraying a man carrying the corpse of 13-year-old Hector Pieterson, who was gunned down by police in Soweto in a peaceful 1976 student protest.

Worshippers acknowledged Sunday they didn’t know which politician would be able to live up to Mandela’s legacy.

“Every person has got his time,” churchgoer Lerato Mhlala said. “Someone must come in and take his place as well.”

(Photo: AP)

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