The ironies of for­tune as crowd shames Zuma

Cheers for Mbeki and jeers for the pres­i­dent raise past phan­toms, writes Craig Dodds

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES -

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.

craig.dodds@inl.co.za

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.

PIC­TURE: GCINA NDWALANE

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.

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