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15 September 2014 03:49 (South Africa)
South Africa

Road to Mangaung: Size counts, and not much else

  • Ranjeni Munusamy
  • South Africa
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The ANC has cranked open its nomination process, officially launching the election season. The three leading presidential candidates were featured in the news this weekend: the incumbent for a R203-million facelift to his rural homestead, the challenger cleared of wrongdoing in an arms deal, and the outside contender for saying the ANC needs a renaissance. There is buzz, but none of this will have much impact on Mangaung. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

It is perhaps a sign of President Jacob Zuma’s cavalier attitude that his office didn’t bother with a response to an alarming expose in City Press that an extensive revamp of his Nkandla homestead would cost taxpayers a whopping R203 million. 

According to the newspaper, plans included the construction of three sets of underground living quarters with 10 air-conditioned rooms, a clinic for Zuma and his family, 10 houses for security personnel, a helipad, houses for Air Force and police units, underground parking, playgrounds and a visitors’ centre. The president will only pay R10.6 million himself, which is less than 5% of the total cost to revamp, while the state will fork out more than R203 million, according to the report, which cited documents from the Department of Public Works. 

The president’s office has not commented on the story nor refuted it, leaving those who read it to stew over the details of yet another instance of gross abuse of public funds. In most countries, such disturbing revelations of wastage of state funds for personal benefit would have caused a crisis in the presidency, particularly during election season. But apart from conspiracy theories about the timing of the City Press expose, there is no panic whatsoever in the Zuma camp – for two broad reasons. 

The first is that ANC members have pretty much made up their mind about which faction they support and yet another scandal about the Zumas living large will have little impact on camp loyalties. Secondly, those in the ANC who support Zuma do not do so because he is a superb leader with an impeccable track record and unrivalled integrity. They do so because they are in a faction that benefits from his continued presidency through political power and patronage, and fear the consequences of losing their positions of privilege. 

It’s not as if most of those who oppose Zuma have purer intentions. Many of his detractors are frustrated by not being able to access political and economic resources while Zumanites are in control. They want their turn to control the levers of power. 

It is for this reason that those advocating for leadership change at Mangaung are not using a report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela that cleared Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe of involvement in a sanctions-busting Iranian arms deal as a campaign weapon. They are quite aware that Motlanthe’s vindication after a credible investigation (which he initiated) would not have much impact on ANC branches. 

The Public Protector’s report, which found Motlanthe did not use his position to benefit his partner, Gugu Mtshali, financially, might wipe off any smudge on Motlanthe’s reputation among ordinary South Africans. But in the ANC, being squeaky clean is not one of the criteria for senior leadership positions.  

During the past few months, intense lobbying has been underway in ANC structures to campaign either for Zuma or against him. Apart from the ANC Youth League, which has consistently supported Motlanthe’s candidacy, those against Zuma’s second term have campaigned under the “Anything but Zuma” banner in order to slot in whoever was able and willing to fight for the position when the time came. 

Motlanthe, a stickler for proper process, has still not indicated whether he will accept nomination and take on Zuma. And it’s not as if he will put everyone (including Zuma) out of their misery any time soon by declaring his intentions. He wants to wait for nominations to come in and then have the ANC’s nominations committee verify that branches followed proper process. Then the nominations committee has to approach him to enquire formally whether he is willing to stand. 

Only then will we know whether he will be Motlanthe the presidential contender or again the Number 2 on the Zuma ticket. This process could take a few weeks still. 

But the deputy president, ever the enigma, made a surprise declaration in a book about him, Kgalema Motlanthe: A Political Biography, to be released next week. The book, by Ebrahim Harvey, states that Motlanthe believes expelling Julius Malema from the ANC was a mistake and that even putting the former ANC Youth League leader through a disciplinary process was “fundamentally wrong”. He apparently believes the party should have found a “political solution” to Malema and the Youth League’s misdemeanours. 

ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, who activated the disciplinary action against Malema, was not impressed by Motlanthe’s comments in the book. Asked about them on The Justice Factor on Sunday, Mantashe said Motlanthe sat on various senior structures of the ANC, such as the National Executive and National Working committees, and should have raised his concerns there instead of publicly. 

Motlanthe must have known that his comments about Malema would rattle cages in the ANC leadership, so there is still a possibility that he might eventually throw caution to the wind and challenge Zuma. 

Tokyo Sexwale, ever the hopeful contender, has been hopping on the sidelines for years, waiting for the opportune moment to make a dash for the top ANC job. His 2007 campaign bombed out, as he was no match for the might of the Mbeki and Zuma camps at the time. He is now ready to step into the breach if Motlanthe flakes out. 

It became clear this weekend that he is carving himself as the “change” candidate. In a paper delivered at the African Renaissance Colloquium at Fort Hare on Friday and published in the Sunday Times, Sexwale said change was needed to “restore the credibility of the ANC within society and the government”. 

“So far, the debate (on change) seems to be dominated by a conversation over a change of leaders… However, a mere rotation of leaders...would not only be pointless, it would be an encouragement of the perpetuation of the deterioration of our movement. 

“Fundamental change is requisite in our thinking to understand that fundamentally, whatever happens in 2012 at Mangaung, the real test is the 2014 elections where a frustrated electorate is awaiting leadership. Our conduct at Mangaung and thereafter will determine whether confidence in us is restored, or whether electoral support will continue to shrink,” Sexwale said. “All these challenges about change can be summed up in one word: ‘renaissance’. The ANC needs to slaughter its own ghost and undergo soul searching, introspection and critical analysis based on the fundamentals of its own democratic norms.” 

This indicates that Sexwale may be targeting the few ANC members who could be thinking beyond factional battles at Mangaung and the effect of the ruling party’s battered image on the 2014 general elections. He is positioning himself as the candidate who would be able to draw back disillusioned voters to the ANC and those considering support for the opposition to punish the ruling party. 

But at the height of Mangaung fever, it is doubtful whether many ANC members are thinking beyond the immediate factional battles. All over the country, ANC members were poring over the audited branch figures released by the National Executive Committee (NEC) Friday night. Only verified branches can make nominations for the ANC’s top six positions and the new 60-member NEC. The branch figures will also determine the size of provincial delegations to the Mangaung conference. 

Membership in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s support base, has rocketed between January and September this year by 88,000 members, to 331,820. However, the Eastern Cape, the party’s second biggest province, had a sharp decrease of 40,000 members. The province, which has been swinging towards the anti-Zuma camp, now has a total membership of 187,585. About 4,500 delegates from the ANC’s total membership of 1.2-million will attend the national conference in December. 

The ANC is to announce Tuesday the full provincial breakdown of delegates going to Mangaung. The Youth, Women’s and Veterans’ leagues are expected to each send 45 members to the conference, while 82 NEC members and 180 Provincial Executive Committee members will also count as full voting delegates. 

Ultimately, the size of the provincial delegations will determine the outcome of the elections – presuming there are elections for the top six posts and no pre-conference deal is struck. So far, the Zuma camp is way ahead of the rest based on its huge KwaZulu-Natal delegation and growth in membership in other pro-Zuma provinces, the Free State and Mpumalanga. 

The anti-Zuma camp is banking on fierce behind-the-scenes lobbying paying off, and since voting will be by secret ballot, they are hoping a significant proportion of delegates will vote according their personal choice and not in provincial blocs.  

While open campaigning for positions by individual candidates is frowned upon in the ANC, the next two and a half months will see increased jockeying among the factions. And from now on, members will be allowed to talk openly about their preferences. It should be as pretty as a bar brawl. DM

Photo: “Change” contender, minister of human settlements Tokyo Sexwale (REUTERS)

  • Ranjeni Munusamy
  • South Africa


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