This is a significant development for South Africa politics and the World Cup as Jacob Zuma is now poised to take over South Africa's presidency from Thabo Mbeki in 2009.
By electing Zuma the ANC's grassroots has pulled back a lot of the clout that it had lost to the pro-business faction championed by the autocratic Thabo Mbeki over the years. South Africa is now a model neo-liberal economy with one of the highest GINI co-efficients which represents a widening gap between the rich and the poor. Under Mbeki the ordinary South African does not feel that his lot has improved whereas it has benefited the "Black Diamonds", a elite group of black professionals. The World Cup has had its detractors and their question has always been who does the this World Cup benefit. Chief amongst the critics have been COSATU, the umbrella of trade unions and SACP (South Africa Communist Party) who had so far been dealt at arms length by Mbeki in these discussions. In particular, there have been concerns that the vending process would benefit the business factions close to Mbeki enriching a few but by and large bypass the working class. There were fears that these jobs would also be given to laborers outside of SA willing to work for cheaper wages.
Jacob Zuma has been supportive of the World Cup and was the point person in the ironing out differences between South Africa's FA CEO Danny Jordaan and the World Cup bid organizer Irvin Khoza, key players in bringing the World Cup to South Africa.
So even though his presidency might resort to populist rhetoric about more pressing developmental priorities, the public should be reassured that his commitment to the World Cup remains firm. On the other hand under his presidency, ordinary South Africans who are working around the clock to finish preparations for the World Cup in time stand a better chance getting their issues resolved as COSATU will play an important role in forming government policies. Just recently, a strike protesting substandard wages and unsafe working conditions was finally called off at the Moses Mabhida stadium. It was discovered that private contractors were scamming the workers. In other stadium strikes courts have issued interdicts ordering workers back.
The Secretary General of COSATU, Zwelinzima Vavi reminded FIFA why soccer was such a popular sport.
Football is a working class sport and despite the fact that workers may go on strike to demand a better cut of the cake, they can never ever have any intention to sabotage our ability to host a successful World Cup in 2010. Because soccer is workers and workers are soccer. And this is their life, this is their sport and this is their emotions.
The USA probably hopes that he will turn out like Lula or Manmohan Singh and not Hugo Chavez. Markets are already on edge adopting a wait and see approach. But a prominent ANC bigwig feels that Zuma will not immediately deviate from the pro-business path taken by his predecessor. The World Cup however provides a perfect intersection for Zuma to cement his place in the hearts of the people without upsetting the corporations too much.