Jacob Zuma’s ‘last-chance’ supper
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.