The ironies of fortune as crowd shames Zuma
Cheers for Mbeki and jeers for the president raise past phantoms, writes Craig Dodds
lanthe, at the Mangaung conference, Booysen said disaffection with the party president and his sidekicks was prevalent “across provinces”.
“I don’t know whether they would all stand up and boo, but they all share very limited respect for the president, if any, and they, like the ANC, do not like the current leadership,” she said.
Despite mounting evidence he was a liability, however, the ANC was highly unlikely to ditch him as its presidential candidate for next year’s elections, partly because its internal election process was too far advanced for it to change tack now.
“It could cause them to strategise more, to try to control better, and in the process they will actually be weakening the ANC. But I just see the current incumbents and Zuma’s cordon of protectors so firmly entrenched that I do not see how that change is going to happen,” Booysen said, referring to the dominance of the president’s backers in the party’s national executive committee, its highest decision-making body between conferences.
“Very often people take these routes because it’s difficult to express your opinions in the ANC, and the group that supports Zuma is very firmly in charge,” Booysen said.
“So I think we see that the antiZuma sentiment is spilling out of the ANC, but it is not being captured by another political party, because it’s not available to be captured by another political party.”
ANC voters would remain loyal despite their frustrations with Zuma.
This could be very destructive in the long run, though, because the negative sentiment was not being channelled into institutional forms of opposition.
Zuma’s minders would be on high alert for potential trouble on the campaign trail, allowing him to appear only in carefully controlled environments where the crowds had been vetted, effectively hiding the president from the broader public, Booysen said.
While this would have limited the impact of an effective leader, Zuma was now so compromised that in his case it was a question of protecting an ineffective leader.
Tuesday’s events had “broken the spell” the country had been under since Mandela’s death, in which it had been possible for Cosatu arch foes Zwelinzima Vavi and Sidumo Dlamini to walk hand in hand to the Mandela house.
Now the gloves were off, and after the elections Zuma would need to watch his back.
“I think this is so volatile, the ANC will be entering a most volatile term in the next five years, because Zuma is on thin ground and, in politics, if it’s strategically possible and some grouping smells blood, there will be a political killing,” Booysen said.
Zuma need only consider the fate of Mbeki to know what that could spell for him.
CHEERS: President Thabo Mbeki and his wife Zanele arrive at FNB Stadium for the Nelson Mandela memorial on Tuesday. The crowd cheered Mbeki, in contrast to the jeers received by President Jacob Zuma.
PEACEMAKER: Then-deputy president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, had to interrupt President Thabo Mbeki’s speech at the reburial ceremony of Moses Mabhida, to tell his supporters not to leave while the president was speaking.