Cleared of Rape, Populist in Line to be Prez in South Africa

Jacob Zuma, ANC veep, mounts campaign
By Sean McManus,  Newser User
Posted Sep 29, 2007 11:39 AM CDT
Deputy President of the African National Congress, (ANC) Jacob Zuma, addresses members of the Foreign Correspondents Association in Johannesburg, Thursday, June 14, 2007. With six months left before the...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Jacob Zuma, a champion of the poor who conjures apartheid-era freedom songs to excite crowds, is in line to become South Africa’s next president, the London Times reports. Recently cleared in a high-profile rape case, Zuma is the country’s most charismatic and populist—and some would add dangerous, the Times notes—leader. Now the ANC's deputy president, he's the frontrunner for the top position next year, which would put him in line for president in 2009.

His rising popularity, especially with the ANC's left wing, has split South Africa's ruling party and made many nervous. In his rape trial, Zuma, who spent 10 years on Robben Island, admitted having sex with the daughter of a friend was HIV postive; AIDS activists were outraged because he testified that he didn't use protection, and "showered" to prevent contracting the virus.