It’s been near-obvious for some time now there’s been a long-running plot within the ANC to weaken Jacob Zuma; a group(s) of people that use events to their own advantage, that pushed, prodded and manipulated things to make sure they were stronger and Zuma weaker ahead of Mangaung. And now the Sunday Independent has given them a name and a face; it seems the main mover and shaker is Tokyo Sexwale. But after the last failed attempt, is he really going to get it together this time? By STEPHEN GROOTES.
Think about how Zuma’s “love” child crawled into the open just before his State of the Nation speech last year, or about how ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa represented Julius Malema during his disciplinary hearing, at a time when Zuma’s very authority over the party seemed to be on the line. And in 2011, the damaging media reports of the Gupta family’s influence, massively expensive renovations to Zuma’s residences, Schabir Schaik’s arrest and the Jimmy Manyi controversy flared up in close proximity of each other.
The Sunday Independent now claims the arrest of crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli (a move linked to what’s happening around Radovan Krejcir) has kicked up some serious political dust. The paper suggests there is a “secret 22-page” report in which details of a plot to unseat Zuma next year are discussed. Sexwale is the leader we’re told, but the other names are important in ANC politics, so we mention them. They are, in the order the paper lists them, Zweli Mkhize, Malema, Phosa, Fikile Mbalula, Jeff Radebe, Paul Mashatile, Cassel Mathale, David Mabuza, Thandi Modise, Enoch Godongwane, Bathabile Dlamini and Tony Yengeni. That’s quite a list. If the document is accurate, Zuma may well feel justified in asking “Et tu Zweli”. He and Mkhize are supposed to be close mates.
However, some of the other names are not surprising. Phosa has his own agenda (i.e. to be president himself), Malema has made his feelings known already, Mbalula was perhaps the fiercest supporter of Zuma before Polokwane, but recent WikiLeaks documents have suggested his support was far softer than previously believed, and more a result of Mbalula really not liking Mbeki that much. Radebe has always been ambitious and in Cabinet since 1994, so he’s hardly a natural Zuma-ite, while Mashatile was bruised badly by his failure to be appointed Gauteng premier.
It’s the usual story, the more powerful you are, the more enemies you create simply as a result of governing, both the party and the country. The strangest name seems to be that of national police commissioner General Bheki Cele. He and Zuma have been pretty much joined at the hip on policing issues, from the “tummy in, chest out” move to get cops fitter, to “shoot to kill” and the change from the South African Police Service to the South African Police Force. At the same time the claims of corruption around Cele just won’t go away, and there is a reason why so many journalists (led from the front so ably by Stefan Hoffstatter and Mzilikazi wa Afrika) have taken such an interest in him. But the support of cabinet and Zuma cannot be underestimated. Don’t forget that when the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela ruled it must take action on the tender that saw R500 million go to Roux Shabangu over 10 years for the new police headquarters, cabinet’s reaction was to send Radebe to “interact” with Madonsela. If cabinet changes its tune on Cele, then we’ll know Zuma has changed his tune on Cele too.
All of that being said, this is a powerful group of people and this report could explain a few things. There’ve been all sorts of rumours about Malema’s lifestyle, and how he could get set up in business. Perhaps we now know who his “sugar daddy” is. Although, we must say also no one has any proof of anything. But surely a big chunk of what Malema has been doing of late has been singularly aimed at weakening Zuma. Even his nationalisation fixation backs Zuma, whose hand is pretty much forced by his job of being the president, into a corner with the capitalists, which makes him less than attractive to your average ANC member.
Add to this the campaign to oust Mantashe. After last year’s ANC national general council it became obvious Zuma and Mantashe are politically one at the moment. They need each other. Zuma’s enemies know that and thus they’re attacking Mantashe. Mantashe is the coordinator, the man who kept things together when Cope was formed. Without him, Zuma might find the whole party ungovernable.
Then we must add our usual health warning when it comes to politics at the moment. Everyone is spinning for and against everyone else. It’s not just a South African phenomenon that politicians can find their worst enemies in their own party, and sometimes their most trusted friends in another party. It’s about climbing the greasy pole, and that pole is very greasy at the moment. Don’t forget what happened when Mbeki’s rule started to disintegrate, the way the security services started to bicker and fight. We’re talking about people with the power to tap cellphones, write “Browse Mole” reports, create commissions, start surveillance, manipulate spies and generally wreak havoc. And that’s before we start on who leaks to who and why. Don’t get us wrong, the Sunday Independent was right to run the story, it looks like the result of good journalism, just remember to ask the usual question, who benefits?
But enough with all the depressing stuff about chaos and disorder, now on to the more exciting bit, the reason why you’re still reading this: Could Sexwale succeed?
First, the cautionary tale. We’ve been here before, Sexwale running for the top job in the ANC. It backfired badly in 2007. He came out publicly, which was fatal. He had the politically foul air and sophistication of a billionaire, simply because he is one. His campaign drew oxygen from the media and nowhere else. He started too late and he didn’t have his own grass-roots constituency. It’s hard for him to say “I feel your pain” and be taken seriously by someone who lives in Diepsloot. Things got so bad we remember well a slightly pathetic scene involving a ton of mud, Sexwale’s large black beemer, and the fact that no matter what you do, gravity still sucks you down at 10m a second. After much fruitless wheel-spinning he had to abandon the attempt to climb the muddy hill, get out and walk. His leather uppers were probably never the same again.
Now, how could he actually do it? Firstly, Sexwale is a larger-than-life personality, in the media and on radio and television he’s no Apprentice, he’s a natural star. I once co-hosted a three-hour radio show with him on Talk Radio 702. It was a telethon to raise money. He has “it”, the X-factor, call it what you like, give him an audience, and he’ll have them in the palm of his hand. If he gets some momentum, on the hustings he’ll be an incredible candidate, a guy who can really sell himself, blessed with the memory that allows him to remember faces and names of ordinary people. He has money, literally shed-loads of it and that always helps. He was on Robben Island, and could probably lay a better claim to taking the mantle from Mandela than Zuma can.
While a capitalist website like this should normally jump at the chance to predict a billionaire’s success, we have to be cautious. Despite what many think, the fact is in the ANC you win through alliances. It’s not about how many people in the ANC vote for you, it’s about who backs you. Sexwale may be assembling an impressive alliance of his own right now. But he’s up against the ultimate alliance builders in Zuma and Mantashe.
It’s going to be a wonderful political battle. And come to think of it, during a local government election nogal. DM
Disclosure: Tokyo Sexwale’s Mvelapanda was a significant shareholder in Business Century, the publisher of Maverick magazine, a spiritual predecessor to The Daily Maverick.
Grootes is an EWN reporter.
Photo: Tokyo Sexwale addresses journalists in Cape Town October 25, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings.
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