Stability Watch

Multiple ANC balls in the air – uncertainty reigns


A transition to a new, yet still very uncertain, socio-political dispensation in South Africa is in full swing.

As evidence of the terminal illness of the all-conquering, and dominating, African National Congress (ANC) is mounting in the wake of the demise of its present leader, President Jacob Zuma, various pretenders to the throne are feverously making their moves – making for much confusion, and damaging uncertainties.

One of the clearest signs of this came over this past weekend with news that one of the strongest pretenders, president Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is apparently aiming for his early exit as head of state – that is if she should win the party’s leadership in December.

However, there were immediate speculations that this might be a joint, and combined career/campaign- (for her), and a strategic move (for him).

Fuelling these speculations are the very recent rumours that behind the scenes Zuma supporters are working on an amnesty deal for him, to secure his retirement from office before the 2019 general election.

As President Zuma’s public support is nose-diving, it might also have been a tactical move to counter that of other main succession contender, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s, supporter’s contention that Zuma would be recalled should he win the December ANC leadership election.

Busy weekend

It’s been a busy end of week for South Africa’s extended first family, and their supporters. In their home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the president’s son, Edward Zuma, pitched for a heckling session of an anti-looting speech by former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

Raising one of the favourite flags of the Zuma camp, white monopoly capital, he shouted "You sold this country to Rupert!" He also accused Gordhan of being a traitor for voting for the recent parliamentary opposition motion of no-confidence in his father.

That he was at the Gandhi Memorial Lecture purely to promote the Zuma camp's political agenda, was clear from prior rumours that the event would be disrupted, causing a heavy police security presence, and that Edward left the event the moment after Gordhan concluded his address. 

In another, probably related to the bigger ANC factional battle, the prominent news subject was about an alleged covert rouge intelligence operation called "Project Wonder," said to be a suspected plot, aimed at unseating both IPID boss Robert McBride and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.

Much intriguing about this subject is the question whether it is pure coincidence that these particular two gentlemen feature in this drama – one (Mbalula) being a known staunch Zuma supporter, and the other (McBride) being counted as key player in the anti-Zuma, and -state capture faction? Is the one, just a cover for the other one being the real target?

In the smoke-and-mirrors world that the Zuma-/ANC-administration have degenerated in, it has become impossible to give a definitive answer one way or the other.

Brittle ANC

A couple of other news items over the weekend also illustrated how brittle and hazardous internal relationships in the ANC have become.

Over the weekend the leader of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, strongly criticised the ANC for disciplining Minister Derek Hanekom for criticising the party in public, in the process using terminology at least as sharp as those by Hanekom and for which he now has to explain himself.

On another front, one of the latest pretenders to the ANC throne, parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete, broke ranks with the ANC caucus on the no-confidence vote matter, telling her ANC colleagues, in line with the correct applicable parliamentary protocol, it is not her job to shield the party in parliament.

It just so happens that speaker Mbete is also the national chairperson of the party, just again illustrating the quandary the party has landed itself in with its policy of cadre deployment – which also lies at the root of the problem of so-called state capture.

Mbete’s reaction followed on calls from the Zuma camp to explain why she allowed a secret vote on the no-confidence motion. 

In the meantime, deputy president Ramaphosa, pre-empted an apparent strategy to shield President Zuma from prosecution by delaying formal investigations into state capture. At a trade union rally in Seshego he over the weekend said commissions of inquiry into state capture should not stop law enforcement agencies from going ahead with investigations against the culprits of alleged state capture.

Ramaphosa’s latest call also echoes an earlier, similar call by another leadership contender, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, calling on the ANC to initiate disciplinary action against the President over involvement in the abuse of state funds.

In an interview with Bloomberg, she said the “ANC should act decisively on anybody in authority who is suspected or alleged to be doing wrong," adding that the “fact that the president is involved" shouldn't make a difference.

Never ending list

The examples mentioned thus far are just a sample of what is becoming a never-ending list of internal ANC tensions at various levels. For example, on Sunday a former president of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), and present Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, expressed disappointment about an ANCWL statement accusing her of ill-discipline.

Her transgression; accepting invitations to address groups on various, including women’s, issues. But then, it is known that she does not support the leadership candidacy of Dlamini-Zuma.

In the meantime, while in one case (KZN’s Midlands) it has gone to court, claims, and counter claims of membership and election rigging in various regions, are also mounting. Some commentators are starting to speculate that the elective congress of December might have to be postponed to a later date.


A split in the ANC is starting to take-on an aura of inevitability and the changes of it entering, never minding winning, the 2019 election in its present form diminishing almost on a weekly basis.

It is, however, also to be expected that it would become messier, with higher levels of uncertainty as the weeks in the run-up to the December conference tick by. The uncertainty will also impact on other spheres, the economy in particular, while some international credit rating rounds also still lie ahead.

by Piet Coetzer

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