“Leadership is a verb”, an Investec advertisement once held. It's one of those easy-on-the-ear expressions which, while linguistically incorrect, makes intuitive sense. The process by which you guide a group of people is not defined by your being in the position of guide. It's defined by your actions.
Zuma was hesitant to appraise his own performance. Instead he deflected the question of his legacy by suggesting he was being asked to write his own obituary, probably because he sees himself leading the ANC for another five years. He might believe there is much time to pass before his story is written. But history repeats itself. Zuma’s next five years, and he probably will get another term despite the “clairvoyant” Floyd Shivambu’s predictions, will be characterised by the same factionalism as the preceding five.
We need to look no further than the horse-and-pony show the ANC has become before and after Zuma’s ascent for evidence of what’s to come. One would hope the incomprehensible comedy has, for now, reached its peak with Tuesday’s three farcical Luthuli House press conferences and Wednesday’s summary suspension of Julius Malema, but it's entirely possible with eight months to go until the party's electoral conference, we're only now warming up.
The party’s secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, spoke on Tuesday about actions apparently alien to the ANC, such as using the organisation's celebrations to sow division and discord. He also said the party discouraged raising individuals or personalities above the organisation because this created personality cults. But to ascend to lead the organisation, Zuma elevated himself (or allowed himself to be elevated) above the organisation, creating a cult of Zuma supporters and, by default, a cult of those opposed to him. Those for and against him subordinated their loyalty to the organisation in favour of personalities. Such is the extent of the subordination that Zuma’s supporters swore to kill for him. Presumably it would be those opposed who’d be killed, even if they were ANC members.
That the same people who swore to kill for him –Julius Malema and Zwelinzima Vavi – are the ones that now want him out typifies what’s become of the party under Zuma and is a harbinger of what’s to come.
Of course Zuma’s predecessor Thabo Mbeki was not blameless in this. He’d probably get the title of the second worst ANC president, solely for his role in creating the situation in which members of an organisation that is, by design, collectivist congealed around individuals.
The ANC today is a shadow of the movement it once was largely because of the factionalism that arose from Zuma’s leadership tussle with Mbeki. After taking the helm of an organisation where 40% of the ordinary members voted for the man he defeated, Zuma did far too little to reconcile and reunite warring factions. That surely was something you would expect even a so-so leader to do.
If Zuma truly subscribed to the ANC’s philosophy of the party above all else and were he a man of foresight and character, he ought to have foreseen how divisive his battle with Mbeki would be. What clearer picture did he need of the divisions than ANC members wearing T-shirts bearing his face burning those bearing that of his predecessor? And what clearer picture that those divisions continue to exist does he need other than seeing ANC members torch T-shirts bearing his face?
Instead now, as he did then, he issues stern rebukes, but seemingly does not recognise his own role in the existence of the divisions.
The party’s collectivist nature was always going to be under pressure from the outside as Western values clashed with African perspectives. But by subverting collectivism from the inside, Zuma did more damage than any outside influence ever could have done. Now even contests for lower positions within the party are increasingly staked on individuals and personalities not the greater good of the organisation.
I've said before that for all his ingratiating rhetoric about ending factionalism in the ANC, Zuma can never actually follow through on this because factionalism is how he rose to power. I also said the only way Zuma can end factionalism is to eliminate all opposing factions. With Malema's summary suspension, I guess that’s what he's opted for. But he’d best be sure to get all those opposed, because the bruising battles in which he’s engaged create hurt feelings that fester and grow before returning for vengeance. DM
- ANALYSIS: the DA's battle to buddy up to the everyman
- SA's very own ‘Made in Israel’ war of words
- Limpopo textbooks - only the beginning of basic education's woes
- Fixing the criminal justice system starts by rooting out corruption at the top
- This time Cosatu rebuts the divisive youth wage subsidy with words, not stones
- The broad church means the ANC is too big not to fail
- Opposition MPs stake their claim on foreign relations morality in Tibet debate
- Lindiwe Sisulu's message of change
- Crisis or challenge, school infrastructure is nowhere near where it should be
- Political forecast for the week of 18 June: E-tolls, looming strikes, eurozone meltdowns and premiers on bikes
- PSC report could be straw that breaks some premiers' backs
- Art in a sling: Breaking walls and building a nation in paint and print
- Fighting graft with faith: Western Cape religious leaders talk corruption
- Basic education: Some gloom, some doom and a mountain still to be done
- SA's new political tool: Freedom of Cape Town for the Obamas
- Education: Waiting for the dam to burst
- Mthethwa to challenge Western Cape community safety bill
- Public sector unions and government set on a collision course
- Cabinet's mid-term report card: F for fail
- Despite objections, government stands by e-tolling
- Zwelinzima Vavi: Political consciousness leaves quietly
- E-education: A virtual dream for many public school students
- Cape Town's vision 2040
- The Spear: Black anger and white obliviousness
- Employment: Western Cape model provides glimmer of hope
- Brainstorm: The state of income inequality in South Africa
- Reporter's notebook: Decoding the Democratic Alliance
- As one struggle continues, the other should not be forgotten
- Analysis: The youth wage subsidy should not go the way of the nationalisation debate
- Another internecine war rocks the government
- Analysis: DA's young Turks tackle the race issue
- Despite indications to the contrary, South Africa's democracy is growing up
- South Africa: War criminals' holiday destination no more?
- Africa goes hi-tech: But where are all those keen investors?
- A warning for mankind: Beware the new Big Brother
- Gents, rape isn't a thing that only other men do
- Partisan dust-up over rights of the disabled goes nowhere
- Eish, DA!
- SA news media: under pressure AND under magnifying lens
- The ANC and the battle for the 'born-frees'
- Fighting shadows: How money corrupts the ANC - and its plan to stop it
- Analysis: Will the ANC seriously consider party funding this year?
- Zuma is worst president ANC has ever had
- Tough lessons for Zille from refugee tweet debacle
- Top 10 battles raging within the tripartite alliance
- Cosatu defends 'principled position' at secrecy bill hearings
- Protests are a sign of ignorance of democracy's power
- Zimbabwe torture victims turn to SA courts
- The turbulent waters of the NPA's Zim email-strom
- Ladies and gentlemen, the contemplative Ms Mazibuko
- Refugee reactions show that South Africans stand apart from Africans
- Analysis: Steep learning curve for alliance in Western Cape
- Race is just a useful marker to distinguish the worthy from the unworthy
- UCT's admissions policy unearths middle-class black angst
- Analysis: Vavi hangs Zuma out to dry
- NGO hauls Motshekga to court over school infrastructure
- Cosatu also exploits the poor out of self-interest
- Cape Town ready for Cosatu city centre shut down
- Eastern Cape pupils picket for libraries and sanitation
- Wednesday: Over 35,000 expected in Cape Town CBD instalment of Cosatu-led nationwide protest
- Frivolous comparisons to apartheid are the only thing worse than apartheid
- Analysis: Radebe's egg-dance fails to impress as bumpy road awaits
- Analysis: The Constitutional Court is the next cow to the abattoir
- How voters' right to know is bought and sold in SA
- Helen Zille's sore spot
- Sex and sexuality in a time of societal malaise
- Cosatu takes anti-corruption fight to Free State
- Cosatu and corruption, the phantom menace
- Eat, the beloved country
- Who will take responsibility?
- Cape Town, world racism capital 2011?
- The ANC has only itself to blame for bad press
- New adult channel stokes South Africa's porn conundrum
- Carrots, sticks and Zille's latest HIV misstep
- Analysis: Just how liberal is the DA?
- Russell Tribunal deliberates Apartheid Israel amid "kangaroo court" claims
- Mogoeng's first day on the job
- Never mind creation, Gordhan's mini-budget focuses on job retention
- There is, thankfully, a Pedi word for big 'misunderstanding'
- Malema’s economic freedom lecture: Swansong or come-back hit?
- African leaders meet to talk job creation and labour standards
- Diversity a trump card as more endorsements come in for Mazibuko
- Rights groups cry foul as South Africa resumes deportations of undocumented Zimbabweans
- The day of the Archbishop's ire
- The DA's surprising proposal on domestic worker rights
- Mazibuko's star rises as she outlines her plan for the DA parliamentary caucus
- ANALYSIS: The Western Cape takes the thought leadership in job creation - now all we need is action
- ANC makes U-turn on secrecy bill - and lives to tell the tale
- Secrecy bill: to be or not to be - we're about to find out
- President's day of fun and amusement in Parliament
- Public Protector on participatory democracy, secrecy bill and her office's powers. And the country in trouble.
- Vettel victorious at Monza
- WikiLeaks cables go public, unfiltered
- Sisulu stands by decision to appoint Yengeni to defence review committee
- Vettel leads home a Red Bull 1-2 at Spa-Francorchamps
- Belgian Grand Prix: Preview
- Democratic Alliance eyes 2014 national elections with economic policy promise
- Analysis: Time for a fresh look at SA's global competitiveness
- Analysis: Missing history, lacking context bring back the great white-tax debate