Analyst says race card may come strong
By Lukmon Akintola
Eight aspirants may presently be waiting in the wings for a shot at the plum office of President of South Africa in 2019 or even before then, and depending on how the continuing political tensions in the country play out, The Difference checks have revealed.
Already, as many as six candidates are said to be bidding in the first stage of the process to succeed Jacob Zuma as the leader of the ANC next year as South Africa’s ruling party starts the process this weekend to choose its next president, according to its secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
“There’s six people who have raised their hand that they want to be president of the party,” Mantashe said in an interview last week.
While the 104-year-old ANC suffered its worst performance in an election this year, its leader is likely to become national president in 2019 as it still commands the majority of support in the country.
To emerge howevr, the new leader will need to reach out to millions of ANC supporters who stayed away from the polls in municipal elections in August after Zuma was implicated in a series of scandals and the economy skirted a second recession in seven years. The ANC has won every election since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Top party officials will from this weekend start a “political education” roadshow to speak to members at branches to help facilitate the process of electing a new leader at its five-yearly conference in December next year, Mantashe said. Zuma, whose second term as president of the country ends in 2019, has led the ANC since 2007.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (63) and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whose time as chairperson of the African Union Commission ends in January, are seen as the front-runners to succeed Zuma.
While Ramaphosa has cut his teeth as a long-standing member of the ANC, a trade union organiser and businessman, Dlamini-Zuma, who had been wife to current President Jacob Zuma has equally been in the political field for many years; with some analysts already speculating that the contest between the two front-runners already has a lot of the trappings of the Hillary-Trump face-off in the recently concluded US presidential polls.
Other potential contenders expected to make a pitch for the party leader and later, national leader’s role from within the ANC are Zweli Mkhize (60), the ANC’s treasurer-general and former premier of KwaZulu-Natal province, and Baleka Mbete (67) the incumbent speaker of the South African parliament and ANC chairperson, who helped save Zuma’s job last week during the much publicised no-confidence vote.
However, contrary to earlier speculations, Zuma, 74, who has been very badly bruised in the run up to this week, isn’t one the six candidates and isn’t expected to seek re-election, Mantashe said.
“I don’t think he will stand for the third term. He’s not in the six. It would be a mistake to stand for a third term,” he said.
“It’s not an unspoken rule, it’s actually spoken because we go on to say the president of the ANC is the ANC candidate for the president of the country.”
Currently, South African presidents can only serve two five-year terms.
Zuma has faced increasing calls to step down after South Africa’s top court ruled in March he had violated the constitution by refusing to pay back taxpayer money to upgrade his private residence.
The public protector’s State of Capture reported which was released last week suggested he had allowed members of the Gupta family, who are his friends and in business with his son, to influence Cabinet appointments and the awarding of state contracts.
The seventh contender for the Presidency is not from the ruling ANC. He is Mmusi Maimane, leader of the rival Democratic Alliance, DA which has lately profitted from the ANC’s failings at the ballot. However, he is not at the moment expected to make much progress as the DA is still largely perceived as a ‘white-leaning’ party in a Black-dominated nation even as analysts contend that just like was the recent scenario in the US polls, the race card will still remain a principal card that would be played out in the Zuma succession drama.
Underscoring this point is the eight candidate, Julius Malema, a second non-ANC player and leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, EFF, who stridently canvasses the race card as a major point of his campaign. He is however not expected to make much inroads in the popular poll given that his former comrades in the ANC will not ditch their party to support him. A second chink in his armour is the fact that his nationalisation and land redistribution policies have since alienated him from big business and liberal South Africans.