As Zuma woos support, Eastern Cape suffers
Sunday Times Editorial: WITH only eight months to go to the ANC's elective national conference in Mangaung, lobby groups for President Jacob Zuma, his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe and the pretender to the throne, Tokyo Sexwale, are shoring up support within party structures across the country. The Eastern Cape - that most neglected of provinces - now holds the cards.
WITH only eight months to go to the ANC's elective national conference in Mangaung, lobby groups for President Jacob Zuma, his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe and the pretender to the throne, Tokyo Sexwale, are shoring up support within party structures across the country. The Eastern Cape - that most neglected of provinces - now holds the cards.
With more than 220000 card-carrying ANC members, the Eastern Cape is the second most powerful province controlled by the ruling party after KwaZulu-Natal, but its leadership appears divided over who to support in December.
For Zuma, with support from his home province almost guaranteed, winning the Eastern Cape's backing would practically seal the deal, giving him close to 46% of voting delegates.
For Zuma's opponents, most of whom want Motlanthe to replace him, the Eastern Cape's support would give them momentum as they lobby for backing from the rest of the provinces.
It is therefore not surprising that various ruling party factions are pulling out all the stops to woo the province's leaders.
But internal ruling party politics ought not to interfere with the functioning of government and the quality of service delivery.
It is universally accepted that the Eastern Cape is the poorest-performing province in the country when it comes to education. The province's matric results last year were the worst of the lot and there are still too many children in the province who go to mud-walled schools or study under trees.
Crucial weeks were lost at the beginning of the year as teachers in the province embarked on an avoidable strike and the provincial department failed to deliver textbooks to schools on time.
Yet despite a cabinet decision in March last year to take over the administration of the provincial education department, Eastern Cape politicians have been allowed for too long to frustrate efforts by the national Department of Basic Education to turn the situation around.
Instead of being firm and insisting that the province cede its authority over education to the national department, Zuma has spent much of the past year walking on eggshells - apparently fearful of offending the Eastern Cape's political elite ahead of Mangaung.
This is poor leadership at its worst and it makes a mockery of the government's stated commitment to improve the quality of education.
Drastic and possibly unpopular decisions need to be taken to save this province from collapse, but the drive to canvass support for internal party election campaigns might lead to them being postponed.