A transition in the presidency has big implications for the continent and the country.
Get ready for a power shift in Africa's superpower. The continent's biggest economy and its democratic guiding light, South Africa faces a significant transition with the resignation of President Thabo Mbeki after nine years in office. It needs to seize this opportunity.
Waiting in the wings to take over after elections expected next year is Jacob Zuma, Mr. Mbeki's archrival in the dominant African National Congress party. But what are the real policies of Mr. Zuma? The populist leader, who this month escaped corruption charges on a technicality and was acquitted of rape in 2006, has avid communist and ANC supporters who want to ditch the fiscal discipline that attracts so much foreign investment to South Africa.
On the other hand, Zuma has traveled from Paris to New York to reassure investors that "nothing is going to change" – except poverty, education, and healthcare, which are all in desperate need of change.
Mbeki, like Nelson Mandela before him, had decided to focus more on growing the economy than on redistributing wealth.
The question about Zuma is critical because the country that threw off apartheid less than 20 years ago is critical to Africa's future.
Its economy is more than twice the size of its nearest African rival, Nigeria. Under Mbeki, the economy has enjoyed its longest-running expansion since World War II. A small black middle class has been born, dubbed the "black diamonds." South Africa has sent troops for peacekeeping in Sudan. It has mediated in Ivory Coast and helped pull off a historic power-sharing deal (now in trouble) in Zimbabwe.