Will Zuma faction go for a Zuma 3rd term, NDZ, or Mkhize? (from 2015)

Cred­i­bil­ity is­sue hangs over Zuma fac­tion

Business Day, 4 Dec 2015

Anthony Butler

THERE was a flurry of ex­cite­ment ear­lier this week when a pseudony­mous con­trib­u­tor, “Lily Gosam”, wrote in the Rand Daily Mail that Ja­cob Zuma was pur­su­ing a third term as African Na­tional Congress (ANC) pres­i­dent in 2017. From his Luthuli House re­doubt, he will then be­come the power be­hind the throne of his suc­ces­sor as pres­i­dent, most prob­a­bly African Union (AU) Com­mis­sion chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

This is not an orig­i­nal propo­si­tion. Zuma’s pre­de­ces­sor as ANC pres­i­dent, Thabo Mbeki, was “per­suaded” in 2007 to seek a third ANC pres­i­den­tial term in Polok­wane. He, like­wise, made plans to shift gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to Luthuli House to run the coun­try. And he too chose Dlamini-Zuma as his Union Build­ings pup­pet.

Yet Zuma’s third term bid would be an even longer shot than Mbeki’s. He is al­ready 73. Afro­barom­e­ter data show he is eas­ily the most un­pop­u­lar postapartheid pres­i­dent. He alien­ates city folk and the young, which makes him a grow­ing elec­toral li­a­bil­ity.

Why then did Gosam’s ec­cen­tric idea make such a big so­cial me­dia splash? Be­cause the Zuma fac­tion has a lead­er­ship cred­i­bil­ity prob­lem. DlaminiZuma is the front-run­ner be­cause of stage-man­aged en­dorse­ments from the ANC’s youth and women’s leagues. She has ben­e­fited from the be­lated con­ver­sion to fem­i­nism of du­bi­ous pa­tri­archs from the most cor­rupt ANC prov­inces. Her min­is­te­rial fail­ures have been air­brushed. But she re­mains a poor can­di­date for the ANC or state pres­i­dency and the peo­ple who dis­dain her most are the ones who know her best. She was Mbeki’s dummy in 2007. She will be 70 in 2019 when she hopes to be­come pres­i­dent. She rep­re­sents the past.

Gosam struck a chord be­cause a DlaminiZuma term equates to a third term for Zuma. Yet ev­ery­one knows there is an al­ter­na­tive. For­mer KwaZulu-Na­tal premier Zweli Mkhize cre­ated the ANC ma­chine in his prov­ince, man­aged the in­te­gra­tion of the Inkatha Free­dom Party into the ANC, and climbed to the na­tional po­si­tion of trea­surer-gen­eral in 2012.

In the past, ANC lead­ers’ se­nior­ity came from Robben Is­land, from ex­ile or from work in pow­er­ful af­fil­i­ates. Mkhize is the first or­ganic provin­cial politi­cian to move up to na­tional level on the ba­sis of his or­gan­i­sa­tional and po­lit­i­cal skills. He is an ex­cep­tional po­lit­i­cal man­ager. He rose from hum­ble beginnings but has ac­quired the de­meanour of a pres­i­dent. He is in­ter­ested in pub­lic pol­icy. And he is no­body’s fool. In short, he is ev­ery­thing Dlamini-Zuma is not.

Why, then, is Dlamini-Zuma, and not Mkhize, the des­ig­nated suc­ces­sor for Zuma’s fac­tion?

Some ob­servers of ANC pol­i­tics claim that he has been un­able to ac­quire suf­fi­cient “se­nior­ity” to take on Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa. Af­ter all, Ramaphosa be­came ANC sec­re­tarygen­eral in 1991, when he even had Zuma as his deputy. Mkhize, in con­trast, rose to the lesser po­si­tion of trea­surer-gen­eral only two decades later. For this rea­son, they ar­gue that DlaminiZuma should serve a term be­fore hand­ing over to an un­op­posed Mkhize. But the se­nior­ity DlaminiZuma os­ten­si­bly en­joys has been granted to her pri­mar­ily by her for­mer hus­band. Zuma ex­pended un­told na­tional po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal to se­cure a se­nior AU po­si­tion for her.

If only Zuma al­lowed merit to speak, Mkhize would be­come the can­di­date to beat for the ANC pres­i­dency. It might, or might not, be a de­sir­able out­come for him to de­feat Ramaphosa in the suc­ces­sion race — some­thing he is fully equipped to do. But, ei­ther way, the coun­try would be saved from a di­rec­tion­less Dlamini-Zuma term that it can­not af­ford. Such an out­come would also res­cue the ANC from a po­ten­tially dis­as­trous elec­toral counter-re­ac­tion. How could it sur­vive the choice of an age­ing non­pres­i­dent who stands for noth­ing but the past, per­sonal pa­tron­age and pa­tri­arch-spon­sored pseudo-fem­i­nism?


But­ler teaches pol­i­tics at the Univer­sity of Cape Town

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