Ev­ery time JZ wins, the ANC loses

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Ra­pule Ta­bane voices@city­press.co.za

There’s no doubt DA leader Mmusi Maimane and the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers’ Julius Malema woke up with huge headaches on Wed­nes­day.

A mo­ment they had long fought for, be­liev­ing that it would fi­nally pro­vide the stage to get rid of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, had come and gone with­out pro­vid­ing re­sults.

Of the eight mo­tions of no con­fi­dence against Zuma, this was the one they were most bullish about.

But the Teflon pres­i­dent had once again pre­vailed through in­vok­ing the name of the ANC and tak­ing ad­van­tage of the con­fu­sion among his ri­vals within his party on how best to tackle him. While the likes of Jack­son Mthembu and Gwede Man­tashe be­lieve there is no point in push­ing Zuma out when he is leav­ing any­way in De­cem­ber, clearly at least 30 ANC MPs viewed the se­cret bal­lot as an op­por­tune mo­ment to get rid of him im­me­di­ately with­out await­ing the un­cer­tainty of the De­cem­ber con­fer­ence.

But while Zuma was once again the clear win­ner, the ques­tion is: Was the ANC the win­ner as well?

The ANC it­self clearly be­lieves it was. It ar­gues that a suc­cess­ful mo­tion would have deep­ened di­vi­sions in the ANC and left a vac­uum, with Zuma sup­port­ers un­likely to agree to Cyril Ramaphosa tak­ing over. Con­se­quently, that dan­ger was averted by stand­ing by him against the op­po­si­tion, the party rea­sons.

So, the party pro­ceeds with that be­lief, de­lud­ing it­self on this ar­ti­fi­cial and pre­car­i­ous unity.

The tri­umphant scenes on late Tues­day, with hun­dreds of ANC sup­port­ers be­ing ad­dressed by a ju­bi­lant and tri­umphant Zuma, re­minds me very much of Zuma af­ter win­ning the de­ci­sive Polok­wane con­fer­ence in 2007, as well as the Man­gaung con­fer­ence five years later. Even af­ter the 2014 na­tional elec­tions, I re­mem­ber Zuma mock­ing the op­po­si­tion, say­ing they con­cen­trated on com­plain­ing about him and his Nkandla home, in­stead of selling their pro­grammes to the elec­torate.

What he was not talk­ing about was that, each time he won, the ANC splin­tered. In 2007, his win was im­me­di­ately followed by the for­ma­tion of Congress of Peo­ple by ANC mem­bers who be­lieved that he did not pos­sess the right val­ues to be a leader of the ANC. Be­fore he won in 2012 against his then deputy Kgalema Mot­lanthe, the party had purged a num­ber of young lead­ers, again open­ing the way for the for­ma­tion of the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers. So, at all points when Zuma emerged the win­ner, the ANC was si­mul­ta­ne­ously shrink­ing.

His boasts in 2014 af­ter win­ning the elec­tions were soon followed by the dev­as­tat­ing loss of sup­port in 2016 at the lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions. While cam­paign­ing in 2016, Zuma told a crowd in the East­ern Cape: “No other party can gov­ern this country … not even a white party with stooges. The ANC must win back Cape Town and make sure trans­for­ma­tion reaches that part as well.”

And so the at­tri­tion con­tin­ues. As he de­feated the mo­tion of no con­fi­dence on Tues­day, it also emerged that, for the first time since 1994, ANC MPs had sup­ported an op­po­si­tion mo­tion.

And not just a few MPs. Thirty ANC MPs. Of course aided by the se­cret bal­lot. So, ev­ery time Zuma wins, the heart of the party is ripped apart. He, of course, is not greatly tainted by this. He is ben­e­fit­ing from an old ANC re­frain used over the years that, if you want to kill a snake, you aim at its head. This was a pop­u­lar phrase dur­ing the pres­i­den­cies of Nel­son Man­dela and Thabo Mbeki. So, even now, many in the ANC be­lieve that by block­ing a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence against Zuma, they are pro­tect­ing the good name of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. One is syn­ony­mous with the other. Time will tell if that is the cor­rect strat­egy. Even be­fore he came to of­fice, the ANC and its al­liance part­ners have been con­sumed with pro­tect­ing the pres­i­dent. Many pas­sion­ate sup­port­ers of that cause have since been thrown un­der the bus.

Ask Blade Nz­i­mande, Malema, Zwelinz­ima Vavi, Senzo Mchunu, Bheki Cele, Zweli Mkhize and so on. But Zuma will not be a Teflon pres­i­dent for­ever. At some point, Zuma will wilt. And I shud­der to imag­ine what state the ANC will be in then.

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