#ANC54 Did SA’s politics just get a whole lot more messy and unruly?


Did the ANC elective conference vote create just the right kind of environment for Jacob Zuma to simply continue as he has been? While there has been great excitement that Ramaphosa has come out of top – least of all the markets – Russell Pollitt SJ asks who really won?

Who really won the ANC’s presidency? One might be forgiven for thinking that Monday’s result was actually, in many ways, a win for embattled President Jacob Zuma. It’s clear that the delegates at #ANC54 voted to avoid a massive split in the party. They did not vote by slates. But they did not vote for the good of the country either. The mixed-slate result will be used to emphasise unity in the party but could also play straight into Zuma’s hands and make the road to the 2019 election a much more rocky one for the ANC.

Perhaps we have, again, underestimated the political shrewdness of Jacob Zuma. The power brokers used ‘unity’ as a guise to make sure that Zuma stays exactly where he is. It would appear as if a much-anticipated recall of Jacob Zuma will now not happen any time soon. The strength of votes makes a recall, it seems, almost impossible.

The many strong calls (and promises) for a renewed and clean ANC were also dealt a strong blow when one considers who is in the top six. It is not possible to “self-correct” when you elect compromised candidates.

Ace Magashule’s election as secretary general (by only 24 votes) means that he, essentially, now manages the organisation and its 2019 election campaign. The Free State PEC was unable to participate in the last two ANC conferences. The man who was in charge of that badly run province is none other than Magashule. He is also closely associated with the Gupta’s, supported Zuma’s presidency and is part of the so-called “premier league.” Magashule has been very hostile to the media because of the pressure they have applied on him in exposing his badly run province. The courts have ruled against him for managing ANC processes illegally.

Newly elected deputy president, David Mabuza, is another Zumaite and member of the “premier league.” He too has been accused of dirty business – including intimidating ANC members to vote for his so-called unity campaign. He also threatened journalists. He and his president have completely different outlooks and constituencies – how will this work in reality? It remains to be seen if it will work at all.

The situation can still be salvaged if newly-elected president Cyril Ramaphosa gets a majority within the NEC. This may give him the edge that he needs to hold the balance of power and really take the reigns. The NEC will be announced later this week.

The end result is that Ramaphosa does not really have a mandate and his hands seem to be tied. He is isolated and so anything he tries to do will likely be blocked. This means that President Zuma has bought the time he needs to do a lot more damage – think nuclear for example.

Some argue that Ramaphosa has two allies in the top six: newly elected national chair, Gwede Mantashe, and treasurer general, Paul Mashatile. But we need to remember: Mantashe has not always been forthcoming in challenging Zuma’s shenanigans. He has been part of the very apparatus that has kept the embattled Zuma in power.

Speaking of Zuma apparatus: the return of Jessie Duarte to the top six is also interesting. Besides her support for Zuma, it is also well known that she and Mantashe don’t see eye to eye.

While the morale of the country may be boosted by Ramaphosa’s election and the markets have shown their support, South Africa is still on a political knife edge. When three of the top six are Zuma supporters and have serious allegations hanging over their heads, the ANC’s leadership continues to be compromised. A leadership riddled with people who have serious allegations hanging over their heads cannot steer a “self-correction” with credibility.

It is unlikely that the election result will be contested in court – as some have predicted it might be – because the guise of ‘unity’ will be exposed. This may be a small relief. Factionalism, however, is now solidly embedded in the organisation’s leadership.

One cannot but help wonder if South Africa’s politics has not just got a whole lot more messy and unruly, creating just the kind of environment Jacob Zuma needs to continue as he has been continuing. SA.

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* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.


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    #ANC54 Did SA’s politics just get a whole lot more messy and unruly?