Will Zuma Survive the Bait of Mangaung?

By Commey, Pusch | New African, June 2012 | Go to article overview
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Will Zuma Survive the Bait of Mangaung?

Commey, Pusch, New African

South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress (AC), will in a few month's time, hold its elective conference to decide who leads the party in the general election fixed for 2014. Already daggers are drawn for the incumbent, President Jacob Zuma, who is determined to have a second term. But with his enemies gathering for war in addition to a media backlash, will Zuma, the man who has shown himself to be a wily political survivor with help from friends, survive? In this report, our South African correspondent, Pusch Commey, looks at all the permutations and predicts that the world will witness a factional dogfight that will make Polokwane (the ANC's last elective conference in 2007 that dethroned ex-President Thabo Mbeki) look like an afternoon walk in the park.

As the African National Congress (ANC) elective conference nears, the country is preparing for another round of political bloodletting. In December this year, representatives of the ANC branches across the country will gather in the city of Mangaung (formerly Bloem-fontein) to elect the ANC president, and, concomittantly, the presidential candidate of the party for general elections in 2014. It is almost inevitable that the ANC, still dominant in South African politics, will win the election and consequently elect the president of the country in a majority parliamentary vote. In a proportional representation system, seats in the 400-member chamber are allocated in proportion to the percentage of votes garnered by a party at a general election.

The ANC, as a liberation party, has consistently polled over 63% of votes every five years since the first multiracial elections in 1994. President Jacob Zuma will be seeking a second 5-year term in Mangaung as the president of the ANC and the country. It will not be plain sailing. Traditionally, the deputy president of the ANC has been seen as the natural successor to become president of the ANC and the country. However, this is not cast in stone. And everybody had thought Zuma would be content with one term, especially when his ascendancy to power was fuelled by a hatred of ex-President Thabo Mbeki, and not on Zuma's own personal attributes.

Since the halcyon days of the undisputed champion Nelson Mandela, the political jostling to rule South Africa has become more intense and vicious. There are many candidates with an eye on the highest office. Most have deep roots in the ANC. Most are friends until ambitions clash. Then things get murky.

When Nelson Mandela retired in 1999 after only one 5-year term, Mbeki, the deputy president of the ANC and the country, assumed power. It was then widely anticipated that the prominent and astute Cyril Ramaphosa, who was at the forefront of South Africa's transition to black majority rule, would get the nod. It was not to be. He was sidelined and consequently resigned himself to making millions in business. He has recently reared his head once again on the political scene.

President Zuma was deputy president of the ANC from 1999 and in line to succeed Mbeki as president of the country when Mbeki's two terms in office expired. Then the drama began.

In 2005 Zuma was implicated by a judge in a corruption scandal involving his financial advisor Shabir Shaik. Mbeki then used it as a reason to fire Zuma as the deputy president of the country and spoil his chances. However, Mbeki had no power to dismiss him as the deputy president of the ANC as this was an elected position.

After several tribulations, including a trial for rape, Zuma rode the crest of a wave of public sympathy to oust Mbeki from power. This was at the famous battle of Polokwane, the ANC elective conference in December 2007, that dethroned Mbeki as president of the ANC, leading to his loss of office seven months before his term had ended.

Prominent among the coalition of the wounded, as Mbeki's enemies came to be known, was the then president of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema.

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