ANC Watch

ANC parliamentary win not a Zuma victory

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The governing African National Congress took a step away from President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday, and the terms of the divorce settlement will determine the survival of the party.

The most important take-away from the 8th no confidence debate- and vote in Mr. Zuma is that the ANC, this time round went into it not to defend the president, but defend the party. Not a single ANC speaker defended the president or his administration. It was all about defending the ‘right of the governing party’ to deal with its problems it selves.

The no confidence vote marked the start of the divorce settlement negotiations. And, expect it to become messy – even in the extreme – at times. Some members of the ANC caucus – at least some 35 of them – want him out the house immediately. Others want him to be allowed to stay until at least December, before retiring to Nkandla in rural KZN – or maybe settle with his friends in Dubai.

That, however is not the end of the story. Even amongst those members of the ANC family who want him to stay until December, there are sharp differences of opinion about the details of the settlement agreement.

Should he be getting a settlement grant in the form of amnesty for the things that went wrong during his time as head of the household or should the law of the land be allowed to run its full course?

And, even on the latter matter, there remains much uncertainty about how things will play out in practice if the law is allowed to run its course. There was clear indication during the debate in parliament that as a first step the Public Protector’s recommendation of a judicial commission of enquiry into state capture might finally be implemented.

What, however, remains unclear is how wide and thorough, and by whom, its brief will be formulated? Will it be used to arrive at true justice and future preventative measures or as a delaying tactic and smothering of opposition tactics with the sub judice rule as excuse?

And, of cause then there remains the matter of the long list of outstanding corruption charges against Mr. Zuma.

Succession

Besides the issues directly affecting Mr. Zuma and his personal future, there is the intersecting event of the election of his successor as leader of the party in December – one of the minor, but very important details being whether he will be allowed to stay on as head of state until the general election of 2019.

What happens to Mr. Zuma between now, and after December, has become a proxy battle in that contest, which has already become messy at times.

How the ANC handles the Zuma issue now, will play a major role in whether his successor as party leader in December, will also be his successor as head of state after the 2019 election – in short whether the ANC win or lose that election.

The big irony of this week’s events in, and around parliament is that the ANC fought tooth and nail for the right for itself to decide what should happen to its leader, however they have had plenty of opportunity over the past two years to deal with the “Zuma-problem” – and by implication they this week admitted they have a problem with the Zuma-administration. However, they consistently remained in default to deal with it.

The result of that default showed-up dramatically in the outcome of the 2016 local governmentelection. And, there is not much margin for error this time round in dealing with the Zuma-issue. Another drop of just five or six present in voter support could see them move into the opposition benches in parliament.

Implications for the country

There is a flood of interpretations – often diverging – from analysts and commentators of what really happened this week in parliament. This is not surprising, considering it was a secret vote, and some variables in the figures which can be used for calculations.

However, its real impact on the South African public is reflected in some of the economic indicators that emerged in its wake. For example, when it was announced that it will be a secret vote, the rand strengthened slightly in the currency markets, but it started falling before the official result was announced, and within minutes had lost 30c against both the US Dollar (to R13.40) and Sterling (R17.40).

Conclusion

Unless the ANC follows through with its implied undertaking in parliament, that while admitting there are problems, mistakes were made, and legitimate public concerns, deals swiftly with the Zuma-problem, it is in serious trouble. It will be hard pressed to prevent the “divorce negotiations” from becoming a messy, volatile affair.

And, the longer Zuma remains in place, the longer he will remain, in effect, a most effective vote canvasser for opposition parties.

As things stand, a time of high political volatility, confusing uncertainty and even potential conflict lies ahead.

A new era in South Africa’s democratic history is highly likely to be born in 2019, but it is unlikely to happen without some complications.

by Piet Coetzer

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