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Sun Nov 23 10:35:26 CAT 2014

'Flip-flop Zuma' is a fish in troubled water

Justice Malala | 17 October, 2011 00:10
Justice Malala
Image by: The Times

President Jacob Zuma has been sitting on the public protector's report about the scandalous behaviour of Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka since Wednesday.

Six days later, despite the report clearly stating that the man blatantly lied to the office Zuma occupies and abused taxpayers' money to visit a jailed girlfriend in Switzerland, he is still enjoying the full benefits of a minister of our democratic state.

One could jump up and down and wonder why Shiceka has not stepped down. But he has nothing to lose. He will hold on to the position for dear life. It is Zuma who has a problem, and it truly boggles the mind that the president does not seem to realise it.

His inaction regarding Shiceka adds to a litany of gripes against him, and his chances of retaining the top job grow slimmer by the day.

It is not that I expect Zuma to act out of his own sense of what is right. A sense of what is right has never been his strong point. Self-preservation, on the other hand, is a major aspect of his political instinct. If he does not realise that his continued tolerance of the Shicekas of this world poses a threat to him, he really has lost the plot.

Zuma has already lost the respect of those in his party's top echelons and now crucial support is ebbing in other structures. The contestants for the ANC's Mangaung conference leadership battle are now lining up very nicely, thank you, and one by one they are raising their hands.

A few months ago I would have been the first to say Zuma need not worry because the emergence of a myriad contenders for his throne means that the opposition is divided. All he would have had to do is consolidate his Cosatu, South African Communist Party and KwaZulu-Natal support base and watch as the wannabes fight for the scraps. This is no longer so.

Tokyo Sexwale definitely raised his hand this week when he testified for Julius Malema in the ANC's disciplinary hearing of the youth league leader.

His publicly stated view is that disciplining Malema may further divide the ANC. The more generous ANC members would say his argument for Malema was illogical. Malema has many strong points but uttering racist, sexist and downright divisive statements, which is a regular occurrence with him, should not be left unpunished. And for Sexwale to say disciplining Malema will fracture the ANC is disingenuous.

What is the alternative? Let Malema continue to bring the ANC into disrepute while Sexwale tells him nicely to tone it down? As if he would do so.

The point is, though, that Sexwale is clearly one of those flirting with the ANC Youth League for its support - and he is no longer going about it in a shy manner. So Sexwale is a candidate.

His campaign, poor thing, seems dead in the water. Not many of the ANC's branch structures consider him a serious player despite his media profile, and those who did will no longer do so after the Malema stunt.

The elephant in the room is Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. People used to say Thabo Mbeki was an enigma, but the real enigma in the ANC is Motlanthe. Last week he was telling us the ANC government would have given the Dalai Lama a visa. The next day he was saying, through his spokesman, that it was not his job to issue visas.

That's Motlanthe's style. Prior to the ANC's Polokwane conference he was touted as the man who would be Mbeki's running mate. Mbeki would stay on at Luthuli House as ANC president while Motlanthe ran the state. Mbeki thought they had a deal. Motlanthe then swiftly did a U-turn and embraced the Zuma clan, leaving Mbeki all by himself.

Now the youth league wants Motlanthe to lead the ANC. They should be careful of their man. They would not be the first to be left at the altar by this former trade unionist.

These currents may not seem linked to the Shiceka issue, but they are. Every faux pas by Zuma is now fodder for those who would be king, or kingmakers.

Zuma is the laughing stock in his own party in terms of policy issues. Even ANC die-hards wonder openlywhether he has a clue about South Africa's foreign policy except to call Beijing for directions on which line to take. "Flip-flop" is his name in virtually any policy matter.

Now he cannot even do the basics of drawing a line in the sand on corruption. He does nothing while the likes of Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and Shiceka stay in office. The ANC's Mangaung conference is 14 months away. The vultures are circling. Zuma had better watch out - his defences are down and he is surely going to be walloped by a sucker punch.

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