ANC: It’s sta­tus quo vs the fu­ture

Many ANC lead­ers are seek­ing to write their names in the history books as the ones who dis­ap­proved of their pres­i­dent’s lead­er­ship, as ANC fac­tions bat­tle it out, writes Ra­pule Ta­bane

CityPress - - Voices & Careers -

Fri­day, March 31 – when Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma an­nounced his Cab­i­net reshuf­fle with­out con­sult­ing his fel­low ANC top six of­fi­cials – will go down in history, in my opin­ion, as the day he com­pro­mised his al­ready di­min­ish­ing pow­ers.

In ef­fect, he gave them the ex­cuse they had been look­ing for for a long time to take him on pub­licly. While the lack of con­sul­ta­tion al­lowed him to pro­ceed with the Cab­i­net changes he wanted, it opened an avenue – a per­ma­nent one – for oth­ers to feel free to crit­i­cise him with gay aban­don.

Even though ANC deputy pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe and trea­surer-gen­eral Zweli Mkhize re­gret­ted the pub­lic na­ture of the crit­i­cism, they did not with­draw their sen­ti­ments.

Zuma got his reshuf­fle but un­leashed a prac­tice that had been un­heard of in the ANC. That of the party of­fi­cially crit­i­cis­ing its own pres­i­dent’s reshuf­fle.

Even when the party turned against then pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki 10 years ago, it could not openly dis­tance it­self from his ac­tions, but would make veiled hints. Only the tri­par­tite part­ners, the SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) and labour fed­er­a­tion Cosatu, had the free­dom to take Mbeki on. Now the flood­gates are open. There is no stop­ping them. The SACP has been at the fore­front of at­tack­ing Zuma at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, ap­par­ently lead­ing to threats of phys­i­cal harm against their leader Solly Ma­paila.

Then Cosatu joined suit. Not only did it crit­i­cise the pres­i­dent, it went fur­ther and shut the door in his face. He is now per­sona non grata at Cosatu gath­er­ings, where the mem­bers no longer want to lis­ten to him.

On so­cial me­dia, se­nior mem­bers such as Derek Hanekom, who was dropped from Cab­i­net af­ter he pro­posed a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence against Zuma, feel em­bold­ened to speak out against the pres­i­dent.

This week when Ramaphosa openly con­tra­dicted Zuma on the al­liance part­ner’s voice in ANC mat­ters, it sig­nalled that Zuma had lost con­trol.

Whereas Zuma ap­pealed that Cosatu should fo­cus on trade fed­er­a­tion busi­ness and leave ANC busi­ness alone, Ramaphosa em­phat­i­cally urged them to poke their noses into ANC af­fairs, as they also own the lib­er­a­tion move­ment.

This is de­spite Zuma warn­ing his crit­ics within the party at the ANC’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) meet­ing not to push him any fur­ther.

Speak­ing at a Cosatu cen­tral com­mit­tee meet­ing fol­low­ing the ANC NEC meet­ing, SACP leader Blade Nz­i­mande said as com­mu­nists they would not be beg­ging for po­si­tions. He added that they were serv­ing in govern­ment not for the ben­e­fit of an in­di­vid­ual but for the good of the peo­ple of the coun­try. What Zuma had not reck­oned on was that the ANC ma­chin­ery that in the past would be aimed at any­one who crit­i­cised his lead­er­ship would turn against him. It now cel­e­brates crit­i­cism against him. In fact, the rea­son the crescendo of noise is in­creas­ing against him, is that it is now a heroic act to speak out against him.

Whereas many held out hope that a pro­posed mo­tion of no con­fi­dence against Zuma at the NEC meet­ing would suc­ceed, the NEC mem­bers who were sup­port­ing it were do­ing it to mark their dis­tance from the man. De­spite Zuma’s warn­ings against any such mo­tion in fu­ture, this is not the last mo­tion he will face.

Many ANC lead­ers want the record to re­flect that what­ever the pres­i­dent has done, he was not act­ing in their name or that of the ANC.

The axe he held over Cab­i­net min­is­ters who were also his crit­ics has been swung and is now blunt. He has played that card and it’s done. In fact, any­one else who would be­come Zuma’s vic­tim hence­forth, would be el­e­vated to a mar­tyr­dom of sorts. They will wear it as a badge of hon­our.

But all this does not mean Zuma is de­feated and fin­ished. Far from it. His cred­i­bil­ity is at its low­est, but his po­lit­i­cal power is still ev­i­dent in the way the NEC de­feated the mo­tion of no con­fi­dence against him. Al­though he has tended to re­treat to KwaZulu-Natal ev­ery time he wants to com­mu­ni­cate his core thoughts, he still en­joys sig­nif­i­cant ANC sup­port in ev­ery prov­ince. He still has at least one TV sta­tion specif­i­cally ded­i­cated to re­but­ting crit­i­cism against him and the Gup­tas. This is also sup­ported by full-time Twit­terati who ex­ist to present “al­ter­na­tive facts” to main­stream me­dia cov­er­age. And through an in­tri­cate and del­i­cate process of eggdanc­ing, he has kept a num­ber of law­suits and crim­i­nal charges against him at bay for years now. And the Cab­i­net is pre­dom­i­nantly in sup­port of him. But what will ul­ti­mately de­cide whether Zuma serves un­til 2019 will be the ANC’s con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber. Be­fore then, there is the slim chance of the courts in­struct­ing the Speaker of Par­lia­ment to al­low a se­cret bal­lot dur­ing a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence against him that of­fers some hope for those who want him out. But I doubt the courts will want to tell the Speaker what to do. If a se­cret bal­lot were al­lowed, there would be no doubt in my mind many ANC MPs would vote him out. But in an open vote, where their R1 mil­lion-plus jobs are at stake, they would not want to risk it. For now we must pre­pare for a dirty bat­tle for the party’s lead­er­ship po­si­tions. I sus­pect we will see what ANC Women’s League pres­i­dent Batha­bile Dlamini meant when she said ev­ery­one has their own small­ernyana skele­tons. Fake news will also be big. Let’s not for­get how Don­ald Trump in­cred­i­bly walked into the White House against all odds on the back of fake news that his sup­port­ers were fed and be­lieved. Fake news and skele­tons will be tum­bling out of cup­boards as can­di­dates try to dis­credit one an­other. The ANC that wants to ac­knowl­edge that the party is in cri­sis will be pit­ted against the one that be­lieves in not hang­ing its dirty linen in pub­lic. It’s the sta­tus quo against the fu­ture.

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