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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Press assesses Zuma judgement
Former South Africa President Jacob Zuma waves to supporters outside the court in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Mr Zuma was sacked as deputy president last year

Newspapers in South Africa believe the collapse of the corruption trial against former Deputy President Jacob Zuma could set him on the road to the presidency.

Some commentators see the trial outcome as a defeat for President Thabo Mbeki, although there are warnings that Mr Zuma could face some hurdles ahead.

One paper considers the possibility of a Zuma presidency "depressing".

"Zuma 2 State 0", runs a headline in The Sowetan, followed by "Home but not dry". However, the paper writes that the possibility of a further case against him "might fuel more conspiracy claims".

Zuma's tsunami wave
Headline in The Star

"Cosatu unionists screamed with joy on Wednesday on hearing that Jacob Zuma's corruption case has been struck from the roll," says a report in The Sowetan.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi gave the news to delegates at the labour federation's congress "while Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was leading unionists in song", the report continues.

"'For today justice prevails,' Vavi told delegates who jumped on chairs and sang Zuma's trademark song 'Umshini wam' (Bring me my machine gun)," the report adds.

The Star publishes a headline "Zuma's tsunami wave". "Verdict a major blow for Mbeki camp," runs another headline.

"The balance of power seems to have shifted to what is known as the Zuma camp, and is a major blow to President Thabo Mbeki and the ANC business elite in the fierce succession battle raging in the ruling party," the paper writes.

A setback for the state and a major victory for Zuma
Pretoria News

"Zuma could become unstoppable," The Star concludes. "Judge Herbert Msimang's decision could be one of the last hurdles to the ruling party deputy's ascendancy to the ANC's, and the country's, top job."

Pretoria News believes that although "the dust will take some time to settle... there is no doubt that yesterday's ruling is a setback for the state and a major victory for Zuma".

The paper says that one challenge Mr Zuma will face is "how to proceed to maintain and grow his support" now that he can "no longer claim victim status and the high profile court cases which have provided him with a political platform are now over".

Pretoria News welcomes the possibility of "a change from the bitter personality clashes of the last months to a more reflective debate on policy".

"As the heat of the legal battle cools, the debate on the presidential succession can shift from the personalities involved to the underlying issues which divide the ANC and its alliance partners."

'Our George Wallace'

A Business Day editorial argues that although "Zuma may have won a public relations victory" the decision to dismiss the charges "could even leave Zuma a little worse off, increasing the chances that he will still be on trial for corruption by next December's African National Congress (ANC) conference".

"The judgement will fuel the Zuma camp's charge that their man has been persecuted by the state. It creates the space for Zuma's jubilant supporters to argue, as they are doing, that his name has been cleared, and that he will stand for election as the ANC's new leader."

Writing in Business Day, Xolela Mangcu compares Mr Zuma to the controversial governor of the southern US state of Alabama, George Wallace.

"I would like to suggest that if Mbeki is our [US President Richard] Nixon, then Jacob Zuma is our George Wallace.

The prospect of Jacob Zuma becoming president is depressing
Cape Argos

"Even though Wallace failed to win the Democratic Party nomination for president, he nevertheless remains a historical figure in the same way that Zuma will be remembered in the future."

"What they share is an anti-establishment posture that is at the heart of all populist movements."

"Look who's laughing now", proclaims a headline in the Cape Argus, which is clearly unimpressed with the turn of events.

"The prospect of Jacob Zuma becoming president of the country suddenly seems more likely. And it is a depressing prospect indeed," the Argus concludes.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.




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