Political Watch

Shattering before realignment of SA politics

Watching ANC shatter
Zuma.jpg

The changes that South Africa will enter the 2019 national elections with a dramatic realignment of political forces is improving almost week-on-week.

How dramatically different the scene could turn out to be, was illustrated at the end of last week when Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader, Julius Malema, hinted that his party and the ANC (or what remains of it) might soon be again marching under the same banner.

In an interview, broadcast by the SACBC, EFF leader Julius Malema, said: “If you expropriate the land, nationalise the banks and the mines, you ensure that the state plays a strategic role in the strategic sectors of the economy. This EFF will close shop.”

This statement came after the leader of the ANC and president of the country, Jacob Zuma, effectively repudiated his own caucus, including some members of his own cabinet, for voting against an EFF motion in parliament, punting constitutional changes to make expropriation of land without compensation, possible.

However, illustrating how flexible the situation has become – in typical Malema-style – he casted some of his cards also in the opposite direction, suggesting his party and the Democratic Alliance could join forces to enforce an early general election.

“I went to the (DA) leader and said, that if we combine the EFF numbers and the DA numbers, and we resign from parliament, then that ‘thing’ is no longer (a) properly constituted parliament. But that strategy is still to come.”

Clearly also sensing the changing political mood, in a populist direction, Mr Zuma also made a play towards “black solidarity.”

Speaking off the cuff at the opening of the annual meeting of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Parliament, he suggested that “black parties” in parliament should unite to effect changes to the constitution.

“We can’t fight over nothing and not deal with the real issues when we are where laws are made, and waste time instead of creating the legal institutions to address the problems we have of inequality, poverty and unemployment,” he said.

Two days earlier one of the members of his own government executive, Deputy Minister of Public Works, Jeremy Cronin, said: “The democratic state needs expropriating powers …. this is captured admirably in the Constitution, and especially within section 25,” – the section that the EFF argued should be scrapped. (Our emphasis.)

Cronin also said the ANC needs to implement land reform better, within the confines of the constitution.

ANC divisions

However, it has since become clear that there is a dispute brewing, and not so much even under the surface, between Mr Zuma and key role players in the ANC, on what exactly is the party’s policy on the issue of “land reform” in relation to the constitution.

The ANC’s chief whip in parliament, Jackson Mthembu, insisted expropriation of land without compensation was not ANC policy. However the party’s spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, told the Sunday Times this principle was adopted by the party at the 2012 conference in Mangaung and the parliamentary caucus should have supported the EFF motion.

Pointing the finger at the Zuma-administration, Mthembu, however, in a Twitter posting wrote: “Blaming the constitution for the embarrassingly slow pace of land reform is both disingenuous and scapegoating.”

In yet another sign of confusion within the ANC on the subject, Deputy Minister for Public Service and Administration and for Public Service and Administration,  Ayanda Dlodlo, said: “The party’s objection to this week’s motion in Parliament, brought by the EFF, left many of us ANC members confused and hurt ... We felt that by rejecting this motion to amend the Constitution’s property clause, the party had squandered an opportunity.”

And, ANC Women’s League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba told City Press that the league was “not at all happy,” with the stance taken in Parliament.

From KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC’s structures called for a referendum on the land question and will air the matter at the next meeting of the party’s national executive committee (NEC).

 It is also reported that, while the ANC’s KZN structures likened their referendum idea to the United Kingdom’s “Bexit” referendum, some ANC MPs are reportedly accusing the president of “engaging in populist tactics.”

Pressure on wider front

As far back a July 2015, The Intelligence Bulletin wrote: “The governing alliance, led by the ANC, which has played a crucial role in South Africa’s peaceful transition to democracy, is broken and the realignment of the political scene has started in earnest.”

At the time, after an unprecedentedly long tripartite alliance summit, both the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the trade union Federation Cosatu aired gripes with the ANC – the SACP because “the ANC did not sufficiently support SACP campaigns, especially on land reform and finance,” and Cosatu its “dissatisfaction with how the Nkandla affair is being handled.”

How this discontent has deepened since, was illustrated in most recent times with both alliance partners expressing their dissent about the appointment of former Escom boss, Brain Molefe, to parliament.

Some SACP leaders have even been floating the idea of the party contesting the 2019-election under its own banner after a warning that “factional politics within its tripartite alliance partner, the ANC, have become so rife and dangerous that they have affected governance.”

In this regard the SACP also also pointed out the tensions that have recently surfaced between SARS commissioner Tom Moyane and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Also read: South Africa’s state governance imploding

Dramatic complication

How close to the truth this waring has become, is illustrated by the crisis that has developed around the head of the minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, and the payment of social grants, come 1 April.

How complicated the political scene has become around this matter is borne out by the fact that, while some factions within the ANC calls for Dlamini to be fired, others – particularly those believed to be aligned to president Zuma – are expressing support for her.

Dlamini is also president of the ANC Women’s and that regard an important player in the battle for the election of Mr. Zuma’s successor as leader for the ANC later this year.

Then there are the persistent rumours of a last throw of the dice by President Zuma with changes to his cabinet, the ongoing battle for control over the Treasury, outstanding decisions about the possible re-instatement of corruption charges against Mr Zuma, outstanding questions about why the Social Services director-general (Dangor) suddenly resigned, and many more.

The big danger

The biggest danger, and uncertainty, however, is the question of how the social grant crisis will play-out in the end.

We believe political analyst, professor Andre Duvenhage, is sport-on with his warning: “Come April 1, if even only 4 million beneficiaries do not receive their grants, people will take to the streets.”

From that point on, one can only speculate about various scenarios – at worst the country could become so immersed in political and social instability that even holding an election in 2019 becomes impossible.

Only one thing is probably sure – the South African party political scene is about to change dramatically.

 Also read: Land expropriation is the wrong end of the wealth stick

by Piet Coetzer

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