Political Watch

Political uncertainty likely to escalate dramatically

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The shadow of President Jacob Zuma is going to cast a cloud of uncertainty over South African politics much longer than widely anticipated since the election of his deputy-president, Cyril Ramaphosa, as leader of the ANC.

On the eve of the first meeting of the newly elected top leadership, the national executive committee (NEC), where his position is on the agenda and his recall a strong possibility, Mr Zuma made a surprise move. He announced, the appointment of the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, two years after the Public Protector recommended it.

It just again showed that one underestimate Mr Zuma’s political fight-back ability at your own peril. We were about to write how most political pundits and commentators are starting to agree with our sentiment expressed in the last edition of The Intelligence Bulletin in December that “not the if, but the when, and the how, of Jacob Zuma vacating the position of President of country has become the most important take-away from of the ANC’s 54th national. Elective conference.”

Suddenly, his early departure from office does not look all that certain any more. His supporters in the party are sure to argue that the investigative process should be given an opportunity to run its full course before a final judgement should be made.

And, judged by the deluge of information coming out of the so-called Guta-leaks it cannot be expected that the commission will complete its work, and produce a report overnight.

The changes that Mr Zuma will see out his term of office as president of the country until the general election of 2019, has dramatically increased on Tuesday-evening’s announcement of the appointment of the commission.

It has also put Mr Ramaphosa in an awkward position with regards to his announced plans for a special prosecution-team to consider allegations of corruption, which goes together with the question of state capture.

Implications for ANC

The latest development also has some serious implications for the ANC in the runup to the 2019 election, campaigning for which has effectively already started. For one the two centres of power, the ANC and government, one controlled by Mr Ramaphosa and the other by Mr Zuma looks to be set to be a reality until the election.

The ANC’s annual January 8 statement will on Saturday be delivered by Mr Ramaphosa as leader of the party. Traditionally this statement is the scene setter for the State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) by the President at the opening of parliament, which now look sure to be delivered by Mr Zuma. It might become a challenge for the two to sing from the same hymn sheet.  

In the meantime, the Parliamentary standing committee on its rules meet on 11 January to start drafting impeachment rules that could be used to unseat Zuma, after a recent court order on the matter. This could facilitate an impeachment motion from the opposition benches, which could leave the ANC’s fractured caucus in an extremely awkward situation.

While investor confidence and the rand rose on the back of Mr. Ramaphosa’s election as leader new situation is likely to lead to the opposite.

And, then on February 21 Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba in his budget will have to find a way to deal another Zuma bomb shell dropped in December with an unilateral announcement of the introduction of free tertiary education, starting this year.   

Coalition prospects

 And while there were high hopes lately of a centrist coalition government coming into power in 2019, the present main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance seems to also have gone into self-destruct mode, of which the storm around Cape Town mayor, Patricia de Lille’s head, is the main symptom.

In the meantime, Zuma’s free tertiary education announcement was a gift to leftist forces like the Economic Freedom Fighters, following on its victory in the supreme court that saw Mr Zuma appoint the commission of enquiry into state capture – an opportunity which the DA saw fit to give a miss.

It is clear that South Africa, its political environment, and its economy has to brace itself for an extremely uncertain 2018 of Mr Zuma’s legacy, whether he stays in office or not, will cast a dark shadow.

by Intelligence Bulletin Team

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