Daniel Howden: Love child scandal hits Zuma's stand-in

Cape Town Notebook: While one half of the South African media is navel-gazing, the other is selling newspapers and grabbing viewers
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The Independent Online

Finding a suitable supporting actor can be a hard task for a powerful politician, as South Africa's Jacob Zuma has found. Unable to take up the President's job immediately, having finally seen off his rival Thabo Mbeki, the African National Congress's former intelligence chief picked the loyal, apparently unambitious apparatchik Kgalema Motlanthe as his presidential seat-warmer – until the election expected in April that may finally give Mr Zuma, 63, the top office.

But after a few weeks of dignified and restrained public performances from Mr Motlanthe, many South Africans were having trouble remembering why they needed Mr Zuma and his corruption scandal, rape acquittal, vendettas and incessant marriages.

Might it not be a better idea, some asked, to give the full-time job to the caretaker? Almost immediately, Mr Motlanthe's dignity took a battering when a woman of 24 approached newspapers to claim that she was carrying the married ANC veteran's love-child. The 60-year-old stand-in then got a full-blooded taste of the power of gossip, while Mr Zuma denounced disloyal members of his party who were leaking stories about his colleague's private life. Once Mr Motlanthe had been publicly chastened and privately reminded of his status as Mr Zuma's supporting actor, his accuser suddenly reappeared in the same newspapers at the weekend to tell them she had made up all her allegations.

While one half of the South African media is navel-gazing over the standards of the press and public discourse, the other is selling newspapers and grabbing viewers. No one is discussing Mr Motlanthe as a possible alternative to the country's real power-broker any more, and Mr Zuma is contemplating his final few steps to the political centre-stage.

Punters back the poachers

Poaching is on the increase in the wildlife reserves beyond Table Mountain – and you can bet on it. Hunters with teams of up to 20 dogs are roaming game parks, rangers have discovered. But the twist is that they are doing it for more than the thrill of the chase. Punters in a connected gambling syndicate can bet on how many and what kinds of animals will be killed. It's not a case of poverty, one official said. Whenever they make an arrest, lawyers in "big black cars" start appearing to defend the poachers.

Armed, dangerous, dead

Crime is a serious issue in South Africa, but in one recent report you could be forgiven for thinking you were reading about Batman's Gotham City, not Cape Town. A government official congratulated police who had shot and killed six alleged armed robbers. The officers were commended for "sending another six dirty criminals to the cemetery where they belong". There was no mention of an investigation by the police's internal affairs department.