Look at them now

What changes in for­tune we have seen on the po­lit­i­cal front this past year

Weekend Witness - - Opinion - BAR­BER­SHOP GIRL Ran­jeni Munusamy

IT is truly amaz­ing how quickly things change in pol­i­tics. A year ago, Kgalema Mot­lanthe was still po­lit­i­cally rel­e­vant. He was a con­tender for the top job in the ANC — even though he did not want to be — and the me­dia tracked his ev­ery move and ut­ter­ance, try­ing to in­ter­pret his in­ten­tions.

This week, Mot­lanthe was on a three­day work­ing visit to Canada, talk­ing up South Africa’s min­ing sec­tor. The visit had the briefest of men­tions in some news­pa­pers.

This time last year, there was a buzz of ex­pec­ta­tion about the ANC’s na­tional con­fer­ence at Man­gaung. There were sto­ries about how the “forces of change” were op­er­at­ing in stealth in the prov­inces, back­ing Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s sec­ond term, and spec­u­la­tion of a sur­prise out­come of the lead­er­ship elec­tions at the ANC con­fer­ence.

Also around this time last year, eight op­po­si­tion par­ties, led by the Demo­cratic Al­liance, were try­ing to ta­ble a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in Zuma.

The rea­sons they gave for want­ing to vote Zuma out of of­fice were, among other things, the Marikana mas­sacre, the Nkand­la­gate scan­dal, gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to de­liver text­books in Lim­popo, the down­grad­ing of South Africa’s credit rat­ing by two ma­jor rat­ings agen­cies, the un­der­min­ing of the ju­di­ciary, ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment and cor­rup­tion in the pub­lic ser­vice.

The op­po­si­tion par­ties were un­able to get the mo­tion be­fore the Na­tional As­sem­bly and then failed in a court bid to force the de­bate. Now all th­ese at­tempts to unseat Zuma seem fee­ble.

The Zuma camp made a clean sweep at Man­gaung, de­feat­ing all the can­di­dates who stood on the forces of change ticket. The mo­tion of no con­fi­dence was never go­ing to fly, even if it made it be­fore the House.

Op­po­si­tion MPs are out­num­bered by the ANC, and the as­sump­tion that some rul­ing party MPs would se­cretly vote against Zuma was sim­ply wish­ful think­ing.

De­spite run­ning a con­tro­ver­sy­plagued ad­min­is­tra­tion, and even more scan­dals emerg­ing over the past year, Zuma is sail­ing to­wards a sec­ond term.

A year ago, Julius Malema ap­peared in the Polok­wane Mag­is­trate’s Court on charges of fraud, money laun­der­ing and rack­e­teer­ing.

He had been ex­pelled from the ANC and was in po­lit­i­cal no­man’s land. He was also in trou­ble with the tax depart­ment, and his half­built man­sion in Sand­ton was auc­tioned off to help pay his tax bill. It looked like Malema might go down flames.

And look at him now. Malema has launched his Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers party, which is catch­ing on like wild­fire. The red berets are the most soughtafter po­lit­i­cal ac­ces­sory and Malema’s left­wing rhetoric is hit­ting the right notes for large num­bers of peo­ple fed up with the ANC.

While a hand­ful of peo­ple turned up to sup­port him at his court ap­pear­ances last year, Malema’s rock­star sta­tus has re­turned — as was ev­i­dent by his two re­cent ap­pear­ances in the Polok­wane Mag­is­trate’s Court. His po­lit­i­cal for­tunes seem to be the ex­act op­po­site to those of Zwelinz­ima Vavi.

Vavi was still rid­ing high last year, re­elected as Cosatu gen­eral sec­re­tary and un­con­tested as the most prom­i­nent civil so­ci­ety voice in the coun­try. Now Vavi’s po­lit­i­cal fu­ture looks ten­u­ous. He was sus­pended fol­low­ing a sex scan­dal and is fac­ing mul­ti­ple pro­tracted in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the fed­er­a­tion re­lat­ing to fi­nan­cial im­pro­pri­ety. He is bat­tling to clear his name, and the strat­egy of his al­lies to call a spe­cial Cosatu congress to res­cue him is be­ing frus­trated.

Vavi is a sit­ting duck un­til the congress takes place or he is cleared through a dis­ci­plinary process. Cosatu is caught up in tur­bu­lence and there is a real pos­si­bil­ity of the me­tal­work­ers’ union Numsa chart­ing a new po­lit­i­cal course.

The next year might see po­lit­i­cal for­tunes change even more dra­mat­i­cally, with big is­sues and new play­ers in the na­tional elec­tions.

The only thing cer­tain is you should never bet on what will hap­pen next. • Ran­jeni Munusamy is a po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist and com­men­ta­tor for the Daily Mav­er­ick. • ran­jeni.munusamy@gmail.com

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