ANC Watch

Chances diminishing of Zuma completing presidential term

Jacob Zuma.jpg

The really important bones thrown at the ANC’s National General Council (NGC) meeting came in the opening political and organisational reports.

What emerged from those ‘bones’, and other developments surrounding it, is that the likelihood increased of President Jacob Zuma not serving out his term as president of the country, that the party is heading for an exceptionally difficult municipal election next year and that the process of realignment in South African politics is picking up momentum.

Mr Zuma’s own political report, Secretary General Gwede Mantashe’s organisational report and head of political education Nathi Mthethwa’s discussion with journalists revealed an ANC that under Mr Zuma’s watch:

  • Lost 36% of its members over the past three years;
  • Saw its voter support come down from 69,59% in 2004 (the last election under then President Thabo Mbeki) to 62,15% in 2014;
  • Became increasingly besieged by factional battles and tensions within the governing alliance;
  • Became tarnished with mounting incidents and allegations of corruption;
  • Is troubled by often violent protests over the lack of service delivery;
  • Is besieged by fears that it will suffer serious setbacks, especially in metropolitan areas, in next year’s municipal elections; and
  • Is increasingly troubled by the practice of ‘election slates’ being used during internal leadership elections, a practice that put Mr Zuma into office.

Declining membership

It is interesting to note that after the Free State province with a decline of 58% in its ANC membership figures, President Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal was the second highest with 52%, and by far the highest in actual figures with a 158 199 decline.

In Gauteng, where there is probably the biggest fear for election setbacks in the upcoming municipal elections, membership declined by 35% or 87 759. In the Eastern Cape, where the party seems to be in serious danger of losing control of the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan council, membership has come down by 33% or the substantial figure of 124 050.

The increases in the Northern Cape (6% to 38 680), North West (5% to 78 922) and Western Cape (30% to 49 960) are of little comfort and in absolute overall figures are dwarfed by the total loss of 769 000 members. It is especially so in the Western Cape, the third most populous province in the country, where the increase comes from an especially narrow base of 38 499 in 2012.

It is also important to note that the third largest decline of 48% came in Limpopo, the home province of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema. It might also then not be pure coincidence that the EFF has been especially active in the Free State that delivered the largest percentage decline.

Implications for Zuma

Mr Zuma could come under heavy pressure if the ANC fares badly in next year’s municipal elections, as is widely expected. Added to that could be a number of potentially embarrassing court cases – from the appeal to the Constitutional Court about the powers of the Public Protector, Chancellor House’s involvement with the Hitachi contract to a number relating to Nkandla and previously withdrawn corruption charges – some coinciding with election campaign time.

During a walkabout in the media centre at the NGC meeting, Zuma himself seemed to put an end to speculations that he would be running for a third term as president of the ANC in 2017.

This, however, again opens the old debate about ‘two centres of power’ between government and Luthuli House (the ANC’s headquarters), since his second and final term as president of the country in terms of our Constitution only ends with the next general election in 2019.

Against the background of the present problems of the ANC, as listed above, and especially if the party should experience the expected setback in next year’s local elections, a new ANC leader and the party are likely to be reluctant to enter the 2017 general elections with Mr Zuma at the levers of power in government.

The ANC’s next National Elective Conference in 2017 then becomes an ideal opportunity – if something else like the outcome of one of the pending court cases does not enforce it earlier – for him to vacate the Union Buildings and for the party to appoint the new leader as interim president of the country.

Such a manoeuvre would leave the new incumbent free to serve his full two terms as president of the country, despite taking office before the next presidential term of office starts in 2019. That can happen without any amendment to the Constitution’s dictate of a maximum of two terms by a single incumbent.

The relevant clause in the Constitution under the heading Term of office of President, states:

1. The President’s term of office begins on assuming office and ends upon a vacancy occurring or when the person next elected President assumes office.

2. No person may hold office as President for more than two terms, but when a person is elected to fill  a vacancy in the office of President, the period between that election and the next election of a President is not regarded as a term.

In short, the implication is that Mr Zuma’s declaration of non-availability for a third term as ANC president leaves the party with more options and flexibility in meeting the substantial challenges it faces. Mr Zuma might be entering the twilight of his once all-powerful reign over South Africa’s political scene.

Wider perspective

It would, however, be an oversimplification to ascribe all the ANC’s present problems and challenges to Mr Zuma. Wider and deeper shifts and processes are currently taking place in South Africa’s body politic, posing challenges for all political players.

In January last year, under the heading South Africa’s changing political environment, we wrote that the developing “new political environment may be very different from the one that existed up till now in the first twenty years of democracy …” and we foresaw the development of new alliances and coalitions.

That these developments do not only affect the ANC, is illustrated by a previous Democratic Alliance senior member of parliament last week announcing that he has joined the Front Nasionaal, that fights for Afrikaner self-determination.

New dividing lines are also developing in the country due to socio-economic shifts, changing demographic profiles and processes like increasing urbanisation. All of which are likely to deliver a volatile political environment for some years to come.

 

Also Read:  SA post-liberation stress syndrome at fever pitch

                        Why economic freedom is proving to be the ANC’s undoing

                        South Africa at crossroads as it enters a new transition

by Piet Coetzer

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