Johannesburg: South Africa`s success in hosting the soccer World Cup has made life more difficult for President Jacob Zuma by raising expectations his government can meet a series of unfulfilled promises in the same bold fashion.
After his government has shown it can deliver all that was needed to host the month-long sporting event, the public now wants Zuma to show the same resolve in dealing with the problems that have lingered since the end of apartheid 16 years ago -- unemployment, poverty and a woeful education system.
Zuma now faces a crucial election for local posts across the country in the first half of next year that could determine the fate of the remainder of his term in office that ends in 2014.
If he does not deliver on policies that win votes for the the ruling ANC, and seats for his supporters in the fractious party, Zuma could find himself being pushed to lame duck status as ANC rivals jockey for position to take over.
"The bar has been set very, very high. South Africa will be correct to demand the same South Africa we have seen in the past four weeks and nothing less," Zwelinzima Vavi, leader of the state`s top labour group COSATU, told reporters on Wednesday.
Vavi, a powerful labour leader seen as a possible contender to replace Zuma, fired a shot across the bow of the president by saying: "We demand that the government leads from the front."
"We want to see that same political will and vigour now translated into serious service delivery in our townships, in the poorest of the poor areas."
The Angry Mobs
During the Cup, Zuma hobnobbed with world leaders and movie stars in stadium VIP boxes that provided a respite from troubles that included riots in shantytowns by mobs angered that his government had not provided electricity, running water and paved roads.
But a harsh reality awaits, analysts said.
"With South Africa`s economic recovery fragile, party infighting and popular discontent running high, the government will have no time to rest on World Cup laurels," said Anne Fruhauf, Eurasia Group`s Africa analyst.
"We are far less optimistic that the government will apply the same dynamism and resolve it brought to the World Cup to the handling of urgent socio-economic troubles."
NGOs are demanding a World Cup-like focus on the HIV/AIDS scourge that has devastated the country. Educators are expecting a World Cup-like effort to build adequate schools.
One of the government`s most pressing needs will be job creation in a country with a 25 percent unemployment rate.
Of the 130,000 jobs created during the World Cup, most have been terminated, swelling the ranks of the 900,000 who became jobless during the global economic downturn that hurt Africa`s biggest economy as demand decreased for its commodity exports.
Zuma will likely find little relief from organised labour, which helped him to the presidency but threatened to undermine South Africa`s hosting of the Cup with strikes unless it received wage rises well above the inflation rate.
Strikes are still expected in the wake of the Cup as 14 unions representing 1.3 million workers in the public sector have rejected a 6.5 percent wage increase and threatened to walk off their jobs next week.
There are likely even more troubles in store in the private sector as the country enters its annual mid-year "strike season", during which wages are negotiated.
Officials at the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) have indicated they will turn up the heat, demanding more influence over economic policy and better pay for workers.
COSATU has also planned nationwide industrial action over electricity prices, which are being raised by about 25 percent a year over the next three years.
In one of their most serious fall-outs of the decades-old alliance that freed South Africans from apartheid, COSATU and the ANC are at odds over Zuma`s approach to corruption within the alliance and his cabinet.
"Zuma`s biggest problem is the uncontained voracious plundering of state resources by politically connected elements,” said independent analyst Nic Borain.