Pres­i­dent Zuma’s bla­tant and unashamed down­play­ing of the unan­i­mous Con­sti­tu­tional Court rul­ing on Nkandla sug­gests that he is power hun­gry. So what is his end game?

Finweek English Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Andile Ntingi ed­i­to­rial@fin­week.co.za Andile Ntingi is CEO and co-founder of GetBiz, an e-pro­cure­ment and ten­der no­ti­fi­ca­tion ser­vice.

ja­cob Zuma may not be well ed­u­cated, but he is a shrewd po­lit­i­cal strate­gist who is adept at keep­ing his cards close to his chest, only to spring a sur­prise when his foes least ex­pect it. But in the face of wide­spread po­lit­i­cal con­dem­na­tion across the broad spec­trum of the civil so­ci­ety fol­low­ing the damn­ing Con­sti­tu­tional Court judg­ment against him on 31 March, Zuma let one of his trump cards slip.

He had not planned to show this card in 2016 yet, but he is now play­ing it in slow mo­tion ahead of the rul­ing ANC’s na­tional elec­tive con­fer­ence late next year. The con­fer­ence will de­cide who rules the party from 2017 to 2022, as well as the con­trol of state power and the pa­tron­age trap­pings that come with it.

Zuma’s trump card is this: he wants to cling to power for the fore­see­able fu­ture, and it shouldn’t come as a sur­prise if he puts his hand up for a third term as ANC pres­i­dent.

His bla­tant and unashamed down­play­ing of the unan­i­mous rul­ing by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court sug­gests that he is power hun­gry. An unfazed Zuma ap­peared on na­tional tele­vi­sion on 1 April, apologising “un­re­servedly” for his mis­take and promis­ing to re­pay the non-se­cu­rity up­grades at Nkandla, where the state has spent R247m. The ANC ac­cepted its way­ward leader’s apol­ogy and pledged its un­shaken sup­port for him.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties will try to im­peach Zuma in Par­lia­ment, but will not have the num­bers to suc­ceed. It is clear that the enemies of the pres­i­dent inside and out­side the ANC do not have enough fire­power to dis­lodge him from his seat of power at the Union Build­ings. Zuma is go­ing nowhere, at least not un­til the ANC’s elec­tive con­fer­ence takes place.

So why will Zuma run for a third term in­stead of re­tir­ing qui­etly to his Nkandla home­stead?

Firstly, his pre­de­ces­sor Thabo Mbeki ran for the third term in Polok­wane in 2007, but lost to Zuma. If Mbeki did it, why can’t Zuma do it? Af­ter all, the ANC con­sti­tu­tion does not place pres­i­den­tial term lim­its on its lead­ers.

Se­condly, the source of the ANC’s state power is the pres­i­den­tial seat in Luthuli House, not the seat in the Union Build­ings. Both seats are cur­rently oc­cu­pied by Zuma, but post-2017 they could be oc­cu­pied by two dif­fer­ent in­di­vid­u­als. When Zuma took lead­er­ship of the ANC in 2007, he used his power in Luthuli House to re­call Mbeki as the coun­try’s pres­i­dent.

We could po­ten­tially see a sce­nario where Zuma (as­sum­ing he goes for a third term and wins) sends his deputy to the Union Build­ings, but pulls the strings from Luthuli House. The ques­tion is: who will be Zuma’s pres­i­den­tial pup­pet? Maybe his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – who is cur­rently serv­ing out her term as the chair­per­son of the African Union Com­mis­sion – will play the role of danc­ing to the tune of her ex-hus­band. In this sce­nario, Zuma can also use his con­trol of the ANC to foil at­tempts by the DA to bring back the cor­rup­tion charges that sank Sch­abir Shaik, his ex-fi­nan­cial ad­viser who served jail time. The re­lated cor­rup­tion charges against Zuma that were dropped in 2009 could be re­in­stated if DA pre­vails in its le­gal bid to have them brought back.

Thirdly, and most im­por­tantly, state power is not only just about gov­ern­ing – it is also about dis­pens­ing pa­tron­age. The big­gest and most lu­cra­tive ten­der in SA’s his­tory – the nu­clear ten­der that will cost an es­ti­mated R1tr – is on our doorstep and Zuma will not let it slip through his fin­gers with­out hav­ing a say on how it is carved up.

Zuma al­ready wields enor­mous power in SA’s min­er­als en­ergy com­plex as chair­man of the Cab­i­net En­ergy Se­cu­rity sub-com­mit­tee, which is re­spon­si­ble for over­see­ing the devel­op­ment of the coun­try’s en­ergy mix in­clud­ing coal, nu­clear, shale gas and re­new­able en­ergy.

It has been spec­u­lated that Zuma fired finance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene to clear the road for the nu­clear ten­der to move to pro­cure­ment stage from pre-pro­cure­ment phase – where it was bogged down for a while be­cause of Nene’s op­po­si­tion to the project on con­cerns it was un­af­ford­able.

There are re­ports that the gov­ern­ment is close to is­su­ing a re­quest for pro­pos­als (RFPs) for the fleet of nu­clear power plants. Re­sponses to the RFPs will pro­vide a clue as to how much the pro­gramme will cost and how it could be pos­si­bly funded.

If ex­e­cuted, the nu­clear ten­der will cre­ate the coun­try’s next gen­er­a­tion of bil­lion­aires and mul­ti­mil­lion­aires. BEE oli­garchs inside the ANC will jos­tle for pieces of this con­tract, in­clud­ing the Gupta fam­ily, which has close busi­ness ties with Zuma’s son Duduzane.

Zuma’s trump card is this: he wants to cling to power for the fore­see­able fu­ture, and it shouldn’t come as a sur­prise if he puts his hand up for a third term as ANC pres­i­dent.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma Chair­per­son of the AU


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