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Funerals Begin For Victims Of Sandy Hook Massacre; John Lott, Ronald Martin Debate Gun Control In U.S.; Lacintha Saldanha Laid To Rest In Husband's Hometown

Aired December 17, 2012 - 16:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Tonight on Connect the World, a heartbreaking farewell, a shattered community says good-bye to two six year old schoolboys.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm John Vause in Newtown, Connecticut. As the first funerals of Friday's mass shooting -- I know funerals have been underway today. I'm live with the very latest on what officials have been saying about the gunman.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: Around the world we've seen an outpouring of emotion after 20 kids and six adults were gunned down. Tonight, we ask is the right to bear arms in the United States costing that country too much?

Also this hour, as South Africa's ruling ANC meets to choose a leader, two experts here in London debate whether Jacob Zuma is still the right man for the job.

And the Finnish football team with a festive name. Can you guess?

We begin tonight in Newtown, Connecticut, a town forever scarred by incomprehensible tragedy. Grieving residents bearing the first victims of Friday's school massacre, tiny coffins the final resting place for two six year old boys.

Our John Vause now joins us live from Newtown -- John.

VAUSE: Hey, Becky.

Well, we've had the first two funerals today. There will be many more funerals to come.

These were for two six year old boys, two little boys, the first one being Jack Pinto, the little boy who loved sports. He was a big fan of the New York Giants. Quite the sports fan apparently. He just finished his first wrestling match just a few weeks ago. He won that. And today at the funeral we're told that some school kids turned up there with some sporting medals and that his grandmother was presented with some of the medals that Jack had won.

There was also another funeral today for the youngest of all of these young victims, Noah Pozner. He'd only turned six just a few weeks ago. And his twin sister was also at that school. She was in another classroom. She managed to survive.

This is a very emotional day. The families are trying to remember how these kids lived as opposed to how they died. And this is how Noah's mom described her little boy.


VICTORIA HALLER, NOAH POZNER'S AUNT: Noah was extremely lively. He was really the light of the room. You know, he had a huge heart and he was so much fun. A little bit rambunctious, lots of spirit. He loved playing with all of his cousins. He loved his twin the most of all and always said that he was -- you know, that they were best friends.


VAUSE: What has been very difficult today, of course, is being looking at these tiny coffins so very, very small and there is one report that Noah's casket was in fact closed. These children suffered horrendous gunshot wounds, Becky.

ANDERSON: What's the latest, John, on the investigation?

VAUSE: Yeah, well, that continues. And it continues very, very slowly, slowly pictures emerging of Adam Lanza, the gunmen here. The 20 year old man. The focus does seem to be on the house that he shared with his mother, a woman he killed with multiple gunshot wounds to the head. Nancy Lanza was Adam Lanza's first victim in all of this. Police are now focusing on what appears to be a number of computers inside that house. They appear to being smashed and experts are now looking at emails that were sent, websites that may have been visited by Lanza.

This young man appears, for all intents and purposes, to have been off the grid if you like. He didn't leave much of a footprint behind, which is particularly strange in this age when so many young people live out their lives on Facebook and on Twitter and on social media. Everyone says he appears to have been a loner. He kept to himself.

And there is more information about what he did at that school and what he may have been prepared to do. Police say he had a lot of information. And they now know about the weapon that was used to kill those 26 people inside the Sandy Hook Elementary.

Listen to the police officer.


LT. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: The weapon that was utilized most of the time during this horrific crime was identified as a Bushmaster AR-15 assault type weapons. It had high capacity magazines. And in addition to that, the subject had in his possession a Glock 10 millimeter, a Sig Sauer 9 millimeter. Both weapons, all weapons had multiple magazines and additional ammunition.


ANDERSON: John, this is a truly tragic story. I know we know a little more about the principal about the school who of course was also gunned down on Friday. What more can you tell us about her?

VAUSE: Yeah, this is such an emotional story like so many of these stories are here. The family of the school principal says that she was a devoted mother, a devoted wife, and she was extremely dedicated to the students.

We know that she lunged at the gunman, trying to stop him, at the very beginning of this rampage. And that was the ultimate sacrifice that she made for her kids.

Her family told their story to our Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: While Dawn was the principal at Sandy Hook, George still taught at the middle school where they met. In the middle of the day Friday, this is how George found out what happened.

GEORGE HOCHSPRUNG, DAWN'S HUSBAND: One of the kids came up with a computer and said, "Something's happening at Sandy Hook School and your wife's been killed."

TUCHMAN (voice-over): George raced out of school and into a nightmare. Like all the families of victims, they want to know more. And on this day they have learned more. Two teachers who survived told George they were having a meeting with Dawn when the shots started ringing out.

HOCKSPRUNG: Dawn put herself in jeopardy, and I have been angry about that. Angry until just now, today, when I met the two women that she told to go into shelter while she actually confronted the gunman, that she could not have -- she could have avoided that. But she didn't. I knew she wouldn't. So I'm not angry anymore. I'm not angry. I'm just not angry anymore. I'm not angry. I'm just very sad.


VAUSE: You know, here in the United States, Becky, they often like to talk about teachers as being heroes simply for turning up and doing their job every day. It's a very difficult job here. Low pay. But on Friday, there were so many heroes, real heroes inside that school -- Becky.

ANDERSON: John Vause is in Newtown in Connecticut for you this evening. John, thank you for that.

Some Americans believe this tragedy should be the tipping point that leads to stricter gun control. Others say more guns, not less, are the answer to preventing future massacres. We're going to hear from both sides of that argument just ahead.

Before we go to break, I want to show you a couple of the tributes pouring in from our iReporters for the victims in Newtown. A man and his wife in Atlanta, Georgia displaying these 27 flags in their yard, one for each innocent life lost. And here we see a birthday celebration turned into a touching memorial, a woman says her 12 year old son asked for these 27 tea lights on his cake instead of candles.

We'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of those teachers, one of them -- a faculty member, a janitor, had had a gun, bam, he would have killed an -- nothing compared to what he was capable of doing. You have to allow us to protect ourselves.


ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World, I'm Becky Anderson. This is out of London for you. 10 minutes past nine. Welcome back.

Allow us to protect ourselves, a familiar call from gun owners across America, one that goes a long way towards explaining America's obsession with guns, yet it's something that's still astonishes most of us outside the U.S. and divides people passionately inside it.

Jonathan Mann has more.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are an estimated 270 million guns in the hands of civilians in the United States, making Americans the most heavily armed people in the world per capita. Yemen, a tribal nation with no history of strong central government or the rule of law, comes in a distant second.

Most guns are in the hands of careful and law abiding citizens, but not all. By one estimate, guns shoot more than 100,000 people a year in the U.S. when the number of homicides, suicides, and accidents were all added together.

America's collective memory of the wild west in the 1800s, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King half a century ago is punctuated by gun violence.

In fact, there were guns in America long before America was even born. Early settlers in several states were required by law to own and maintain weapons as a matter of collective defense. By the time the U.S. was established, its citizens had taken up arms not only against their Native American neighbors, but the army of their own king.

The new constitution reflected that in its Bill of Rights declaring that a "well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

For more than two centuries that remained an important, but largely overlooked guarantee, subjected to a modest series of controls, but in 2008 and 2010, landmark Supreme Court ruling gave that constitutional right sweeping new power, dramatically diminishing government authority to limit gun ownership.

As legal reforms helped guns, so did one increasingly powerful lobby, The National Rifle Association, once a relatively modest organization of gun enthusiasts and hunters has become one of the most powerful political groups in the country. It helps elect candidates to congress and works to overturn gun control laws in the courts.

Norway is still mourning a mass murder in 2011 that killed 77 people, most of them teens, proof that America is by no means unique. But America does seem to be the place the whole world thinks of when apparently ordinary people use guns for gruesome acts of violence. America stands alone in its historic and cultural attachment to guns. America stands armed.

Jonathan Mann, CNN, reporting.


ANDERSON: So how does America stack up when you compare the ownership of firearms with the number of gun deaths. Have a look at this. In America, there were almost 89,000 firearms for every 100,000 residents in 2007. Now compare that, for example, with Colombia, which had just 6,000. But take a look at this, when we look at the number of gun deaths per 100,000 residents, well, the U.S. had just 3.8 compared to Colombia with 31.2. A number of other countries around the world not stacking up necessarily to the states until you get, though, to South Africa.

Let's do that again, shall we, 89,000 near guns per 100,000 residents compared to say 6 in Colombia, or 12.5 to South Africa, but these are the numbers when it comes to firearm deaths per 100,000. The stats clearly show there are places in the world where there are fewer guns per person, yet more gun deaths. But it's the culture of guns in the U.S. that quite frankly I think the rest of the world, me included, find so odd. And surely that is the issue at stake here. The only way, surely, to honor those slain so brutally in recent years is to change that culture.

Well, joining me to discuss that is Ronald Martin, a CNN contributor who believes at the time for action is now. He's in our New York bureau this evening.

And from Philadelphia John Lott who is the author of the book "More Guns, Not Less."

Guys, thank you very much indeed for joining us tonight. I want to throw a question at you, John, to begin with. Let's, though, remind ourselves, gun ownership is enshrined as a right in the United States. The second amendment to the U.S. constitution is the part of the U.S. Bill of Rights which says, and I quote it, "a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to bear and keep arms -- or keep and bear arms -- shall not be infringed."

Enshrined as a right in 1791, John, explain to me and the millions of people around the world who are watching this show tonight how 220 odd years later how a well regulated militia still is necessary to the security of the states in 2012. Easy question, what's your answer?

JOHN LOTT, AUTHOR: I don't make constitutional arguments. To me, its simply of matter of what saves lives. And I think when you look around the world, whenever you have a band on guns, you see increases in murder rates and increases in violent crimes. I can't find one place around the world where we've had a gun ban and not see murder rates rise.

We tried that in the United States, we tried it in D.C. and Chicago, you saw huge increases in murder rates and violent crimes in both of those places. And you've seen it in other places, island nations like Ireland and Jamaica and the UK, they've all seen increases.

ANDERSON: John Lott, I think you're massaging the stats slightly. You've got a book out "More Guns, Not Less." Ronald...

LOTT: "More Guns, Less Crime" is the name of the book.

ANDERSON: "More Guns, Less Crime." Ronald, do you agree with him here?

RONALD MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: God no, I don't agree with it. You know, what when you look at the United States, this is an absolutely violent gun culture, OK. And so it goes -- it extends far beyond just a question of gun control and gun laws. It is a violent gun culture, there are far too many guns in this country. And, look, I don't know where John grew up, but I can tell you where I grew up. And I grew up in a neighborhood where I could stand on my front porch and I could see the DEA take down crack houses. I mean, I saw people who were bringing guns to school. I can tell you -- look, I have absolutely no need for a gun. I don't want a gun. I fired one before. I'm sorry, it's grossly overrated. And I think what you have is you have people out here who frankly when they are strapped with that gun they frankly lose in many cases common sense.

Look at this case in Jacksonville, Florida where you've got this guy who is upset because somebody's music was too loud and so what does he do, he goes to his car, gets a gun, fires eight shots into the SUV killing a 17-year-old. And he says, oh, you know, it was self defense.

It is a violent culture and it needs to stop. And John should be ashamed of himself saying more guns in this country.

ANDERSON: You should be ashamed of yourself, John, says Ronald.

OK, well, I guess I'm just asking name me one place in the world that's had a ban on guns, banned handguns, banned all guns, and seen murder rates fall.

ANDERSON: Britain. I mean...

LOTT: Let me answer the question please. Let -- no -- but the point was, Britain had even lower murder rates and lower violent crimes before it had its gun controls. You've had three major gun control laws in Britain - - 1920s, 1950s, and January 1979. After each of those cases, particularly the changes in '56 as well as...

ANDERSON: What about the gun amnesty in 1998 after Dunblane? You know what, I think you're massaging the figures.

LOTT: Well, it's '90 -- Dunblane...

ANDERSON: No, it was 1997 and '98.

Let me move this on, do you believe, John, that there should be a change in gun culture in the United States? And if so, what do you think the principles to explain that change in culture should be?

LOTT: Well, I think you have a misnomer here, the United States in terms of murder rates is not uniform as Martin was just implying. Look, 78 percent of the counties in the United States in any given year have zero murders. Those are the countries that actually have the high gun ownership right.

The urban areas -- you have three percent of the counties in the United States account for about 75 percent of the murders. And if you ever saw a map of the murders in those urban areas it's very heavily concentrated within tiny areas within those cities. It's drug gang related. And the problem is generally -- we have a lot more a drug gang problem in the United States than most other countries have. The gangs fight against each other and control drug -- and you know what year...

ANDERSON; Let's let Ronald in here -- let Ronald in here, John.

MARTIN: I spent six years living in Chicago. And I witnessed what was taking place. And what you also have is, you have a select number of gun shops, frankly, that are responsible for significant number of the guns -- excuse me -- a significant number of guns in these areas. And what you have in this country, you have a powerful lobby in terms of the National Rifle Association, that frankly is unwilling to concede that we have a problem.

You have people who are walking around who say, oh no, I need an assault weapon style gun -- I need an assault weapon to go hunting. Stop it, you don't. It's called sensible gun control and we don't need more guns, John.

ANDERSON: Sorry, John, hold on. And Roland is finished his point.

To that point, I want you both to watch this. This is a campaign video from the Senator of West Virginia, Joe Manchin released in 2010, a man who was endorsed by and given A-rating by the NRA. Following Friday's massacre his position has changed. Listen to what he just said to my colleague, CNN's Christiane Amanpour. Have a listen.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (R) WEST VIRGINIA: I'm Joe Manchin, I approve this ad because I'll always defend West Virginia. As your Senator, I'll protect our second amendment rights, that's why the NRA endorsed me. I'll take on Washington and this administration to get the federal government off of our backs and out of our pockets. I'll cut federal spending and I'll repeal the bad parts of Obamacare. I sued EPA and I'll take dead aim at the cap and trade bill, because it's bad for West Virginia.

Now who would have ever thought in America, or anywhere in the world, that children would be slaughtered? You know, that, it's changed me. But with that being said, people are afraid to talk about some things that just basically should be talked about.

I don't know of anybody that goes hunting with an assault rifle. I don't know people that need 10, 20, 30 round clips.


MANCHIN: I'm committed to bringing the dialogue that would bring a total change, and I mean, a total change.


ANDERSON: John, are you committed to change?

LOTT: I am. I think there are important things that have to be changed, but I disagree with the senator there on what he's...

ANDERSON: Like what?

LOTT: Because I think this whole misnomer of these assault weapons. If you want to go and ban all semiautomatic guns, go and ban all semiautomatic guns, but that's not what they're doing, they're banning guns based upon the way they look on the outside. This Bushmaster that you have is not a military weapon. The -- it looks like an M-16 on the outside, but on the inside it's the same as any hunting rifle.

ANDERSON: A 20 year old gets to shoot a .223 caliber semiautomatic rifle and kill many of the 20 kids in six adults...


LOTT: Look, if you want to...


ANDERSON: Let me get a response from Roland here. Dianne Feinstein will try to introduce...

MARTIN: In a perfect example...

ANDERSON: ...let me finish. Dianne Feinstein will try to reintroduce a ban on assault rifles -- guys, Ronald, will she get that in?

MARTIN: I believe you see public opinion moving and changing. I think you're going to see a dramatic uprising of people in this country who are going to put pressure on members of congress to say you are going to act, they're going to counter the NRA and so it's going to happen. But again when you -- we talked about gun culture, when you have a candidate who literally is running a commercial where he is loading a gun and he's firing at cap and trade, please explain to me why in a country would that resonate?

This is what I'm talking about when I say gun culture. How crazy and deranged this country can be when we will laud somebody for running a commercial where they're firing a gun. That to me is crazy.

LOTT: I don't see what's crazy about people being able to defend themselves when the police can't be there. My...

ANDERSON: John, you've had your say. We do thank you very much indeed for joining us.

John, Ronald, good to hear from you both.

Live from London, this is Connect the World. Interesting debate. What a tragic day Friday was. Let's hope there is change coming up.

The nurse at the center of a royal hospital hoax is laid to rest in her hometown in India. We're going have all the details on that story after this short break.


ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World live from London. Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson.

The nurse who apparently committed suicide just days after falling victim to a royal hospital hoax has been laid to rest in her hometown of India. Thousands of mourners turned out to pay tribute to the 46-year-old. Her family traveled from Britain to attend the service. CNN's Sumnima Udas has more.


SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a very emotional farewell for Jacintha Saldanha in the country of her birth. Thousands of people gathered in the small south Indian town of Sherva to pay their respects to a woman who many here described as deeply religious and benevolent. Sherva is actually Saldanha's husband's hometown. Saldanha herself was born and raised about an hour-and-a-half drive from here. But many of Saldanha's family members, including her mother, and her friends, were present at the palace today. And of course as can be expected there was a large media presence as well.

We spoke to one of Saldanha's friends earlier and she described the service as a very solemn affair, but also as a tribute to everything that Saldanha was able to achieve. This is a predominantly Christian Community in South India. With very high literacy rates. And a lot of people from this area do migrate to the U.S., to Europe to the Middle East to work as nurses and engineers. So in a way, a lot of people here today could relate to Saldanha and the life she had as a migrant worker living in a foreign land.

The 46-year-old nurse's body arrived from the United Kingdom where she had been living for the past 12 years on Sunday, that's more than the week since her tragic death in the UK.

Saldanha's husband and her two teenage children accompanied her body to India. The family did not speak at the service, but her husband did give a very brief statement to the media saying only that he was still grieving and that it would take some time.

Sumnima Udas, CNN, New Delhi.


ANDERSON: The latest world news headlines are just ahead here on CNN, plus Syria's vice president voices a plan for end of the near two-year conflict. But how will the opposition and, indeed, the president himself, Bashar al-Assad react?

And South Africa unites behind their old leader, but where does that leave the current one? As Nelson Mandela recovers in hospital, a struggle is underway for the soul of the ANC.

And Father Christmas might be very busy right now, but he's got a bit of time for a kick around on the pitch. That story up later in our sports update. Half past nine out of London. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: This is CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Becky Anderson. A very warm welcome back. You're watching CNN. These are your headlines this hour.

Heartbreaking funerals today in New Town, Connecticut. The town buried two six-year-old boys, Jack Pinto and Noah Pozner. They were the first victims of Friday's school massacre to be laid to rest.


GOV. DANNEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: The lieutenant governor and I each attended a funeral, a service today. I attended Noah's funeral in Fairfield, and the lieutenant governor attended Jack's funeral in New Town.

There really are no words to describe what it's like to see these parents, as I did on Friday, last night, going from room to room, and then again with respect to Noah's parents, today.


ANDERSON: Syria's vice president says no side can win the country's civil war. In an interview with a Lebanese newspaper, Farouk al-Sharaa calls for an historic settlement involving a national unity government to end the 21-month conflict.

At least 29 people have been killed in a day of deadly attacks across Iraq. A car bomb exploded outside a government building in Baghdad and a second went off during a car auction. To the north, five bombs went off in a small village, and south of that, two car bombs killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens more. The UN has condemned the latest violence.

Incoming Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe says he'll make reviving the economy his top priority. Voters returned his conservative party to power in Sunday's election. Outgoing prime minister Yoshihiko Noda has conceded defeat.

Let's take a closer look now at those comments made by the Syrian vice president Farouk al-Sharaa. In an interview with a Lebanese newspaper, he said, and I quote, "The solution has to be Syrian, but through an historic settlement, which would include the main regional countries and the members of the UN Security Council. This settlement must include stopping all shapes of violence and the creation of a national unity government with wide powers."

Well, bold comments for a man belonging to the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, but although he has the title of vice president, it's got to be said, Farouk al-Sharaa is a Sunni Muslim and not a member of Mr. Assad's inner Alawite circle.

Well, earlier, I spoke to CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson and began by asking him just how much weight he believes these comments have.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We should take these comments very seriously. Farouk al-Sharaa has been in political circles at the center of the regime of Syria for three decades almost now, 1984 to 2006, the foreign minister. Then he became the vice president.

OK, he's sort of been under essential house arrest since the summer. There were rumors about him leaving Syria. Those turned out not to be true. But he's been a silent voice there, not able to speak out.

But now he is, and what he seems to be doing is echoing some of the things he is perhaps hearing around him. We're seeing him -- hearing him say for the first time here that Assad wants only a political solution after a military solution.

And he says everyone else, including the Ba'ath Party, Assad's Ba'ath Party, believes a political solution must come first. He's blaming Assad for the failure of the economy and saying that's the root of the problems.

So, he's really blaming Assad here in a way we haven't heard any senior official doing this up until now. And that's really raising the questions right now is, so, what is Assad going to do? Is he going to leave? What are his options?

ROBERTSON (voice-over): For now, his options, go or stay, are open, and there are plenty of lessons from the Arab Spring. Unlike Moammar Gadhafi, the toppled Libyan leader, Assad has no international arrest warrants limiting his travel.

He still has time to do what the Tunisian leader, Ben Ali, did at the beginning of the Arab Spring: make a run for it. He fled to Saudi Arabia. Unlikely Assad would go there.

DAVID LESCH, AUTHOR, "THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ASSAD": I cannot think of too many places that would house him, and probably the most viable option would be Iran. I don't think, knowing him personally, that would be a terribly desirous option.

ROBERTSON: Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak left it too late, fled to his palace at the port city of Sharm el-Sheikh, still in Egypt, and was arrested, ending up in court amid humiliating scenes, lying in a hospital bed.


ROBERTSON: Gadhafi called it completely wrong. He went on the run after balking, despite the advice of one aid, at cutting a deal that would allow him to flee the country. He paid with his life.

The key question for Lesch, who advises Assad now --

LESCH: He has listened a great deal to his wife over the years. She has been one of his primary advisors, as has his mother. And again, from what I've heard, the mother is more of a stay-and-fight and we'll make our way through this type of personality, perhaps more so than his wife. And that fits in, I think, more clearly with those in his inner circle.

ANDERSON: We're approaching the end of the year, and we have seen this ratcheting up of efforts on the -- side of the international community, and now this from the vice president. If this is the endgame that we are looking at here, what's the likely scenario?

ROBERSTON (on camera): It's still a very long end game, if you will. We don't know how long it'll play out, but don't let's expect that it's going to be a matter of weeks.

We're hearing that other regional players, as well as players inside Syria, the opposition now, they're sort of -- opposition's been afraid to speak out, is beginning to speak out. We're hearing people like Hezbollah saying that they are beginning to see changes, that perhaps there's an opportunity here for the rebels to win in Syria.

So, the cracks are really appearing. We've heard Russia distance itself from Assad. So, how is it going to play out?

Quite likely -- and we're already getting indications of this -- the military, Assad's strong military regime, will retrench to areas that they believe that they can control, cede territory to the rebels that might a sort of a rump, Alawite-type area.

Christians are worried that they're going to be pulled into the mix somehow. They've been able to stay out of it, 10 percent of the population, until now. So, I think this is the way we're going to see it play out.

But at the moment, everyone's saying that unless -- and this was what the vice president said as well -- unless Assad takes the lead, the regime takes the lead and commits to make some serious changes, political changes that the opposition can buy into, then all bets are off the table, that the opposition will ultimately win, and that this will go down the path, if no one compromises, this will go down the pat of a lot more bloodshed.


ANDERSON: Nic Robertson on Syria's future.

Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson. Coming up, as the African National Congress votes for its next leader, we ask two ex pats if President Zuma is the right man for the job. That after this.





ANDERSON: South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, honoring Nelson Mandela, leading members of the ANC Party Conference in a song. As Nelson Mandela remains in hospital, a leadership battle is being fought in South Africa right now.

More than 4,000 members of the ruling African National Congress are meeting to decide who will head up that party over the next five years. CNN's Robyn Curnow reports from Johannesburg for you.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As Nelson Mandela continues to recover in hospital from a lung infection and from surgery to remove his gallstones, the movement that he dedicated his life to holds a crucial party conference.

Now, the run-up to this conference has been so bloody, so divisive, that critics have accused the ANC of abandoning the ideals for which Mandela stood, that there's a sense of moral decline. Corruption, scandals are rampant.

Now, the ANC denies this, but the internal division that we've seen within the ANC over the past year in the run-up to this conference all center around those who want President Jacob Zuma to get a second term and those who don't.

And the divisions got so bad that there have been political assassinations, killings, and allegations of vote-buying, which President Zuma condemned in his opening speech on Sunday. Either way, a messy, complicated conference that has huge implications for Africa's largest economy.

Robyn Curnow, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.


ANDERSON: Joining me now in the studio are two South African ex pats who live here in London. Ludre Stevens is the chairman of the Democratic Alliance Abroad, which represents the main opposition party in South Africa and is against President Zuma's reelection. Zakhele Mfeka is a member of the ANC's London branch. Hello to both of you.

We're going to get a result on this leadership Thursday, I believe. Zakhele, Zuma's the man for the job, right?



MFEKA: Yes, the man for the job.


MFEKA: If we can look, after Zuma took over the power, after Thabo Mbeki, you can see what -- a lot of development has been happening in South Africa. Take, for example, the issue of HIV and AIDS. Zuma did a lot to put the medication for those with HIV and AIDS, and the number of people who are dying now is decreasing.

When it comes to rural development, there's a lot of development that has been taking place in South Africa under Zuma as president.

ANDERSON: This isn't something you support, is it, Ludre?

LUDRE STEVENS, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE ABROAD: Not at all. Under Zuma, the judiciary has been completely politicized and weakened. The economy has weakened. Corruption has spiraled out of control. There have been scandals, Nkandlagate. There's also been a lack of information in the Marikana tragedy.

So, we've had five years of Zuma with policy drift and not getting anywhere, so it's time for change.

ANDERSON: Zakhele, that isn't the -- Zakhele, it's not the first time by any stretch of the imagination that I have heard that argument.

You only have to look at the gun stats, and we did those earlier on on this show when we were talking about gun control in the States, or the lack of it, to show that the number of murders per 100,000 guns owned in the States is something like 8 times higher in South Africa than it is the United States. You have to admit that things are looking pretty dire in South Africa at the moment.

MFEKA: Not looking pretty dire, because the government, they're doing a lot, and if you compare five years, ten years ago, the number of serious crimes has been decreased. And the government is trying all its best to fight crime.

But it's so difficult, what's new to understand in South Africa is a lot of immigration, some of the crime that is happening in South Africa are not committed by South Africans, people who are living in South Africa. The robbery of banks, the guy who was arrested is from Zimbabwe, was not a South African.

But the government, yes, it is not things that are happening so quick, but they are trying to do it to decrease the crime.

ANDERSON: But the question is, is he the man for the job? Or is he, for example, somebody who, perhaps, should stand aside and let Motlanthe, for example, who is his opposition at this stage, his only opposition at this stage, because of course Malema is no longer in the leadership --

STEVENS: Well, of course, we would like our party leader to be president of the country, but going back to the example just now, Zimbabwe's another example where the ANC has failed in diplomacy. Had they controlled Mugabe much better, had they controlled the situation, we wouldn't have had an influx of all of the foreign people coming in to take jobs and that sort of thing.

But going back to the gun control comment, that's more a symptom of poverty, unemployment rather than too many guns in the country. So, we need to get a government in place that creates jobs, grows the economy, and creates a healthy investment environment rather than carrying on with the current policies, which aren't getting us anywhere.

ANDERSON: Is race still significant issue in South Africa? Today?

STEVENS: I think --


STEVENS: I think it's a useful excuse for everything. I think whenever positions need to be defended and there's no credible way of defending it, it goes back to racism or apartheid. Obviously, there's the need for redress. Obviously, there's a need for us to correct what happened in the past, but I think it's often used as a scapegoat rather than actually tackling the real issues.

ANDERSON: Now, that's interesting, isn't it? Given that Nelson Mandela is recovering in hospital today, all of us so inspired by what happened in the early 1990s. I put it to you, then, Zakhele, is race still an issue? And, as your colleague here has suggested, sometimes used as an excuse for the status quo as things are now?

MFEKA: Race is still an issue in South Africa, and it will take time. Not in South Africa, if you check around the world, there's still a problem of racism going back to the terms of economy and the job creation.

It's not a problem that's facing only South Africa, it's a problem that's facing the whole world. It's not only because the lack of Zuma not giving good leadership. If you can check here the name of people who are not working, go to check in America. It's not because of Zuma, it's the economy around the world.

ANDERSON: It's not just rumor and conjecture around Zuma. There have been a number of things, not least the allegations of some $27 million worth of taxpayers' money being spent on upgrading his own residence.

I know you've got an argument for that, I'm sure, suggesting that that wasn't his money, he didn't know anything about it. But can you really sit here today and say that things are better for South Africa under Jacob Zuma today in 2012?

MFEKA: Yes, I can still say that things are better. All this stories of corruption, those are allegations, because there is no case that has been put against Zuma in terms of corruption. When there is corruption, the law will take its justice.

But there are just allegations. On my understanding, whatever Zuma demanded, he didn't spend it. He'd been cutting the general who is in charge of the money with the understanding if they say, oh, Zuma went and stole the money.

ANDERSON: Why do you think there's such a big diaspora out of South Africa these days? Why are you in London, for example?

STEVENS: Personally, I'm here for the career life experience. And I think the perception that South Africans leave the country in large volumes actually is probably a false ones.

All the South Africans that I know that have been chairman of the DA Abroad, obviously, I've a lot of contacts. It's very much a case, we're seeing the world, it's life experience. There's been no means at all this concept that people are fleeing out of the country.

People do emigrate, probably to Australia, for more a more permanent basis than they do to the UK, but I think that concept that people are fleeing the country is probably one that's not that true or accurate anymore.

ANDERSON: Does the DA in any way stand a chance of running South Africa anytime soon?

STEVENS: Absolutely. So, we've already governed one province, the Western Cape. In 2014 --

ANDERSON: Realistically, can you --

STEVENS: Absolutely.

ANDERSON: -- govern the country? Is that realistic? I'm sure you could --


ANDERSON: -- but is it a realistic option at this point?

STEVENS: Yes. So, we have a roadmap. 2014 is our next national elections. We're prepared to win a second province, the North West province. And thereafter, we definitely see ourselves in 2019 being in coalition with someone to have a national government.

So, also by way of how the local elections are going, we got one in four votes in last year's local elections, 25 percent of the vote nationally. So, it is a clear road map, a second province in 2014, within 2019 we could be in a coalition government on a national level.

ANDERSON: Which suggests that a lot of people are moving away from the ANC very quickly.

MFEKA: Not a lot of people. Some minor -- not a lot of people. If we can look to the post-apartheid era of South Africa, you're talking about provinces. Like in KwaZulu-Natal has not let much support of the DA. You can find supporters of the DA in areas like Western Cape, Eastern Cape. Not the whole of South Africa.

And when it comes to people who are living in South Africa, who are living around the world, in America, people are living in America. In the UK, we find British all around the world. In South Africa, some of the people are leaving because of education, and there are those miners who are leaving South Africa because they don't want to accept the ruling party that is there.

ANDERSON: We're going to leave it there. We thank you very much, indeed, both of you, for coming in. We'll have you back again.

STEVENS: Absolutely.

ANDERSON: Ludre Stevens and Zakhele Mfeka. Thank you.

MFEKA: We thank you.

ANDERSON: Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, some fans at one Russian football club want some changes to the team, and you will not believe why. That after this.


ANDERSON: All right. It is pretty common for football fans to call for the sacking of a coach, as we know, or the benching of a team player if the team isn't doing well. But some fans of Zenit St. Petersburg apparently care less about results and more about the look of the club. Pedro Pinto here to explain. Do, pray tell. What's going on in Russia?

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It's an outrageous story, and it's another racism row that has erupted in Russia. Fans of the largest supporters group of Zenit St. Petersburg, a club which has a really high profile, they play in the Champions League all the time, they posted a letter on their official website asking the club not to sign any black or gay periods.

ANDERSON: Amazing.

PINTO: This comes off the back of the signing of two dark-skinned players, Axel Witsel, the Belgian international, and Hulk, a Brazilian international.

And what's curious is, Becky, that I've actually spoken with African players who were in Russia, and they said that the worst kind of abuse they suffered was when they played away in St. Petersburg. It's a city with a lot of far-right population there, especially when it comes to supporting the club.

And curiously, or perhaps not, in light of what I'm saying, Zenit have never signed an African player. As a matter of fact, some African players which were linked with this team, some of them actually suffered death threats.

So, it's an incredibly strange situation to be talking in the 21st century about fans of an international football club like Zenit not wanting their club to sign African or gay players.

ANDERSON: I'm just thinking exactly that as you were talking, I'm thinking, this is 2012.


ANDERSON: Do we have to continue to have these conversations? But we will.


ANDERSON: We absolutely will because it's so important. But it just -- it blows my mind.

PINTO: Astounding.

ANDERSON: Listen, let's close out with something a little bit more joyful.


ANDERSON: From fans with hate in their hearts, it seems, to another message -- or another -- whose players are all about the spirit of what this festive season, at least, yes?

PINTO: Yes, you're right. And this is quite funny. It's a football team that's based in Finland, in the north of Finland in the town of Rovaniemi, where Santa Claus comes from. And there is a team actually named after Santa Claus called, non-originally, FC Santa Claus.

And there he is. He shows up to some of the home games and helps the local sidekick off. They play in the third division, and the season there just ended in October, because obviously it's very cold, it's very snowy.

So, what do the players do in their time off? They help the man himself, Santa, with the requests from children from all around the world. So, that's what they've been doing right now. So, while some players out there are cashing in hundreds of thousands of pounds every week in their salary, we've got others who get in the Christmas Spirit and help some of the children get their presents, I guess.

ANDERSON: That is the sort of story we like to close out --


ANDERSON: -- this part of the show with. Thank you very much, indeed. Pedro Pinto, who is of course back with you for "World Sport" in just over 30 minutes' time. Half past ten London time.

In tonight's Parting Shots, spectacular pictures of a volcano in Ecuador. It's erupted repeatedly in the past week, spewing plumes of ash up to three miles into the air. Local towns have had to be evacuated for safety, of course.

The volcano's name, Tungurahua, means "throat of fire" in the local indigenous language. Remarkable stuff, isn't it?

I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. This is CNN. Thank you for watching.