JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
LOOKING at the African National Congress (ANC)’s upcoming elective conference, one is struck by how close it is. It’s so close that it has become very difficult to predict who will win. Many of us who watch South Africa’s political and economic trends closely, never thought Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa would perform as well as he did in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal during the branch nominations process; in contest for the next leadership of the ANC against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
There had been speculations that post the provincial general meetings, one of the two camps would compromise to avoid the split of the party, according to the left-wing Mail and Guardian. But neither candidate has backed down ahead of this crucial conference.
The closeness of this race, the huge political interests at stake, and the staggering corruption still afflicting South Africa’s society, all, should be a sign that money will be a huge factor in deciding the outcome of the elective conference. The selling and buying of votes, that the Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, warned the delegates about not long ago, is already taking place and will take place at the conference. The manipulation of the process has already begun. We would be fooling ourselves to think otherwise.
A great deal is at stake for the parties involved in this nasty race – especially for Jacob Zuma-backed camp – led by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. If Dlamini-Zuma’s camp loses at the elective conference, the president’s future becomes even more uncertain.
Already, there are strong calls to have him removed from his presidential seat by early next year, after his term as president of the ANC finishes this month. Jackson Mthembu – ANC’s top Member of Parliament and supporter of Cyril Ramaphosa – has said Zuma must vacate his office after the conference – so the ANC cleans itself up and prepares for the national election in 2019.
We all know what will happen if Jacob Zuma gets booted out of power before the end of his second and last term as President of South Africa in 2019. The investigations on state capture allegations and the decision whether to prosecute him for his corruption charges will speed up – which could culminate in him facing the court of law. Something he has dodged for years.
President Jacob Zuma wants someone, people, he can trust to negotiate with on the matters pertaining to his corruption charges. He trusts Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – his ex-wife – she’s from KwaZulu Natal – there’s a cultural connection between them.
The North Gauteng High Court’s ruling last week – that the appointment of Shaun Abrahams as the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) was unlawful and must be set aside – and that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa be the one appointing the new NDPP – has put the president in a very awkward position.
The president is appealing the ruling; in part because, I believe, he wants to see the outcome of the elective conference. If his favoured camp loses at the conference – it will certainly be the end of his presidency and power. He will surely be axed by the new leadership – and Ramaphosa will follow suit as ordered by a judge – and appoint the new NDPP who is likely to prosecute Jacob Zuma without delays.
The president understands these forces at work – he’s a political genius – a master tactician. And that is why he knows his camp has to win, must win, at the conference.
If Jacob Zuma’s camp wins – thereby consolidating their power in the ANC – Jacob Zuma could fire Ramaphosa, at worst. So that someone else, the new deputy president, preferred by Zuma, appoints the new NDPP.
If he does not expel Ramaphosa – because it’s highly likely that the new ANC national executive committee (NEC) would refuse such an action – he would, along with the NEC pressure Ramaphosa to appoint the NDPP who’s likely not going to prosecute him, let alone pursue the state capture allegations objectively.
Given these circumstances – the money is playing, will play, a big role in this presidential contest. It will shape the outcome of the occasion. And given this reality – I urge South Africans not to read much into what is reported on the media – a media that seemingly – wants to see Ramaphosa win the elective conference.
It’s not clear much is at stake for Ramaphosa. He’s been a businessman since 1990s – and is not in desperation to avoid courts – as some of his counterparts are. He acknowledges that the ANC is in trouble and needs reformation. Given this fact, it’s hard to imagine him going too far, for the purpose of winning this race. Though some in his camp may.
It’s a brutal contest for the soul of Nelson Mandela’s ANC. The stakes are too high for the parties involved. It is a power struggle – of which the outcome will shape South Africa’s future in many ways. And it seems, those most desperate, with most money, have no other option but to win. PM
© PHUMLANI M. MAJOZI