Mon Dec 05 00:20:23 SAST 2016

Chorus forming against JZ

Justice Malala | 2012-07-30 00:11:31.0
Justice Malala
Image by: The Times

One thing I will say about President Jacob Zuma's rise to power in the period to 2007: it gave us a large number of melodious songs.

One of the most memorable is a ditty loved by Fikile Mbalula, then the ANC Youth League president, called "Dedela Abanye, Dedela Umsholozi! (Make way for others, make way for Zuma)".

No matter what you thought of Zuma, when his supporters were in full flow with this song you couldn't help but follow your swaying hips.

As its sweet melody rose above the University of the North campus in Polokwane in December 2007, one could not help but admit that the end was nigh for President Thabo Mbeki, at whom the song's message was aimed.

Only those die-hards who would not face the truth - and possibly misled Mbeki into standing against Zuma - believed the man had a chance. Mbeki endured a humiliating defeat.

This song has been inserting itself into my consciousness of late. This is because I am hearing more and more of the dispassionate, scientific-minded ANC members and leaders saying that the tide is turning against Zuma inside the ANC and that it is possible that Kgalema Motlanthe will defeat him in Mangaung in December.

For the past few years I have been saying that, if the ANC were to hold an elective conference today, Zuma would win it. I based my assessment on a number of factors.

The first is that Zuma is the incumbent and that comes with benefits. And he has party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who has his hands firmly on the machinery of the ANC and of the government, at his side.

From the office of the secretary-general they can keep a beady eye on rebellious regions and branches, and clamp down hard on them. They have oversight over who will come to conferences and who among them may vote.

What happened recently at the Free State conference of the ANC, from which huge swathes of the branches were barred, is evidence of what can happen in these circumstances.

Zuma also has his hands on the government and it is the government that opens the door to patronage.

In KwaZulu-Natal, some six municipalities are under administration. In North West, there are running battles between an MEC who is trying to put a rich municipality under administration and ANC members. You might wonder why.

A possible reason is that, if you really want to loot, it is at municipal level that a regional structure of a ruling party can siphon resources direct from the people's coffers. Incumbents who came in with the Zuma wave last year are using these resources in their re-election campaigns.

Zuma also seemed to have the numbers on the ground. Following regional and provincial conferences across the land, Zuma seemed to have the solid support of the party's biggest province, KwaZulu-Natal. He also had Mpumalanga, the Free State and creditable chunks of the rest of the country.

He has the SA Communist Party, plus about half of Cosatu, behind him.

The ANC Women's League is also behind him, which is the only reason ANC Women's League president Angie Motshekga has kept her job as education minister.

But there are cracks in this coalition. Zuma was roundly pasted at the party's policy conference when his endorsement of the "Second Transition" concept was rejected.

In KwaZulu-Natal, not all regions are behind him, and rebellion is brewing in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State. The ANC Youth League, which carried him to power, now detests him.

Motlanthe's backers are becoming confident. Apparently his reticence on succession is not fear but strategy. Motlanthe, some ANC leaders say, has been advised not to run a long and bruising battle. Instead, he should hold his fire, wait and see.

Come October he will begin a fast and furious campaign that will, they hope, bamboozle and stagger the Zuma coalition.

It is being said that Motlanthe is under immense pressure from ANC veterans - who were humiliatingly scolded by Zuma publicly at the policy conference - to "save" the party from what Zuma has turned it into.

Will he do it? Reports indicate that Zuma thinks he will, which is why an emissary was dispatched to ask Motlanthe to join the Zuma camp as deputy president for a second term.

Many this week pointed to Zuma's losses at the policy conference and his bumbling interview on Talk Radio 702 to remind me of Freedom Front leader Pieter Mulder's comment about Mbeki in 2007: "Die gas is uit die bottel van die Mbeki era (The gas is out of the bottle of the Mbeki era)."

I think Zuma is still the stronger contender but is the soundtrack of history changing? Is that Dedela Abanye, Dedela uMkhuluwa that I hear?


If you have an opinion you would like to share on this article, please send us an e-mail to the Times LIVE iLIVE team. In the mean time, click here to view the Times LIVE iLIVE section.