NDZ campaign options narrow

The ANC constitution leaves no doubt about the authority of the movement’s national conference: it must be convened “at least once every five years”, and it is “the supreme ruling and controlling body of the ANC”.

Its formidable powers include determining the ANC’s policy, programme, and constitution, electing the “top six” officials and choosing the 80 additional members of the national executive committee (NEC).

As President Jacob Zuma’s power has ebbed, his attempt to impose Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as his successor has lost the little credibility it once enjoyed.

Given that the conference is now unlikely to assent easily to his plans for the future of the organisation, his strategists may contemplate four areas where there is space for escalation: rigging; smearing; vexatious litigation; and violence.

Rigging is harder than it seems, despite the money reportedly being pumped into vote buying, and the membership system manipulation that is now prevalent across the whole movement.

The composition of the NEC-appointed electoral commission that will oversee the elections will reflect the major factions contesting the conference. A deeply divided NEC will also be involved in overseeing auditing and delegate selection processes.

While the Mangaung conference saw Zuma walk away with an easy victory, he will not have the secretary-general on his side in December.

All bets are off once the conference convenes. Delegates will be asked to endorse the names of the electoral commissioners nominated by the NEC. Representatives from each province and league will then be added to the commission to oversee the nitty-gritty of the election.

Many of these representatives will work hard to protect the integrity of the secret ballot: processes will be designed to exclude electronic interventions by spies and crooks. The electoral commission will not allow cellphones to be taken into the polling booth to prevent delegates from forwarding pictures of their ballot papers to paymasters.

The ANC constitution states that the conference “shall determine its own procedures in accordance with democratic principles”. As was the case when Thabo Mbeki was defeated at the 2007 Polokwane conference, delegates are likely to insist on a painstaking manual count of all votes.

In these ways, Zuma’s security state and money-politics advantages could be neutralised. Indeed, the faction associated with secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa — former trade unionists both — is far more experienced than Zuma’s at the manipulation of contested mass elections.

The smearing of candidates on the Ramaphosa slate was always inevitable. The “nuclear relationship” between President Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, poses a real risk of escalation.

A joint report in January by the three key US intelligence agencies observed that the Russian intelligence apparatus used sophisticated instruments to discredit presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Moscow blended “covert intelligence operations” such as cyber activity with “overt efforts” by “government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media trolls”.

The US intelligence reports plausibly argued that, “Moscow will apply lessons learnt from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide”.

Smear-scepticism, however, is now well established in SA. And any attempt to remove Ramaphosa from the ticket could simply result in the elevation of another candidate with a similar support profile — for example Lindiwe Sisulu — to the top of the anti-Zuma slate.

What then of legal interventions? A Constitutional Court ruling in 2012, inspired by nefarious factional activities in the Free State ANC, established the courts’ authority to intervene where parties have not followed their own internal procedures. A potentially significant judgment concerning the election of the current KwaZulu-Natal leadership in November 2015 is currently awaited.

In the run-up to the December event — or, worse still, while delegates are jostling on the conference floor — judges could find themselves wrestling with numerous vexatious legal actions. The Ramaphosa camp could be enjoined to respect challenges designed for evidently dubious ends.

The judges, however, have shown excellent political judgment in recent years, and they can hopefully draw on their reserves of popular legitimacy.

For all these reasons, it is in the field of political violence that the Zuma camp possesses its clearest comparative advantage. The leadership of the security cluster is entirely partisan, and the current ministers responsible for policing inspire little or no confidence. The intensity of intimidation in political meetings and the incidence of political assassination are already sharply up.

Zuma’s political organisers, should they so wish, could probably generate an exceptionally volatile external environment in December. It is conceivable that large-scale student protests, threats to social grant delivery and ethnic mobilisation around an alleged anti-KwaZulu-Natal conspiracy could occur simultaneously.

Within the conference itself, some concerning recent trends — the corralling or exclusion of the media and the presence of large cohorts of intimidating state security personnel — might increase the vulnerability of conference delegates to coercion.

But the ANC, for all its faults, is now a very mature political organisation. Chicanery, lies and violence are part of cadres’ routine political repertoires.

The president’s camp may decide to escalate across a range of fronts, but it is difficult to see which real surprises it can unleash. Zuma’s chances of success in his efforts to control conference outcomes are increasingly slim.

• Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town.

Gupta-leaks raise the stakes

The full implications of the #GuptaLeaks e-mails have yet to sink in. In part, this is because the vast majority of the information these e-mails contain has yet to be released publicly. What has been released is so overwhelming in its scope and in the almost inconceivable audacity of the actions it records that a punch-drunk public has premature leak fatigue.

For the implicated politicians and officials — and presumably for members of the Gupta family, their employees and agents — a vision of two quite different futures has begun to crystallise.


In one scenario, the beneficiaries of public resource diversion will retire gracefully to a gold-plated condominium in the deserts of Dubai. It will now be equally easy to summon up a second vision, in which many of those who committed misdemeanours face public humiliation and prosecution.

In the past, creative entrepreneurs and politicians could ensure
they did not leave a trail of evidence. They could employ eraser software to overwrite the hard drives on their computers. Just to be on the safe side, they could head down to the hardware store and purchase a pair of safety glasses, a drill and a heavy hammer. So equipped, they could drill through their hard drive platters before pulverising them into small fragments.

The trouble with e-mails, however, is that they are not stored on a hard drive. A copy of every message is sent to the recipient’s e-mail server. Once there, it has moved beyond the control of its author. Although software contains “undo” or “recall” features and recipients can be asked to delete the e-mails, these are superficial fixes. The original e-mails and attempts to retract them will remain accessible to determined and skilled investigators and prosecutors.

The recent house-buying spree in Dubai indicates that the most senior likely suspects anticipate their time might eventually run out. But recourse to emigration is limited to a very few people at the top.

Most alleged miscreants enjoy protection that is primarily political. We live in a world of selective investigations and prosecutions. Given the depletion of capacity in the Hawks, and to a lesser degree in the National Prosecuting Authority, the prospect of punishment will continue to be selective in any plausible future.

In a world before #GuptaLeaks, an inconclusive commission of inquiry into state capture might conceivably have been commissioned, board members and officials could have moved sideways and wealthy politicians could have quietly retired.

But the Gupta e-mails place a select group of individuals, who allegedly benefited from state capture, in a position of permanent vulnerability. It suddenly matters much more to them than before that the levers of state power are not lost to political adversaries.

The elective conference the ANC is due to hold in December is probably going to be a close call. The Dlamini-Gupta-Zuma slate is severely disadvantaged by the disastrous choice of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as its figurehead and by the jostling of the small fry of the Premier League for positions they are not qualified to hold.

If it seems they are going to lose, a variety of compromised politicians and entrepreneurs may feel themselves cornered. They may believe they have no option but to create conditions on the ground that will lead to the conference being postponed.

  • Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town.

Gupta-leaks threaten Zuma faction

The nonprofit organisation amaBhungane and the Daily Maverick’s newly launched investigative unit, Scorpio, say they have between 100,000 and 200,000 e-mails and other documents relating to the relationship between the Gupta family and the ANC government.

They indicate the documents are being placed on an “offshore” internet platform, where they will be accessible to “many bona fide journalists” — and, presumably, also to regulators and law-enforcement officials.

We can now expect a relentless stream of damaging stories that will undermine the credibility of members of President Jacob Zuma’s incumbent faction, including Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.


Will such disclosures bring forward Zuma’s political demise, perhaps in the parliamentary vote of no confidence?

An immediate reaction in Parliament is unlikely. A no-confidence vote is a high hurdle to jump. Since 201 votes are needed in the National Assembly, at least 50 ANC MPs will have to vote for the motion, rather than abstain. Even MPs who are keen for Zuma to go will not wish to see their parliamentary caucus divided. They will probably wait for the national executive committee (NEC) to offer direction.

The no-confidence vote will almost certainly take place without a secret ballot. The Constitutional Court is contemplating whether such a ballot is illegitimate, obligatory or discretionary (with the speaker making the call). It is difficult to see why the court would not leave this decision to the speaker. The NEC has made it very clear that MPs are obliged to toe the party line “regardless of whether a secret ballot is granted by the court or not”. If they do not, they will be guilty of misconduct for collaborating with “counter-revolutionary forces”.

Most strikingly, two of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s chief cheerleaders — secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and chief whip Jackson Mthembu — have weighed in heavily to discourage rebellious MPs. Their unexpected efforts to shield Zuma are a reminder that nothing is straightforward in this succession contest and that timing will be central to its eventual outcome.

Zuma, and his candidate for the ANC presidency, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, are by no means in the clear. The NEC remains the movement’s central decision-making body. It was noteworthy that Zuma fumed at the end of his ordeal last weekend that the body must never question his presidency again. More noteworthy was Mantashe’s rebuttal. He made it clear that a further NEC debate about Zuma’s future could not be precluded.

For strategists in Ramaphosa’s campaign, the precipitate removal of the president is risky. After all, Ramaphosa does not command anything like the majority of support he would need to seize control. And, once Zuma goes, the succession battle will be transformed. His demise would bring Dlamini-Zuma’s lamentable campaign to a complete halt.

Ramaphosa would be obliged to confront a far more formidable opponent — perhaps treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, who can draw support from the reformist camp and from the most powerful province, KwaZulu-Natal. Such a challenger would be free from the encumbrance of the Zuma name and legacy.

Ramaphosa’s supporters may have recognised that the longer Zuma is kept in play — tortured by the relentless leaking of e-mails — the better are their candidate’s chances of winning in December 2017.

• Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town.

NDZ is a non-starter

Does President Jacob Zuma still really believe that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma can become president of the ANC?

At the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this weekend, Zuma’s disastrous legacy, and his plans for the future, will be on the agenda. NEC members will be thinking hard about three questions. What will happen in December, at the ANC’s elective conference? What will be the result of the 2019 national and provincial elections? And why the hell is Zuma insisting that Dlamini-Zuma be his successor?

The logic of a lame-duck presidency is that the incumbent’s power declines as the time he has left in office ebbs away. Add to this the fact that the latest Cabinet reshuffle was a national economic disaster, motivated by transparent self-interest.

Zuma’s “premier league” backers are in disarray. KwaZulu-Natal is divided. The Cape provinces and Gauteng are firmly anti-Zuma. Union federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party are in the reform camp. And the courts and financial regulators are closing in.

The looting of parastatals has been carried out with extraordinary incompetence. Why, for example, did one astute parastatal bureaucrat go into an elusive Saxonwold shebeen on so many occasions while carrying a SIM card registered in his own name?

It is sometimes claimed that Zuma is a potential “strong-man” president. He will take over the state; spy on, bug, and intimidate his enemies; cow the judges; manipulate elections; and shut down the free press. But he has been trying this for some time now, and he is getting old. The people who work for him are really not up to the task.

There is little support in the wider ANC leadership for actions that would destroy a hard-won democracy, or kill the economic goose that lays the golden eggs the ANC must distribute in order to survive.

Now we can see that the Zuma brand will not even secure the rural areas in 2019. At by-elections this week in Nquthu, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma placed his personal credibility on the line. He told citizens to vote ANC, because “even the ancestors and angels will love you”. They voted for the IFP instead.

Afternoon visitors to dance studios in the suburbs will be familiar with the spectacle of senior citizens gamely trying their hand at youth dance genres. Pensioners can be seen undertaking shuffling, hip-hop style manoeuvres, or attempting the roly-poly, crossover, “Oros, Gangnam Style” routine that is now performed at many ANC Youth League rallies.


Like the determined pensioner that she is, Dlamini-Zuma has, in the same way, tried to tap into the “radical economic transformation” Zeitgeist — but with the same predictably lamentable results. She has scarcely dared leave KwaZulu-Natal, and she does not seem to be popular even there.

Dlamini-Zuma’s fake “turnaround” at home affairs, the AU jamboree that cost the continent so dearly, and the president’s own belated discovery of women’s political empowerment — no doubt they all seemed like good ideas at the time. But Zuma has left it too late to change course. There is now every likelihood that the NEC will bring the whole miserable charade to a close.

• Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town

The premier league

The idea that there is powerful “premier league” at work in the ANC has seized the imaginations of many political commentators, but it is unlikely that such a group has ever meaningfully existed.

The premier league purportedly comprises three ANC provincial chairs working in cahoots: Ace Magashule, David Mabuza and Supra Mahumapelo. The three men have part-time day jobs as the premiers of Free State, Mpumalanga and North West.

Since City Press journalists first used the term in August 2015, it has become a staple of political analysis. There can be little doubt that the premiers know one another well, given that they are senior members of the governing party.

Their provinces share some common interests: they are key maize producers; they are poor; and they are quite badly run. The premiers are beneficiaries of the constitution’s “equitable share” provision that allocates a steady stream of income to provinces — no matter how abysmally they perform.

Beyond these facts, however, it is hard to see what might make any supposed premier league stick together rather than fly apart.

Mahumapelo is 10 years younger than his alleged soulmates, and he is in the middle of his first term as provincial premier. He will try to be on the winning side at the ANC’s elective conference in December, to secure national protection for his lifestyle as an “entrepreneur man” (as his provincial government profile entertainingly describes him).

Magashule and Mabuza, in contrast, are coming to the end of their second terms as premiers. The nation’s constitution, in its great wisdom, will not permit them a third. Younger challengers could soon muscle them out of their ANC positions.

All three men would no doubt like to make a leap to national level. But three rural leaders, with quite small delegate counts at their command, cannot all fit into the top six of the ANC. They are all male, in addition, and the leadership must include at least two women. Moreover, they have no obvious skills to contribute as senior national government ministers, and they cannot, in any event, trust promises that may be made to them about appointment to high public office.

No wonder they have started fighting in public. Mabuza and Magashule engaged in a spat about the ANC’s deputy presidency this week. EFF leader Julius Malema has deliberately stirred matters further by touting Mabuza for the ANC deputy presidency.

What can we make of the popularity of the idea of a powerful premier league when the three “great leaders” concerned lack a credible common agenda?

Reporters and columnists have played a part, sometimes using the idea to simplify a more complex and fluid reality. The premier league, for example, allegedly “claimed its first victory” when Bathabile Dlamini trounced front-runner Angie Motshekga to become president of the ANC Women’s League in August 2015.

Motshekga’s supporters reportedly identified the three provincial chairs as the “hidden hands” behind her humiliation. Nevertheless, Dlamini’s strongest support bases were KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, both outside the supposed premier league.

Whenever the limited raw delegate power of the trio has been remarked on — for example, with regard to the upcoming elective conference in December — it has been suggested that KwaZulu-Natal chair Sihle Zikalala is also “associated with this group” or that President Jacob Zuma’s hidden hand is somehow steering its operations.

Maybe there is an element of truth to some of these assertions. Perhaps the premier league has indeed been one of the more influential informal lobby groups that form, dissolve, and re-form around particular leadership and policy contestations in the ANC.

However, the idea of the league as a small, coherent and powerful cabal is just too good to be true. Who on earth could have been peddling such a notion?

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has done a remarkable job portraying himself as the enlightened representative of a wider reformist movement in the ANC. But the anti-incumbency campaign being managed by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and others has also needed something to campaign against — in addition, obviously, to Zuma himself.

The South African Communist Party (SACP), which is likely to support Mantashe and Cyril Ramaphosa in the ANC’s December conference, has made a point of singling out the premier league for condemnation. SACP deputy secretary Solly Mapaila recently called on the ANC leadership to “dismantle the faction called the premier league”. (This was a rather impertinent demand, given that the SACP itself is a faction by another name.)

The purported existence of a shadowy, rural, patronage-based grouping has been an exceptionally convenient counterpoint to the modernising, rational and democratic ANC that Mantashe, Ramaphosa, and Gordhan supposedly represent.

Researchers trying to track down where the idea of the premier league originated might do well to begin their investigations with the group’s adversaries, rather than with its supposed members.

• Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town

Zuma weakens his faction

Last year’s local government elections transformed President Jacob Zuma from a roaring lion into a lame duck. The president bore real, but only partial, responsibility for the devastating loss of key metropolitan centres. But the speed with which his space for manoeuvre has since closed down results from three egregious political miscalculations.

The first has been his decision to veto all credible candidates for the ANC’s presidential succession, in favour of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Zuma’s intention, by sending her to the AU, was to bolster her “seniority”, and to keep her out of domestic affairs in the hope that her lack of charisma — and her willingness to serve as Thabo Mbeki’s Polokwane stooge — would be forgotten. Her recent forays into campaigning have been disastrous, but Zuma has locked his camp into a “woman for president” narrative from which it cannot retreat.

The second key miscalculation was Zuma’s decision to fire then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015, and to replace him with the little-known David van Rooyen.

The ANC’s practice has been to generate a pipeline of credible technocrats for the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank, so as to avoid spooking the markets. with an unknown appointee.

By disregarding this prudent tradition Zuma was quickly and predictably forced to resurrect the man who has become his nemesis, Pravin Gordhan.

The president’s third massive miscalculation was to invite Cyril Ramaphosa to be deputy presidential candidate on his Mangaung slate. We can be sure Zuma did not intend Ramaphosa to succeed him, and it remains a fascinating question why he decided to bring the businessman into the fold.

In retrospect, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who helped Zuma to

avoid any real contest by failing to stop the brazen manipulation of delegate accreditation, may have been an influential voice in his ear. It has also been widely observed that Zuma’s challenger for the ANC presidency, Kgalema Motlanthe, was not really trying to win.

The three men — perhaps bound by their shared history in the National Union of Mineworkers and by their ambivalent but strong relationships with the South African Communist Party — may all along have been trying to secure Ramaphosa’s rise, rather than that of Motlanthe.

The Ramaphosa presidential convoy is now on a roll, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to stop.

Throwing intractable challenges into the path of the deputy president — such as negotiating a minimum wage — has not slowed him down. Zuma dare not fire his deputy because Ramaphosa would then go to the branches and campaign as

a victim.

All three of Zuma’s giant miscalculations share a common feature: their consequences were entirely foreseeable. This indicates that more than mere misjudgment is at work: Zuma has been the victim of carefully prepared “sting” operations, designed to steer him into perfectly avoidable traps and controversies. Like Mbeki’s lieutenants in the pre-Polokwane period, Zuma’s allies in the security state may now have to generate financial, sexual or personal “scandals” if they are to derail Mantashe and Ramaphosa’s campaign.

Later in the year there will undoubtedly be fresh calls for radical economic transformation. However, as Mbeki found to his cost, an incumbent’s smears and diversions lack credibility in the run-up to their final elective conference. A lame-duck Zuma cannot roar; now he can only quack.

• Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town

Ramaphosa campaign strengthens (2016)

Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign to secure the ANC presidency in December has moved into higher gear. He still faces major obstacles to success including an incumbent Zuma faction that has strong support in rural areas, the likelihood of electoral manipulation and the lack of a personal power base.

But a series of countervailing factors mean Ramaphosa’s challenge has become more than credible.

He may not be young, but he is modern. The KwaZulu-Natal block vote that cemented Jacob Zuma’s dominance has fractured. Ramaphosa’s candidacy has been energetically promoted in the province of his birth, Gauteng, and in Limpopo, where he has family roots.

The electoral arithmetic no longer clearly favours the “premier league” provinces — Mpumalanga, North West and Free State. Figures released at the ANC’s national general council in 2015 indicate the provinces have a membership of 230,000, barely more than the three Cape provinces, where there is strong anti-Zuma sentiment.

Two potentially Ramaphosa-leaning provinces, Gauteng and Limpopo, recorded more than 80,000 members each, while KwaZulu-Natal membership fell by almost half to 160,000.

These data are all highly questionable. Ultimate conference support will depend on the control (or otherwise) of vote buying and gatekeeping and the regulation of interference in branch decision-making.

Ramaphosa has, however, become a beneficiary of the politics of “hard factionalism”.

Where factions are hard, mutually exclusive slates of candidates face off in a winner-takes-all election. Politicians want to be on the winning side, but also to be “insiders” who benefit from their faction’s victory by getting access to resources, jobs and protection.

Where no such benefits are likely to accrue, political entrepreneurs have strong incentives to defect to an anti-incumbent faction. This will comprise a diversity of aggrieved activists who know they must stick together if they are to win.

The ANC’s nomination process similarly militates towards a two-faction race. Each province or league can nominate only one candidate for each position, and this means “compromise” or “third” candidates cannot get a foot in the door.

So, the ANC will probably have a two-horse and two-faction race at the end of the year.

And Ramaphosa has established himself as one of the horses.

The other horse, it seems, is likely to be AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Her rise was planned many moons ago, her sojourn at the AU since 2012 primarily a seniority-building exercise. While her candidacy for the ANC presidency no doubt seemed a good idea at the time, the ANC now has a real electoral battle on its hands.

Dlamini-Zuma will be 70 in April 2019, when the national and provincial elections roll round. Her speeches reduce younger audiences to despair. Whatever her underlying personal merits may be, she will exemplify nepotism, gerontocracy and deference to rural barons.

Naïve pro-Zuma politicians have precipitately locked Dlamini-Zuma’s candidacy into place. Feigning concern for gender equity, they have made imprudent commitments that cannot be easily withdrawn. This is promising news for Ramaphosa. He was always going to have difficulty prevailing over ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize in any contest.

Now, thanks to electoral factionalism in the ANC, he faces a far less capable opponent. There is every chance he will win.


• Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town

2016 election disaster changes ANC’s leadership dynamic

Competitive elections are starting to change the dynamics of leadership succession in the governing party. The electoral dominance of the ANC in the past two decades has made the movement self-indulgent about its leadership choices. Provinces in which power and money are deeply entwined, and in which internal party processes are most easily manipulated, have come to dominate internal elections. Citizens have been taken for granted.

The result has been the selection of national executive committee (NEC) members who are the pawns of provincial and regional power brokers. Candidates have been chosen for public office despite being patently unable to discharge their responsibilities. ANC representatives and leaders partially satisfy internal constituencies, but they disappoint voters.

The likelihood that citizens will push back against this state of affairs in the 2019 national and provincial elections is sinking in. This realisation is influencing how ANC activists view the elective conference scheduled for the end of next year. It is also changing the way in which factions are being conceived and consolidated in advance of that gathering.

There are three broad approaches to the problem posed by competitive elections. First, some leaders argue that any new ANC leadership should appeal to the growing numbers of urban electors who failed to support the movement in the recent local government elections. This “modernisation” approach would presumably see the elevation of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa or ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize to the ANC presidency, a drive to populate the NEC with more capable and independent-minded cadres, and a crackdown on visible corruption.

The second approach is to place the EFF at the centre of the ANC’s leadership succession processes. If the ANC falls below 50% at provincial or national level, the EFF will be on hand with the 10% or so needed to form a coalition government. The proponents of such an approach want wholesale change in the ANC’s leadership, and the skipping of a generation. Former ANC Youth League leaders would then take their rightful place at the top table and facilitate a deal with the EFF.

The third approach is to intensify the patronage system that reins in the premier league provinces, and to apply it more systematically across the country as a whole. It is tempting, but mistaken, to laugh at the suggestion that Free State premier Ace Magashule or his Mpumalanga counterpart, David Mabuza, could be elevated to the top six of the ANC. In the poorer parts of SA, the unbroken transfer of resources from national government to provinces, where they can be quite freely distributed, is the only world some politicians have known.

Many of these leaders are hostile to democratic competition, and willing to join forces with those who want the troublesome uncertainty of electoral politics to be brought to a complete end. Economic reality is no obstacle to their plans. Beyond the party elites in the cities, many ANC activists believe the parastatals are doing just fine. The real problem, they argue, is Treasury obstructionism. Now would be a good time to liberate people’s savings and redeploy them in the national interest.

These different ways of thinking about the leadership challenge posed by elections are all of questionable cogency. Modernisation and clean government did not help the ANC retain Johannesburg. The EFF is a terribly unreliable partner in which to invest electoral hopes. And citizens will probably not take kindly to attempts to rig elections or to bankrupt the country.

The fate of the ANC in the Western Cape demonstrates that another possible response to the threat of defeat is also on the cards: an orgy of political self-destruction.

Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town.


Motsoeneng for UCT Vice-Chancellor?


Butler teaches public policy at UCT

Hawks sabotage manifesto launch


RECRIMINATIONS continue in the African National Congress (ANC), following poor attendance at its manifesto launch in Port Elizabeth last weekend. ANC Eastern Cape secretary Oscar Mabuyane made light of the issue, attributing low turnout to transport complications, balmy weather, and the attractiveness of nearby beaches. But the ANC’s elections team, headed by Nomvula Mokonyane, refused to believe that poor organisation, leadership corruption and the virtual absence of Eastern Cape politicians in national government explained local disaffection.

ANC insiders hinted that the low turnout resulted from efforts to embarrass President Jacob Zuma or local mayor, Danny Jordaan. Now an explosive secret dossier from the reputable Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) provides compelling evidence that the event was “sabotaged”.

Invites for the launch were apparently sent out through the South African Post Office. “Why,” the Hawks dossier asks, “would invitations be sent out through the post office, when everyone knows they could not possibly arrive at the right addresses and in time for the event?”

Detectives found clues that “capitalist hegemony” had undermined ANC transport logistics. They cited Mabuyane’s complaint that bus drivers “demanded a 50% upfront payment due to their previous experiences with (ANC) nonpayment”. “It is neoliberal ideology,” claimed the Hawks’ new monopoly capitalism unit, “that leads bus companies to expect payment, even for patriotic services.”

The report also supported the ANC Women’s League’s recent claims that financial institutions “are biased towards their imperialist masters”.

“I came to Port Elizabeth to hear the powerful people who actually run the country,” one unhappy crowd member told the Hawks. “Thanks to the banks, they went to Dubai instead.”

The Hawks insist that recently recruited party members from KwaZulu-Natal, bombarded by the media with anti-Zuma propaganda, were too dispirited to join ANC celebrations. Instead, they threatened to form a breakaway party (rumoured provisionally to be named the Inkatha Freedom Party) if any attempt was made to recall Zuma.

Many taxis, the Hawks probe found, were unavailable on the day. Investigators discovered that taxi bosses have signed lucrative long-term contracts to ferry millions of unsold copies of The New Age newspaper to the Koedoeskloof waste disposal site in Uitenhage at weekends.

Detectives also questioned why Independent Newspapers boss Iqbal Survé was not on the podium: “If Dr Survé had been there,” the dossier notes, “pictures of the event would have been splashed across their front pages all week.”

The Hawks’ forensic team alleged that “foreign intelligence agents” had penetrated Luthuli House’s merchandising division. Referring to the thick blue lines across the Top Six’s yellow ANC golf shirts, Hawks fashion consultants claimed: “Men with a low centre of gravity like Mr (Gwede) Mantashe should never wear horizontal stripes. It is suspicious when struggle leaders’ shirts make them look like giant bumblebees.”

Hinting at the identity of one possible conspirator in the turnout fiasco, detectives observed that “no McDonald’s beef burgers or fries were distributed in the stadium”. They quoted one national executive committee member as follows: “Comrade Cyril (Ramaphosa) does not understand why we voted for him at Mangaung. We are sick of all these chicken legs.”

Top Hawks investigators described as “further irrefutable proof of sabotage” the fact that a rented train, intended to ferry thousands of ANC supporters to Port Elizabeth, was left stranded in Gauteng. A spokesman for the Passenger Rail Agency of SA told investigators there were “definitely signs of foul play … Someone has made the tracks the wrong size for our new trains.”

• Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town