Bat­tle­lines for the post-zuma clash

The Africa Report - - FRONTLINE -

One of the un­sung po­lit­i­cal suc­cesses in the era of Ja­cob Zuma has been Par­lia­ment TV, which broad­casts de­bates live from the na­tional assem­bly in Cape Town. At first, its au­di­ence was in the tens of thou­sands – mostly mid­dle-class pol­i­tics nerds. Now the view­ers are in the tens of mil­lions, in the town­ships as well as the leafy sub­urbs. Some South Africans see par­lia­men­tary de­bates as a power strug­gle, one that could trans­form their lives. Oth­ers en­joy watch­ing the may­hem as Julius Malema and his al­lies from the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers in their red boiler suits and hard hats clash with se­cu­rity guards, turn­ing par­lia­ment into a re­al­ity TV show. Pol­i­tics in South Africa is a blood­sport, es­pe­cially this year. There is the na­tional bat­tle fo­cus­ing on chip­ping away at the dom­i­nance of the African Na­tional Congress. From the left, Malema and his mil­i­tants are win­ning over the poor, the land­less and the dis­pos­sessed of apartheid. From the right, the Demo­cratic Al­liance, dark suits and sen­si­ble shoes, have boosted their votes un­der Mmusi Maimane’s lead­er­ship. Caught in the mid­dle is the gov­ern­ing party, its fac­tions jock­ey­ing for votes ahead of the De­cem­ber lead­er­ship con­test. For many ANC loy­al­ists the party is at a fork in the road: will it re­assert its stated com­mit­ment to so­cial and eco­nomic jus­tice, or will it in­creas­ingly come un­der the con­trol of a nar­row ca­bal main­tain­ing dom­i­nance through pa­tron­age? Be­hind that choice is con­cern that South Africa’s cur­rent po­lit­i­cal econ­omy can­not meet the ANC’S as­pi­ra­tions: a low-growth econ­omy, dom­i­nated by ren­tiers and mo­nop­o­lists, will not pro­duce the mil­lions of well-paid, modern sec­tor jobs that peo­ple de­mand. The dan­ger is that those big strate­gic ques­tions will be lost in a highly per­sonal bat­tle to con­trol the party. Sy­co­phants and chancers group around the wounded king as he tries to des­ig­nate his heir. Rebel barons rat­tle their sabres. Tur­bu­lent priests, jesters and po­ets all de­mand their place on the stage. Ev­ery­one claims a stake in the party of Nel­son Man­dela, and the drama is com­ing to a TV screen near you.

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