So strange is our political linguistics these days that when the Deputy President of the country states the obvious, that we need an inquiry into state capture, we all know that it really means he’s running for President. At the same time, when one of our President’s Ministers, Lindiwe Sisulu, travels to the Eastern Cape to receive the endorsement of an ANC branch, we know that something is very much in the works. Finally, it appears that the group of people who are going to contest the ANC’s December contest against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is becoming clear(ish). Still, they have a mountain to climb against the ex(?)-wife of the incumbent. By STEPHEN GROOTES.
Cyril Ramaphosa must have set up Sunday carefully. To share a platform with a person fired by President Jacob Zuma is a statement. For that person to be the man who was offered, and refused, a R600-million bribe by the Gupta family is to shout it out in neon lights. Mcebisi Jonas is seen in some quarters as a hero, along with Pravin Gordhan; he gets a standing ovation from many audiences. So when Ramaphosa actually stood up and made his comment about state capture, it was clear what he was doing. He was saying that he is going to be the standard-bearer of the movement against Zuma, and his ex(?)-wife.
For her part, considering her long role in the national executive committee and government, Lindiwe Sisulu made probably the most assertive political move of her career over the weekend. Formally, she did very little. She went to a meeting of an ANC branch. But that branch has said it will nominate her to be ANC leader. And she travelled all the way to the Eastern Cape for the occasion. This is not a surprise – Sisulu’s frustration with the status quo is obvious. When her husband Rok Ajulu died earlier this year, it was Sipho Pityana who delivered a speech at his funeral. With predictable results.
But Sisulu and Ramaphosa were making their moves after what had already been a busy week. ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe was also out and about in that part of the world, while earlier in the week ANC Treasurer Zweli Mkhize gave interviews both to Eyewitness News and Jacaranda FM.
It is clear that all of these people, Sisulu, Ramaphosa, Mantashe, Jonas and Mkhize, have the same agenda. They are opposed to Zuma, opposed to the reshuffle and removal of Gordhan, and opposed to Dlamini-Zuma. It is possible to say this with confidence because all have publicly criticised populism, which is surely a response to Dlamini-Zuma’s apparent lies, wild and factional demands for “radical economic transformation” and a solution to the land issue. Their public stances appear to line up.
Of course, it is entirely possible that each of them is acting entirely independently, that their comments and actions have been the result of frustration or happenstance. But in these times, that appears unlikely. At the very least, all of them will be aware that anyone who has ever gone up against Zuma on their own has lost. They will absolutely know that the only way to do this, to actually publicly criticise the president in this way and survive, is to work together.
And don’t forget, these are among the best political brains in the business we are talking about. All with their own long histories in the Struggle, and the ANC. If you were going to create a list of people likely to be seriously worried about the current situation facing the party, and who would also oppose Zuma, they would be near the very top of it.
And they would also absolutely know the value of working together.
One must also consider some of the events of the last eight months or so. It started with the SACP publicly attacking the Hawks’ boss, Mthandazo Berning Ntlemeza, and revealing he’d claimed to have a “mandate to pursue communists”. Then the party moved on to Hlaudi Motsoeneng, and more generally, the SABC. At the same time, after the local government elections, one by one, several high-ranking ANC MPs did the same thing. First it was Mathole Motshekga, who said the party had been wrong over Nkandla. Then Jackson Mthembu, who suggested Zuma and the entire NEC should step down. Other MPs have joined them, including Makhosi Khoza. In each case, it was stated loudly and proudly, in public. And in each case, no action was taken against them. Meanwhile, the momentum of the SACP’s anger continued to build, to the point where, less than 24 hours after Zuma’s reshuffle, they called on him to go. And the fact that Mantashe, Ramaphosa and Mkhize all sounded very similar in their reactions to Zuma’s reshuffle could not have been an accident.
This makes it likely that what we are seeing is a co-ordinated action: these people are starting something, and it could be big. If you are going to go against the Zuma2 machine (a band name whose time is unlikely to ever come) you will need lots of support, lots of organisation, and every big name you can summon. It is going to be tough and difficult. Zuma will bring all of the resources of the state against you, and he has shown many times that end always justifies the means.
One of the key decisions this group has to take along the way is who will be their “slate”, their group of leaders who will challenge the Dlamini-Zuma slate for the top six national leadership positions. At the moment it seems likely then this slate would include Ramaphosa, Mkhize, Mantashe and Sisulu. These are all names to reckon with, and have all spent much time on the national stage. But Jonas also brings certain attributes. He is, or could be, the symbol of transparency and clean government, because of the way he dealt with the Gupta offer. This gives him a certain power. His inclusion, say for the position of deputy secretary-general or treasurer, would be the symbol of what this group is actually fighting for, and of who it is actually fighting against. Other people up for consideration could, and should (from their point of view), include someone from Gauteng, such as its Premier David Makhura or provincial head Paul Mashatile.
Then there is the slate that Dlamini-Zuma would head. It would probably include David Mabuza, possibly Ace Magashula and maybe Supra Mahumapelo. Other names could include ANC KwaZulu-Natal leader Sihle Zikalala and possibly even Nomvula “let the rand drop” Mokonyane.
The contrast would be pretty incredible.
The other advantage for the “anti-Zuma” group to do things in this way would be to ensure the battle lines are cleanly drawn. Their message would be that a vote for them would be a vote for change and to end corruption, while a vote for the other side would be for the status quo, which in itself is certainly not a sustainable option that would help ANC keep its national electoral advantage.
The second big decision this group has to take is this: is it possible to fight an ANC election cleanly, and still win? In official ANC documents the party laments the slates, vote-buying (it calls it gate-keeping), and the general usage of measures designed to control the vote. In the end, it comes down to how many branches you can create and control. To put it crudely, it boils down to money. A hardcore cynic might claim that in fact the winner could well be the side with the most cash on hand the night before the vote. (Maybe that is taking it too far, though.)
It would seem likely that it actually is impossible to fight cleanly and still win. In which case, either you have to build such a commanding lead early on that it’s impossible to reverse in a crooked fashion, or you have to fight dirty. Which again leads to a discussion about whether the ends justify the means. Many might say that considering the situation we are in now, the answer is a very clear yes. Others may disagree.
What is surely true is that this fight is going to be long and dirty. The anti-Zuma group will have to be careful and will need every single person they can get on board. They need to avoid unnecessary fights, they must ensure they don’t squabble over positions.
They could be the ANC’s last chance to retain its soul.
This fight is for something much more important than all of that. It is for the heart and soul of the ANC, and the future of our country. It will not be pretty. But will it be effective? DM
Photo: Cyril Ramaphosa, Zweli Mkhize, Gwede Mantashe, Lindiwe Sisulu, Mcebisi Jonas, David Makhura, Paul Mashatile.
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