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South Africa in the 2000s


Kgalema Motlanthe
Kgalema Motlanthe

In late 1997 President Mandela retired as party leader of the ANC and was replaced by executive deputy president Thabo Mbeki. Mandela, who announced in 1996 that he would not seek another term as president, groomed Mbeki to succeed him. In June 1999 legislative elections the ANC won two-thirds of the seats in the National Assembly and selected Mbeki as South Africa’s president.

In the early 21st century South Africa grappled with high unemployment, poverty, and a growing AIDS epidemic. Under Mbeki, the government extended the country’s infrastructure, bringing electricity and water to millions of South Africans, and built thousands of new houses for the poor.

The government pledged to provide those same basic necessities to the millions of South Africans who have not yet received them. In April 2004 parliamentary elections the ANC won almost 70 percent of the seats in the National Assembly, which reelected Mbeki as president.

In 2006 South Africa became the first country in Africa, and the fifth in the world, to legalize same-sex marriage. The Constitutional Court had ruled in December 2005 that the country’s Marriage Act was unconstitutional because it did not include same-sex unions in the legal definition of marriage. The South African constitution’s bill of rights prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The court gave the South African parliament a year to amend the country’s marriage laws. The Civil Union Act, which went into effect at the end of November 2006, officially guarantees that married same-sex couples have all of the legal rights associated with marriage.

In 2007 Mbeki lost a challenge to his leadership of the ANC from Jacob Zuma. Mbeki had fired Zuma as deputy president in 2005 after Zuma’s financial advisor was found guilty of soliciting a bribe on his behalf. Zuma himself faced corruption charges, but those charges were later dismissed. In September 2008 a high court judge suggested that Mbeki had interfered in the corruption charges against Zuma, his political rival. Days later Mbeki resigned as president of South Africa, saying that he was doing so in the interest of preserving unity in the ANC. Mbeki was succeeded by Kgalema Motlanthe, a political ally of Zuma’s, who was to serve as an interim president until new elections could be held in early 2009.

In those elections the ANC won another overwhelming mandate, taking 66 percent of the vote and guaranteeing that Zuma would take office as president in May 2009. The ANC also won provincial elections in eight of the nine provinces, losing only in the Western Cape province, where the Democratic Alliance won 51 percent of the vote. Coloureds represent the largest bloc of voters in the Western Cape and were believed responsible for the Democratic Alliance’s victory there. The Congress of the People (COPE), a breakaway group from the ANC opposed to Mbeki’s ouster, fared poorly in the 2009 elections, winning only 7 percent of the vote. Encarta"South Africa" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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