Ja­cob Zuma’s ‘last-chance’ sup­per

Sunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By RANJENI MUNUSAMY

It seemed like a nice ges­ture by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma to have a cosy din­ner with the seven peo­ple en­gaged in a heated race to suc­ceed him as ANC leader.

He even wore a Madiba-in­spired shirt to cre­ate the il­lu­sion of the “el­der” bring­ing the ri­vals to­gether to en­sure a clean con­test and a united ANC no mat­ter who wins.

Pic­tures were dis­trib­uted of what ap­peared to be a fes­tive din­ner at the pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence in Pre­to­ria, with Cyril Ramaphosa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zweli Mkhize, Lindiwe Sisulu, Jeff Radebe, Baleka Mbete and Mathews Phosa all look­ing in good spir­its.

Zuma’s ma­noeu­vre is quite trans­par­ent. He was play­ing the only cards avail­able to him to pre­vent a win­ner-takes-all sce­nario that could lead to him be­ing “Mu­gabe’d” in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture.

Now that over 90% of ANC branches have sub­mit­ted their nom­i­na­tions, it is ev­i­dent that Ramaphosa is lead­ing the pack. If the vote at next month’s con­fer­ence re­flects a dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent out­come, it would mean that del­e­gates de­fied what the branches man­dated or that some chi­canery oc­curred.

Ear­lier fears that there would be in­ter­fer­ence to pre­vent the con­fer­ence tak­ing place or that there would be de­lib­er­ate tur­bu­lence to de­lay pro­cesses have been dis­pelled.

Three short weeks

It is now all sys­tems go, and is just three weeks be­fore Zuma is no longer the ANC leader. This leaves him with lim­ited time to in­flu­ence the out­come.

At the ANC na­tional pol­icy con­fer­ence in July, Zuma pro­posed that two deputy pres­i­dent posts be cre­ated so that who­ever lost the pres­i­dency could still be ac­com­mo­dated in the top lead­er­ship for the sake of unity.

His pro­posal gained no trac­tion but he seems de­ter­mined to make one last push.

Who stands to gain from the dou­bledeputy sce­nario?

It would be a safety net for one of the los­ing can­di­dates, mean­ing those around the din­ner ta­ble had an in­creased chance of be­ing in a top post.

Based on the nom­i­na­tions, this is a twohorse race. The pro­posal, in the­ory, would en­sure that nei­ther Ramaphosa nor DlaminiZuma would be cast into the wilder­ness if they lose.

If Dlamini-Zuma were ahead in the game, Zuma would not have both­ered to break bread with all those vy­ing for his po­si­tion. This was a panic ma­noeu­vre be­cause if she is not elected as an ANC of­fi­cial, there might be no­body in the top lead­er­ship coun­ter­ing moves to purge the Zuma ca­bal in the state.

With the ANC de­cid­ing that the top of­fi­cials should be elected one at a time in­stead of all on a sin­gle bal­lot, it means that the los­ing can­di­dates would still have a chance to com­pete for the other posts.

The din­ner for eight was there­fore also a sub­lim­i­nal mes­sage tar­get­ing ANC del­e­gates: fac­tions who eat to­gether could co-ex­ist — under the able guid­ance of the wise el­der.

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