… Split ANC Top Six favours Zuma serving as Head of State until 2019
By Ashley Smith
FOR South Africans, and others, with even a limited understanding of the politics of the African National Congress (ANC), the party’s elective conference, which reached a crescendo in the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg this week, left no cause for celebration.
Even though South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa managed to narrowly overcome President Jacob Zuma’s candidate, his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the ANC Top Six is now stacked with three staunch Zuma supporters, in the form of Ace Magashule, David Mabuza and Jessie Duarte.
The split in the Top Six is likely to filter down into the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC), which will ultimately have to be convinced, if Zuma is to be recalled by the party any time soon. And although Ramaphosa may not be a lame duck, he is most certainly facing the prospect of being hamstrung, as he tries to deal with the elephant in the room that is President Zuma.
This immediately raises the spectre of bitter contestation and frustration, for those who want to see the back of the country’s Head of State, and a dismantling of the looting machinery that has emptied the South African fiscus.
Political analysts have previously predicted that Ramaphosa would recall Zuma, if he is elected ANC president, but this now seems unlikely, given the make-up of the ANC Top Six, which positions the party to piggyback on Ramaphosa’s somewhat cleaner image, as its candidate for the 2019 general elections, but makes it difficult for him to manoeuvre when it comes to dealing with the State capture, grand larceny and looting, which has at its centre Zuma and his cronies.
Questions are already being asked about whether Ramaphosa will be able to push for an inquiry into State capture, given that some of the party’s new top officials have defended the infamous Gupta family, who have been accused of being Zuma’s handlers, while emptying South African State-owned enterprises of billions.
For those who had their eyes fixed on Nasrec this week, hoping that a Ramaphosa slate would sweep all the Top Six positions, the ANC conference proved an utter shambles and a letdown, as a last-minute deal brokered by the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Gauteng ANC provincial leaders saw Mabuza defeat Lindiwe Sisulu in the race for the party deputy presidency.
It was almost as if the unseen hand of a puppet master was weaving his magic, in favour of Zuma not being forced to wear orange prison overalls in the near future, as other members of what has become known as the Premier League, Zuma’s band of ANC provincial leaders, who have kept him in full control of the party, ended up in the Top Six, or were involved in strategic last-minute negotiations to determine the winners.
Free State Premier, Magashule, pipped former KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu to the secretary general (SG) position with a narrow 24-vote difference, in a disputed race in which over 60 votes were not included in the final tally, and another Zuma acolyte, Duarte, retained her current position as deputy SG, with 2 474 votes while her rival Zingiswa Losi, who was also on Ramaphosa’s slate, could only muster 2 213 votes.
Paul Mashatile is the treasurer-general, after he defeated Maite Nkoana-Mashabane by 2 517 votes to 2 178 votes.
Roger Southall, a Professor of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand, said the assumption that the election of Ramaphosa as the new ANC leader will place South Africa on an even keel, are misplaced.
And indeed, the drama may only be beginning.
“It’s useful to look back to 2007, when President Thabo Mbeki unwisely ran for a third term as ANC leader. His unpopularity among large segments of the party provided the platform for his defeat by Zuma at Polokwane. Within a few months the National Executive Committee of the ANC latched onto an excuse to ask Mbeki to stand down as president of the country, before the end of his term of office. Being committed to the traditions of party loyalty he complied, resigning as president some eight months before the constitution required him to do so,” Southall said.
He said this raises the question whether South Africa should now expect a repeat performance following the election of a new leader of the ANC.
Will this lead to a party instruction to Zuma to stand down as president of the country? And if it does, will he do what Mbeki did and meekly resign?
“There’s a big difference between the two scenarios: Mbeki had no reason to fear the consequences of leaving office. Zuma, on the other hand, has numerous reasons to cling to power. This is what makes him, and the immediate future, dangerous for South Africa, and suggests the country faces instability,” Southall said.
Zuma, who has been losing court case after court case, as judicial decisions increasingly narrow his legal capacity to block official and independent investigations into the extent of State capture by business interests close to him, will have every constitutional right to defy an ANC instruction to stand down as State president until his term expires, following the next general election in 2019, and the new parliament’s election of a new president.
In terms of the South African Constitution, his term of office will be brought to an early end only if parliament passes a vote of no confidence in his presidency, or votes that, for one reason or another, he is unfit for office.
But today’s ANC is so divided that it cannot be assumed that a majority of ANC MPs would back a motion of no confidence, even following the election of Ramaphosa as the party’s new leader.
In other words, there is a very real prospect that South Africa will see itself ruled for at least another 18 months or so by what is termed “two centres of power”, Southall said.
It may be that Zuma’s control over the ANC is waning, as is his control over various State institutions, notably the National Prosecuting Authority, but despite the election of Ramaphosa as party president, South Africa is still deep in rough waters, and Zuma will be at his most dangerous.
It now falls to Ramaphosa, who late South African President Nelson Mandela turned to when needed a breakthrough in the talks to end apartheid, which honed the then-trade union leader’s reputation as a tenacious negotiator.
What is at stake for Ramaphosa is simple; The ANC, if it wants to win the 2019 elections, and the country, cannot afford to have Zuma as Head of State for a minute longer.
It has taken more than two decades for Ramaphosa to get another chance to run the country, after he was Mandela’s original choice to succeed him, but lost out to Mbeki.
At Nasrec this week he was handed a poisoned chalice, and now will have to convince Zuma’s supporters in the Top Six to put their party and country first, before protecting the current Head of State and his cronies.
Ramaphosa, whose investment vehicle Shanduka, which means ‘change’ in Venda, netted him R8 billion when he sold his shares after being appointed as South African Deputy President, will need all his skills and stamina to overcome the hand he was dealt by the ANC conference. -Additional reporting by The Conversation
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015