Big ANC shake-up on cards
2012 the year that was predicted to be one of political storms - is almost over.
But if you are hoping for a less turbulent 2013 don't hold your breath.
Assuming - as it now seems most likely - that there is going to be a fierce contest for the ANC presidency at the governing party's national conference in December, expect a major shake-up in the government by early next year.
Though there is still about two weeks to go before Luthuli House officially declares the ANC election campaign season open, it is becoming clearer how the battle is going to shape up.
President Jacob Zuma has his sights set on securing a second term as party leader and the country's first citizen.
There is also a strong lobby within the ANC seeking to stop Zuma from achieving this goal.
The consensus among his opponents is that the only current party leader with a realistic chance of challenging him successfully is his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe.
Motlanthe has not publicly said he is interested in the job but one assumes that if he weren't he would have long ago publicly rebuked those in the party who continue to campaign in his name.
So let us assume that when the nomination process officially begins, Motlanthe will avail himself of the opportunity to contest for the presidency.
What would that do to the relationship between the two men? Would they still be able to work together beyond the Mangaung conference?
Given the winner-takes-all mentality that has come to dominate ANC conferences over the years, whoever loses the race would certainly be out in the cold.
Let's say that Zuma stands for election and is defeated, how likely is he to finish the remainder of his term as head of state?
Won't Zuma's political foes - who extend far beyond Julius Malema and his noisy friends - seek to humiliate him by recalling him from office in the same way they did his ANC predecessor, Thabo Mbeki?
What if it is Motlanthe who is defeated? Zuma campaigners insist that they have no problem with Motlanthe and that they would like to have him as president some day - just as long as he does not challenge their man this year.
A loss for Motlanthe could result in his being "relieved of his duties" at the instigation of victorious Zuma supporters who would argue that the two men have lost the necessary trust in each other.
With Zuma lobbyists saying they would replace Motlanthe with businessman Cyril Ramaphosa on their slate for the deputy presidency if he challenges the president, we could have the chief architect of the constitution as the country's No2 by early next year. But that Ramaphosa would agree to be on a Zuma slate is not at all a given.
The outcome of the elections at the conference would have far-reaching implications for a number of other cabinet members.
If Motlanthe wins, and Zuma is recalled from office, we would probably see Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale rise to the post of deputy president.
But if Zuma wins and his cabinet is reshuffled, Sexwale would almost certainly be out of the government.
Also likely to be given marching orders in this scenario would be Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile. He is increasingly becoming the face of the anti-Zuma grouping within both the party and the government.
But, given that Mashatile is the ANC's chairman in Gauteng, his axing would almost certainly force a cabinet reshuffle in this country's richest province.
A Zuma recall, on the other hand, would probably mean an abrupt end to the cabinet careers of the likes of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele; Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
In whichever direction Mangaung takes the ANC, South Africa is almost certain to have its third major cabinet reshuffle in less than four years.