President Jacob Zuma closed the ANC’s 2012 national conference in Mangaung on Thursday night as a conquering victor after crushing any and all forms of dissent in the party. An array of political corpses lie strewn on the Mangaung battlefield as Zuma and a new band of enforcers take charge of the party, ready to change course and lead the ANC with an iron-fist. Their victory was sweeping and seminal. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY/NewsFire.
It might not have occurred to Jacob Zuma that many in the gallery of eminent ANC leaders purged from the party leadership in Mangaung this week were once among his fiercest supporters in his battle against Thabo Mbeki. Fikile Mbalula, Paul Mashatile, Cassel Mathale, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa were all on his side five years ago when Zuma and Mbeki fought for the presidency of the ANC.
Kgalema Motlanthe was his deputy and the man he would later trust with the presidency of South Africa when Mbeki was defeated, humiliated and recalled from office.
Five years ago in the giant tent in Polokwane, on the closing day of the ANC’s 52nd national conference, all these men clapped and sang triumphantly in praise of the man they helped carry to the presidency of the party, against the odds. In exactly five years, these men have now come to represent the defeated. Most of them were absent from the closing session of the 2012 conference, mortified by a badly fought campaign against Zuma and humiliated by how things turned out for them.
Another set of notables has taken their place as the conquerors.
In the midst of Zuma’s final moment of glory after the announcement of the newly-elected National Executive Committee (NEC), dominated by his new band of his supporters, the president stopped in the middle of a passionate rendition of a song in praise of the ANC’s former leaders and said: “I wonder how it must be to be outside the ANC,” before laughing and continuing his song.
It was the final insult to the group of ANC leaders who dared to go against him in his march towards his second term as the part leader. Demeaned, they have no place to go after being voted out of the ANC’s senior leadership. They will have to stand back and watch the new leadership take over, with their options restricted to no-win scenarios of joining another political party, starting their own or remaining powerless in the ANC as it changes course towards a more authoritarian leadership style.
Motlanthe, a former Robben Island prisoner and party deputy president, Sexwale, a former death row inmate, Mashatile, detained without trial for four years and Mbalula, former president of the ANC Youth League, will find it untenable to be outside the ANC fold, where they spent their entire adult lives. They will probably have to sit out the next five years under the new band of ANC leaders, hoping that the party changes it again at next national conference.
Zuma’s camp did not only make a clean sweep of leadership positions in the Top Six positions and the NEC, they also stamped their authority on constitutional and policy amendments. The ANC constitution is being amended to strengthen internal disciplinary processes in order to quell dissent from members and alliance partners.
After making an example of the former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, the party will institute disciplinary action against any ANC member, office bearer or public representative “doing any act or making any utterance which brings or could bring or has potential to bring, or as a consequence thereof brings, the ANC into disrepute.”
The ANC has also come out forcefully against members who challenge the party and its decisions publicly, particularly through the courts.
In his closing address, Zuma said through “decisive action against ill-discipline, we will be able to root out all the tendencies that we have identified over the years.”
“These include factionalism, the sowing of disunity and confusion within the movement, the use of money to buy members, positions or influence in the organisation, the hurling of insults or even worse, the attacks on members of the ANC.”
He went on to say: “We will be able to deal with the comrades who disrupt ANC meetings and those who want the ANC to be now run on technicalities and through the courts.”
“The NEC must develop a code of conduct booklet to be circulated to all branches within the first quarter of 2013,” Zuma said.
The ‘Forces of Change’ campaign, initiated to canvass for leadership at Mangaung, particularly targeting Zuma, is now so defeated that they have all but given up. Some of the leaders left the conference when the sway and dominance of the Zuma camp became evident. They threw in the towel on debates in commissions and in the plenary. The issue of nationalisation, which was used as a proxy campaign against Zuma, was wiped completely off the table with no fight back whatsoever from the lobby which campaigned for it.
While the ANC’s June policy conference resolved to support strategic nationalisation of key sectors of the economy as part of a move towards radical economic policy change, it was announced to the media on Thursday that the resolution on economic transformation now states that there should be “increased state ownership in strategic sectors where deemed appropriate on the balance of evidence”.
The defeat of the hard-fought policy conference resolution on economic transformation is the final nail in the coffin of the ANC Youth League’s “economic freedom in our lifetime” campaign and also goes against Cosatu’s push for radical economic policy change.
Malusi Gigaba, now one of Zuma’s key lieutenants and the Public Enterprises Minister, told NewsFire that there was no contest in the plenary session of the conference to the amended resolution on nationalisation. This is in stark contrast to the intense debates on nationalisation that raged at the ANC’s national general council in 2010 and the policy conference.
After Zuma’s re-election, his loyalists made an immediate move to disband the ANC Youth League national executive, which had become the base of internal opposition in the ruling party. A belief that the League has become a law unto itself is propelling moves to reduce the League’s powers and influence and to reign in their militancy.
At the conference on Wednesday night, Gigaba and KwaZulu-Natal secretary Sihle Zikalala motivated for the incoming NEC to assess and deal with the League, still under the acting leadership of Ronald Lamola after Malema’s expulsion. The voice of the Youth League has however already been curbed; Lamola and others in the leadership were largely absent during the conference and completely restrained.
NewsFire also understands that there will be a move early next year to disband the provincial executive committee of Limpopo. That province has also been dissenting against Zuma’s leadership and fought to maintain its pro-change stance in the run-up to Mangaung. Mathale is also in the firing line, with rumours circulating of his possible arrest and firing.
In two provinces where the pro-Zuma leadership faced court action from the Forces of Change, the North West and Free State, provincial leaders are fighting to suppress dissent. Immediately after the Mangaung conference ended on Thursday night, provincial leaders Ace Magashule and Supra Mahumapelo (both staunch Zuma supporters) called their delegations into a joint caucus to stamp their authority.
The ANC’s new deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa seems to have read immediately where the balance of power lies. He was given the opportunity to make his maiden address to the ANC by reading out the conference declaration in the closing session and began by chanting in praise of Zuma. He also commended South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande on a rambling message he delivered to the conference earlier in the afternoon in which he lashed out at the media and critics of the president.
“If you notice media heroes are all those who have made it their pastime to attack, ridicule or sought to present themselves as being above the ANC. That’s what independence has come to mean today. That is why every Tom Dick and Harry, including pseudo intellectuals and intellectual charlatans, who seek some publicity today must attack especially President Zuma, the ANC, the alliance and government,” said Nzimande.
“In fact the print media, with very few exceptions, has in the run up to this conference, attacked the ANC, its current leadership and the government it leads. Yet in Friday’s papers they all of a sudden pretend to be giving delegates to this Conference some seemingly sober advice. As the SACP we are tempted to say do not take this advice from the media as it is toxic and not good for the health of the ANC, our Alliance and indeed our revolution as a whole,” he said.
South Africa will feel the assertion of the new ANC very soon. The new year opens with the ANC’s 101st anniversary to be held on Zuma’s home turf in Durban. It is bound to be as triumphalist as the national conference closing ceremony. Zuma will deliver his State of the Nation address in early February, bolstered by the ANC’s renewed confidence in his leadership after a controversy-plagued 2012.
The ANC is likely to command its parliamentary caucus to close ranks in support of Zuma as the opposition’s motion of no confidence will come before the House early next year.
The Forces of Change are flattened and will never recover. Theirs is not just a defeat but a dramatic upheaval to their political lives. They will be under siege and some might be hounded out of their positions in government.
The ANC will face its biggest challenge since liberation in the 2014 national elections with the new Mangaung leadership having to decide the best way to maintain the ANC’s electoral dominance.
For South Africa, 2012 was seminal. Marikana and Mangaung changed the country forever. The future will be imperfect. DM
Photo: Jacob Zuma (Greg Nicolson/NewsFire)
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