Remember one thing as South Africa prepares to go to the polls this week and the world grapples with the ascendancy of the African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma: South Africa is not Zimbabwe.In South Africa, no one doubts that Wednesday's elections will be free and fair. While there is an unacceptable degree of government corruption, there is no evidence of the wholesale kleptocracy of Robert Mugabe's elite. While there has been the abuse of the organs of state by the ruling ANC, there is not the state terror of Mugabe's Zanu-PF. And while there is a clear left bias to Zuma's ANC, there is no suggestion of the kind of voluntarist experimentation that has brought Zimbabwe to its knees.
Even if Zuma was to develop the authoritarian impulses of a Mugabe, he would be checked not least by his own party, which set a continental precedent by ousting Thabo Mbeki in 2007, after it felt he had outstayed his welcome by seeking a third term as party president. The ANC appears to have set itself against that deathtrap of African democracy: the ruler for life.