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Reporters on the Job

Zuma and the Zulus: After five years of covering Afghanistan, and the tribal politics and intrigue that go along with that story, staff writer Scott Baldauf has taken up his new assignment in Africa. And he says he's intrigued by the tribal politics of South Africa.

Former deputy president Jacob Zuma comes from the Zulu tribe, the largest ethnic group in South Africa. Mr. Zuma is a rival of President Thabo Mbeki, a member of the Xhosas. "Zulu or tribal politics isn't the sum total of the story. But it plays a significant role," he says.

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The ruling African National Congress party is now largely split along the tribal lines between the two men.

At the beginning of the 23-day rape trial this spring, more than 10,000 Zuma supporters – many were Zulus from South Africa's trade union – surrounded the courtroom in Johannesburg to chant Zuma's name. Toward the end, Zuma's supporters dwindled to a few hundred. "The ANC was established by Zulus, then the Xhosas took over, and now they don't want the Zulus back in the seats," one Zuma supporter told a reporter for the Mail & Guardian outside the Johannesburg courthouse.

Next UN Chief? The race to succeed Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose (second) five-year term ends Dec. 31, is one of the hottest behind-the-scenes issues at the UN General Assembly.

An informal secret poll of the 15 Security Council members put South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon first, followed by UN Undersecretary-General for Public Affairs Shashi Tharoor of India. Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai was third. But since Tuesday's military coup in Thailand, Mr. Surakiart's candidacy is in doubt.

Two more candidates have entered the race since the poll: Afghanistan's former finance minister Ashraf Ghani and Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

David Clark Scott
World editor