AN UNLIKELY HERO IN SOUTH AFRICA

There's an unusual hero emerging from the morass that is contemporary Zimbabwe: Jacob Zuma.

The president of South Africa's African National Congress party, and presidential heir apparent, this week stepped up his criticism of the Zimbabwean government and President Robert Mugabe, calling for the release of results from last month's presidential election.

Zuma as hero is something of a role reversal. Headlines in the past have dwelt on his ridiculous - and dangerous - understanding of HIV transmission and his questionable ethics. Nevertheless, it's refreshing to see at least one member of the ANC's current crop of leaders willing to call to account the dictatorial regime to their north.

Christopher Hitchens does an excellent job of explaining why members of the ANC have been loath to speak out against Mugabe. But while President Thabo Mbeki and Co. held their tongues, Zimbabwe went over the edge. The economy tanked, democratic processes were stifled (often violently), and citizens starved. The recent election fiasco is only the latest episode in an increasingly tragic situation.

Mugabe has come in for much international criticism since the election, but given the outsized influence South Africa has on Zimbabwe, Zuma's comments could go further than most in convincing Mugabe that it's time to step aside. Meanwhile, it's refreshing to see at least one South African figure - even if it is Zuma - who is willing to seize the leadership mantle.

--Andrew Green

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