Sub-agenda: Will Zuma be sacked after the Conference?
By Nsikan Ikpe
With barely four weeks to the crucial leadership Conference of the ruling African National Congress, ANC in South Africa, the battle to pick Jacob Zuma’s successor as leader of the party and its presidential candidate in the forthcoming 2019 presidential polls is gathering steam.
Essentially a two-horse race between incumbent Deputy President, Cyril amaphosa and Zuma’s former wife and immediate past Chairperson of the African Union, Madam Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the pre-conference delegates endorsement sessions are already throwing up very interesting outcomes.
Presently, the branches are demonstrating their loyalties with Kwa Zulu Natal for example rooting for Dlamini-Zuma, while Gauteng is going for Ramaphosa.
Ahead of next weeks branch rally in Gauteng for example, an official tally of the nomination process in Gauteng reveals that Dlamini-Zuma has only managed 55 branch nominations while Ramaphosa received a whopping 383.
And on the side, the political events in Zimbabwe may also be weighing in somewhat on the process in South Africa with some already saying that just like had recently happened in Zimbabwe, South Africa needs to embrace the long-postponed reality of immediate leadership change after the conference.
Indeed, this pressure is already eating deep into the African National Congress as efforts are being intensified to get President Jacob Zuma to stand down as head of state after the party conference next month.
The ANC has been dogged by infighting for much of this year as a series of corruption scandals have tarnished its image ahead of the December conference at which it will elect Zuma’s successor.
The party is split between factions backing Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former minister and ex-wife of Zuma, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for the ANC’s top job.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said that whoever the party chooses next month, the incoming leadership should tell Zuma to go to allow the ANC to clean up its act.
“You can’t keep him there,” he said.
“In Zimbabwe they call that bloodless corrections… We need to make the corrections immediately after the conference. How do you effect those corrections in government when the same person who might have contributed to a better degree still sits?” Mthembu asked.
Mthembu is in the camp that backs Ramaphosa for ANC president and said it was important for the ANC to regain the trust of the people after news reports that the Gupta brothers, business friends close to Zuma, had influenced government appointments and secured contracts from state firms.
Both Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing.
Zuma’s second term as president expires in 2019, but he could be forced out as head of state by the ANC’s new leadership before his term ends, as was the case with former president Thabo Mbeki.
Meanwhile, as part of the deepening tensions in the polity, a Ramaphosa-aligned ANC delegate to the national conference has been gunned down. The KwaZulu-Natal ANC leader who had been elected as a delegate to next month’s ANC national elective conference was gunned down in Nkanyezini.
It will be recalled that in May the ANC had said that its executive committee backed Zuma after calls for him to resign, and in August Zuma survived a no-confidence motion in parliament.
Analysts say Zuma still has strong support in the party, including from the influential women’s and youth leagues as well as in rural areas, where several tribal chiefs back the traditionalist leader.
However, the party of Nelson Mandela has seen its electoral majority shrink over recent years, and some analysts predict it could lose the 2019 election. Until recently that was unthinkable for a party that has led comfortably since sweeping to power under Nelson Mandela at the end of apartheid in 1994.
Mthembu said if the ANC failed to emerge from its December conference with a new image it was “doomed”.
“It’s us who got South Africa into this mess by electing Zuma to be president. We should have looked closely into the man. With hindsight we made a terrible error of judgment,” he said.
And in a related development, ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize has blamed factionalism within the ruling party for hampering the battle against corruption.
“Unity does not stop you from being able to deal with corruption‚ but factions make it impossible to deal with corruption because everyone has a defence.
“If you are being investigated for corrupt activity‚ people think it’s easier to use a factional label to protect yourself … so we need to unite against corruption‚” said Mkhize.
He was speaking to journalists on Wednesday evening during a question and answer session at the Hilton Hotel in Johannesburg.
“The issue of corruption is very important because what you need is to be able to create an image of clean governance‚ where we are able to fight effectively and fiercely with corruption … you have to start with the whole issue of ethical leadership‚ which is an issue that we need to preach within the organisation‚” he said.
Mkhize said the party’s failure to deal with corruption was a result of a loophole that accused individuals used every time they were summoned to the Integrity Commission.
“We are going to conference and what we need to work on is the mechanisms that will empower leadership to be able to act in the event someone has been found to have been involved in an allegation that brings the ANC into disrepute‚” said Mkhize‚ who is also vying to succeed President Jacob Zuma next month at the ANC’s elective conference.
“We set up an Integrity Commission and‚ when we did that‚ we did not anticipate the debate that came around the problems of individuals who would argue that the accusation is false‚ who would argue that the matter would be proven in court; and that the matter that has been raised is a smear.”
Embattled President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma