South Africa

The last weekend before Mangaung: Action and missing in action

By Greg Nicolson 10 December 2012

With less than a week to go before ANC delegates take over Mangaung, party president Jacob Zuma’s supporters and detractors scrabbled to get in the last, definitive word. In the defending champion’s corner, Zuma ignored damning reports in the press and showed he is still the man in charge. The Forces of Change challenger, Kgalema Motlanthe, meanwhile, went missing. By GREG NICOLSON.

For President Zuma, the weekend could hardly have been more stately. International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane accompanied him on a visit to Tanzania for an extraordinary South African Development Community summit. On the agenda was trouble in the Democratic Republic of Congo and members were urged to commit to a standing SADC peacekeeping force of 4,000 to be deployed to the troubled eastern DRC.

Back in the country, it was Zuma who allayed fears about former president Nelson Mandela’s health. On Sunday he went straight to the Pretoria hospital to which Mandela was admitted, with his spokesman Mac Maharaj saying Madiba is “comfortable and in good care”.

It was the second time Zuma and Mandela shared the headlines since Friday. “Mandela contributed R1m after JZ was fired by Mbeki,” read the Mail & Guardian Friday. Revealing an audit KPMG prepared for the state’s court case against Zuma, the newspaper detailed a list of Zuma’s benefactors who have helped him live beyond his paycheck. “The Mandela transfer, which has never been reported before, suggests that the retired elder statesman intervened directly in the battle between Mbeki and Zuma to back the latter in his hour of need. Before this, Zuma was more than R400,000 overdrawn on his various bank accounts,” the Mail & Guardian found.

The ANC called it a private affair and declined to comment while the Young Communist League, which supports Zuma, said the newspaper was using old news to influence the outcome of Mangaung. But things got worse for Msholozi. City Press featured images of the president’s Nkandla home, said to come at a cost of R248 million to the taxpayer, offering a clear image of the excess for the first time.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairman Zweli Mkhize hit back on Sunday. “We choose our leaders on the basis of the work that we see. We do not choose simply because someone appears on television or is on the front page of any newspaper,” he said at the University of Zululand. Writing in the Sunday Times and Mail & Guardian respectively, Zuma supporters Gwede Mantashe and Jeff Radebe also deflected criticism about the leadership race. In almost identical pieces, both highlighted the key issues of Mangaung: state intervention in the economy, land reform, and jobs.

Cosatu president, and Zuma backer, Sidumo Dlamini used the 30th anniversary of the National Union of Mineworkers to once again support Zuma’s second term. He said the first aim of Mangaung is “to unite the ANC and to come back with a strong team of leadership under comrade Jacob Zuma as the president of the ANC who will continue to be a glue that holds the ANC based on firm principles of discipline and a radical economic programme that will uplift the lives of the working class.”

It’s a strategy that’s worked so far. Most members recognise the party faces immense challenges. What’s the best way to address them? Either change the leadership, risking short term splits, or bunker down in a state of emergency and hope JZ will drag the party through (and put a coin or two into a few hip pockets in the process). Zuma has been nominated for president by six provinces, the ANC Women’s League and the ANC Veterans League. Only Gauteng, Limpopo, the Western Cape and the ANC Youth League have nominated Motlanthe.

In the final days before Mangaung, both camps want to get closer to victory through negotiation. City Press reported that Zuma supporters want Motlanthe to accept the status quo and in exchange it’s unlikely Cyril Ramaphosa will contest his deputy president position. The Forces of Change, meanwhile, need to agree on a slate that its big hitters like Paul Mashatile, Tokyo Sexwale, Fikile Mbalula and Thandi Modise can accept. 

Mashatile, the party’s Gauteng chairman, told delegates on Sunday they need to vote in Mangaung with “one voice” but they will be engaging with other provinces as they push Motlanthe’s campaign. Speaking at the provincial general council meeting, he said, “In all we do, we must ensure that the ANC emerges stronger, more united, more vibrant and more capable of leading the national democratic revolution,” reported Sapa. “This provincial general council must reiterate that for the ANC to effectively lead the national democratic revolution it needs to renew itself and be more vibrant so that it remains relevant to the changing conditions of struggle both locally and internationally.”

The ANCYL also used the weekend before Mangaung to champion the Forces of Change. “Kgalema remained a principled leader of the ANC. He sticks to the policies and principles of the ANC, and the Constitution of the country,” acting ANCYL leader Ronald Lamola told City Press. His former comrade, Floyd Shivambu, still trying to remain relevant, wrote a love letter titled “The case for Kgalema Motlanthe”. Zuma, says the former Young Lions spokesman, “brings a sense of discomfort and is the most divisive and stratifying leader that ANC had to deal with since its fifth president, Pixley ka Isaka Seme in the 1930s.”

What, you may ask, does Motlanthe have to say for himself? The deputy president was due to visit Nelson Mandela in Qunu before he took ill but the trip was cancelled, according to Motlanthe’s spokesman Thabo Masebe, when the deputy president (who was acting president while Zuma was in Tanzania) had urgent work to do. He was quiet over the weekend and his spokesman said Motlanthe spent Sunday on a private visit to the St Engenas Zion Christian Church in Limpopo.

He will need all the prayer he can get as Zuma looks to have cemented another term as ANC president. Motlanthe speaks this morning at the close of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign and must accept or decline nomination for the ANC presidency in the next few days. How successful have the negotiations between the Forces of Change groupings been? What effect will the turbulent and destructive branch nomination process have? We shall know in a week’s time. DM

Photo by Reuters.

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"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall

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