IS THIS ZUMA’S UL­TI­MATE STRAT­EGY?

As the ANC elec­tive con­fer­ence nears, a pre­agreed unity slate may be Ja­cob Zuma’s goal

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE - Me­lanie Ver­wo­erd • Me­lanie Ver­wo­erd is a for­mer ANC MP and South African Am­bas­sador to Ire­land.

WITH the re­lease of the ANC del­e­gate num­bers there have been end­less num­ber­crunch­ing ex­er­cises going on.

Al­though there are many things that are dif­fi­cult to pre­dict in terms of the out­come of the ANC elec­tive con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber, it is ab­so­lutely cer­tain that the Ja­cob Zuma camp will only al­low the con­fer­ence to pro­ceed if they are con­fi­dent that they will win.

What the num­bers are show­ing us is that the most likely win for them would be a Zweli Mkhize and Nkosazana Dlam­ ini­Zuma com­bined slate.

Even though they did not man­age to load the KZN num­bers, the Zuma fac­tion clev­erly se­cured mas­sive growth in the Pre­mier League prov­inces, while the Cyril Ramaphosa­aligned prov­inces ei­ther stayed the same or de­clined.

With in­creases of 130% in North West, 57% in Mpumalanga and 26% in the Free State, the Pre­mier League now has 54% of the over­all del­e­gates, as op­posed to 48% at the pre­vi­ous con­fer­ence. In a two­horse race be­tween Ramaphosa and a can­di­date from the Zuma fac­tion, if Ramaphosa got 25% of the Pre­mier League, 30% of KZN, 70% of West­ern Cape and Gaut­eng, 80% of the East­ern Cape and Lim­popo, as well as 90% of the North­ern Cape, it would be vir­tu­ally equal.

As­sum­ing that there are no other can­ di­dates split­ting his sup­port base, Ramaphosa could pos­si­bly se­cure this, but it would be a huge ef­fort.

How­ever, if Mkhize re­mains in the race, things would change dra­mat­i­cally. With Ramaphosa se­cur­ing the same per­cent­ages, but Mkhize and Dlamini­Zuma split­ting the Pre­mier League and KZN votes, Ramaphosa could win com­fort­ably. Hav­ing cer­tainly done the same cal­cu­la­tions, the Zuma camp will not risk a sce­nario where Dlamini­Zuma and Mkhize split the votes. Which ex­plains the push for the third way (or the Zuma Plan B), where they would ei­ther con­vince Dlamini­Zuma to with­draw or ne­go­ti­ate a com­bined ticket with Mkhize.

With this third way one of two sce­nar­ios is pos­si­ble. If Ramaphosa can­not se­cure the per­cent­ages in­di­cated above, a Mkhize/Dlamini­Zuma slate will win.

Al­ter­na­tively, if Ramaphosa can se­cure the per­cent­ages men­tioned above it would once again be close to equal, even with a com­bined slate.

This would be a very dan­ger­ous sce­nario. A re­sult this close would likely lead to a court chal­lenge or even open vi­o­lence, caus­ing a huge cri­sis for the ANC. It would also deepen ex­ist­ing di­vi­sions, some­thing the ANC would want to avoid at all costs.

If this seems likely in a few weeks, the push to se­cure a deal be­fore­hand will es­ca­late. An agreed un­con­tested slate “for the sake of unity” will pres­sure Ramaphosa to with­draw. As they ar­gued to the par­lia­men­tary cau­cus prior to the vote of no con­fi­dence, the Zuma fac­tion (and those on the mar­gins of both fac­tions) will con­tinue to ar­gue that such a com­pro­mise will se­cure sta­bil­ity, unity and the sur­vival of the ANC, thus pre­vent­ing an elec­toral de­feat in 2019.

It is a very strong ar­gu­ment and would be very dif­fi­cult for the Ramaphosa camp to counter.

There is an­other rea­son Zuma might be in­ter­ested in the pre­agreed third way. There are whispers in the ANC that he is con­sid­er­ing stand­ing as chair­per­son of the ANC, an idea he might have got from his friend Vladimir Putin, who fol­lowed a sim­i­lar path.

At first glance this might look like an un­likely sce­nario, but if his ex­wife’s bid for the top job runs into se­ri­ous trou­ble, Zuma would al­most cer­tainly not trust any­one else to se­cure his legacy (and he would ar­gue — the fu­ture of the party). As chair­per­son, he might no longer be pres­i­dent of the ANC, but he would still carry sig­nif­i­cant weight. He would have a ma­jor role in de­ci­sions of the party and on the di­rec­tion the gov­ern­ment would take, whether he is pres­i­dent or not.

Since there are no term lim­its in the ANC con­sti­tu­tion, he would be able to re­tain this po­si­tion of in­flu­ence be­yond his time as pres­i­dent of SA. Most im­por­tantly, as one of the top of­fice bear­ers it would also mean that he would be part of any de­ci­sion re­lat­ing to the pos­si­ble pros­e­cu­tion of him and/or his chil­dren.

How­ever, Zuma would be un­likely to want to have to con­test the po­si­tion and should he de­cide to go for it, he would al­most cer­tainly want it to be part of a pre­agreed third way. It would prob­a­bly mean that Dlamini­Zuma would have to with­draw since two Zu­mas among the of­fice bear­ers might be over­reach.

With­out any doubt, this would be a very con­tro­ver­sial step by Zuma. Howev­ er, he still has sig­nif­i­cant sup­port and pop­u­lar­ity among ANC cadres and it is not be­yond the realms of pos­si­bil­ity that he would be able to achieve this. It would be a curved ball that few would ex­pect.

From his direc­tor’s chair in the Union Build­ings, Zuma will know that the num­bers make it vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble for Ramaphosa to win with a land­slide. He will also know that Dlamini­Zuma’s cam­paign is in trou­ble, es­pe­cially if Mkhize stands, mak­ing a joint slate be­tween them the best op­tion if the Zuma fac­tion wants to re­tain con­trol.

We will have to wait and see whether he throws his own hat in the ring. If he does de­cide to stand as chair­per­son, any at­tempt to spin this as a unity slate would be laugh­able. — News24.

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