Political Watch

ANC disarray spread while uncertainty increase


The disarray in South Africa’s governing ANC alliance is fast deepening, increasing political uncertainty at an equal pace in an already extremely confusing political environment.

But although it is presently difficult to see the wood for the trees in the political jungle, there are also rays of hope and South Africa’s descent into ‘failed state’ status is not a done deal, yet. A tough hack to open terrain and a brighter horizon, however, is still at hand.

President Jacob Zuma, and his leadership of the ANC, remains the main battlefield and focus of attention. However, he is only the most prominent symbol of much deeper and wider problems – some systemic – as increasingly examples of corruption, cronyism, and maladministration on the back of the policy of ’cadre deployment,' at the expense of professional ability, becomes known.

As last year’s replacement of the ANC as government at local government level in some large municipalities has revealed, much damage has already been done and a quick fix by “regime change” is not a realistic expectation.

The second point of focus and, increasingly volatile battle front, is the succession race to find Mr Zuma’s replacement as leader of the ANC, who might never become State President, as the likelihood of the 2019 election delivering a coalition government, increases.

In the meantime, a new battle front has opened with attacks on the Judiciary from within ANC factions as political parties and civic organisations keep on winning legal battles mounted against President Zuma and his administration.

Interestingly, Mr Zuma again this past Sunday ascribed his political problems to the, by now tired, excuse that a third force is at work against him.

However, can it really be coincidence that in the wake of a court case about the release of documents, which informed Mr Zuma’s recent controversial cabinet reshuffle, went pear-shaped for him, and on the day the Constitutional Court dealt with question of a secret vote in a motion of no confidence, a march against alleged “frivolous” litigation, and upholding the ”principle of separation of powers,” is staged.

Also read: Zuma discovers fake news take no prisoners

The march, in Durban, follows less than a week after an ANCYL branch in the same region lashed out at North Gauteng High Court Judge Bashier Vally for his order on the cabinet reshuffle matter. It seems to suggest that Mr Zuma has some “third forces” of his own operating out there – indicating how treacherous the political jungle has become.

ANC disarray

The disarray into which the ANC has fallen, is making no small contribution to this situation.

Just in the past week, there were several indications of the deepening and broadening disarray within the governing party and its alliance with the South African Communist Party and trade union federation Cosatu;

  • In the Northern Cape (NC), even ANC headquarters was taken by surprise when the Zuma-supporting premier of the province, Sylvia Lucas, controversially reshuffled her cabinet, Zuma-style, on the eve of the party’s provincial conference. It led to alliance partners Cosatu and the SACP asking for her “recall,” with a vote of no confidence also in her, one of the possibilities floating around;
  • Also from the Northern Cape, came one of the clear signs that a huge ‘own goal’ was scored by an announcement that controversial, recently appointed ANC PM, Brian Molefe, would be re-appointed as Eskom’s CEO. ANC NEC member Joel Netshitenzhe, said it was prove that the ANC was “no longer the strategic centre of power,” has lost its DNA, “its capacity to lead, let alone society, even to lead its own deployees;" An ANC statement described the move as reckless, and the SACP called on the ANC to deal with Brian 'Gupta Stuurboy' Molefe;
  • While “officially” the campaign for electing Mr Zuma successor has not started, and campaigning still forbidden, whenever a prospective/aspiring candidate make a public appearance, it is positioned as campaigning. In KZN, ANC leaders are reportedly “furious that Ramaphosa did not inform them of his engagements in the province in line with ANC tradition.” Meantime different party structures, one after another, are declaring support for particular candidates;
  • ANC MP Dr Makhosi Khoza, last week on a Facebook, in a thinly veiled reference to Mr Zuma, said she will always vote for the ANC's survival, but not for an "amoral leader;"
  • SACP General Secretary Solly Mapaila, over the weekend said if South Africa is serious about dealing with corruption "the first person to bite the dust should be President Zuma. If the ANC is unable to remove Zuma then the people of South Africa will remove him and they will also remove the ANC.";  
  • The chairperson the Struggle Veterans, Siphiwe Nyanda, over the weekend said the party is destined for a mass burial if it doesn’t change course;
  • A weekend report on an ANC caucus meeting, had it that ANC MPs will defend president Jacob Zuma against any opposition motion of no confidence, but the party’s leadership to ‘address the Zuma issue’ internally; and
  • The politburo of the SACP sounded the alarm about ''structures gone rogue'' within government and the ANC, saying important decisions are being taken by a network outside of the Cabinet, the ANC's NEC and other constitutional structures, with at least tacit support from Mr Zuma. .

This list can be considerably extended, but shows how serious the situation has become, also to stable government, was also illustrated that within the realm of Zuma’s own cabinet as it stands. Deputy-minister and SACP deputy general secretary, Jeremy Cronin, at the SACP’s Western Cape conference used terms like the ''real ANC'' and the ''Saxonwold ANC'' (referring to Gupta family’s influence on the Zuma-administration).

He believes President Zuma is hurting the ANC’s image, and his retention could lead to a loss in the 2019 elections and the SACP should consider contesting elections independently.

Road ahead

From president Zuma’s absolute insistence on Sunday in Durban  that he is blameless, it is clear, he has no intention to vacate his ANC position before the yea-end ANC elective conference – not without a fight anyway – and might attempt to hang on to the presidency until the 2019.

Over the next seven to 20 months, or so, the political scene is set to become even more volatile and confusing – especially within, and surrounding the ANC.

However, there are also glimmers of hope as the prospects of a coalition government after the 2019 election are improving, with positive signs that cooperation between opposition parties is possible. And, Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Miamane declared confidence that a coalition will beat the ANC, come 2019.

Last week, in the small Western Cape municipality of Bitou, it was proven that the coalitions in cities and metropoles after last year’s municipal elections, need not be a once-off event.

Positive signs are also mounting that Mr Ramaphosa might just be able to break the strangle hold of the Zuma-faction on the ANC by December, that is if it does not split-up even before the elective conference.

by Piet Coetzer

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