President Jacob Zuma’s name is unlikely to be used in history books in the same sentence as “principled”. So often principles and rules have been bent to accommodate him and his ambitions – but would it be right to do the same in an effort to oust him from power? By CARIEN DU PLESSIS.
It’s a decade since those heady days of 2007 when President Jacob Zuma took the ANC grassroots by storm, preaching his gospel in deep isiZulu in party meetings in marquees. He needed to become the party’s president, because, his supporters said, it was tradition in the ANC for the deputy to become the president.
They weren’t wrong. That’s the way the ANC had been doing it up to that point, although the reason they were pushing Zuma were not because of this tradition, but because they wanted Zuma to become president. Mostly they liked the fact that he wasn’t Thabo Mbeki and that he was planning to push economic policy to the left.
Among these traditions there was inconsistency in their principles. At the ANC’s conference in Polokwane that same year, the party managed to push through a laudable 50-50 gender quota in the national executive committee. The principle was that more women should be accommodated in leadership positions because the ANC was a party of gender equality. It’s also, alas, become a party of slates, which meant that, because there were set names on the slates already that didn’t include too many women, talk of extending that quota to the top six or even the two positions in the presidency died a quiet death on the debating floor.
With some foresight a female deputy at the time could have heeded perfectly to the current call for a woman president, but foresight isn’t something that flourishes in an environment of whipped up emotions.
Besides, the call for a woman president hardly seems to be out of principle, but rather because it suits an individual, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She’s been in the African Union for the past four years and hasn’t had time to be deputy president, but suddenly, because of her, the party’s ready to move the goalposts in order to shove Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa aside.
Now in 2017, many of those who were invested in Zuma the superhero 10 years ago are now invested in his downfall. Unseating him through a vote of no confidence is a good, solid option available, but there’s only opportunism and no principle in the call for a secret ballot.
The whole point of a democratic parliament is more transparency, not less, seeing that the representatives were placed there by voters to speak on their behalf. Changing the transparency to secrecy just because one man is trying to bully others into doing their business under cover would mean principle has lost out already.
Those campaigning for Ramaphosa to be elected ANC president in December are trying to project him as a man of principle. But do they have principles themselves? What happened to, say, the SA Communist Party’s fight to put the economy on a different, more left-leaning trajectory? That’s why they ousted Mbeki, after all.
Back then they were convinced that Zuma was the man to lead South Africa to the left, and they were conveniently willing to overlook the corruption charges against him. Now, suddenly, his alleged corruption is what keeps them awake at night.
Further, Ramaphosa, as a former businessman, is hardly likely to risk alienating other business people by implementing the kind of policies the SACP would favour. Did he whisper assurances to the party’s allies that he would be on their side, in exchange for their support in December?
Also, despite the fact that Ramaphosa is trying to project himself as Mr Clean, there are Zuma supporters who claim that his guys have been playing dirty too. The attempted dissolution of the party’s Zuma-supporting regional structure in Cape Town by the Ramaphosa-leaning provincial executive council has been cited as one such an occasion.
Some in the Western Cape then complained that the provincial structure had completely lost touch with the regional structures there, of which many support Zuma. As the conference comes closer and the power dynamics shift, a whole lot of this foul play from both sides is to be expected.
Also, there’s quite a bit of money involved when these future party heads campaign, and because there’s not a lot of transparency on this score, there will inevitably be dodgy dealings.
Back to the ousting of Zuma – many attempts to get rid of him in the ANC have failed, and Ramaphosa’s supporters have realised that there would have to be co-operation with some who might have different principles but the same goals.
Thus, for instance, you’d see them encourage the efforts of the likes of the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance to vote Zuma out.
The courts have also been used in many instances to fight this fight, and might be used on Tuesday again – there seems to be a whole lot of donor money in circulation for litigation right now. The question is just whether a deluge of cases could strengthen or weaken these institutions, and whether those fighting to get rid of Zuma have stopped to think about this.
The celebration of victory without principle could be pretty short-lived. DM
Photo: President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa during the Women’s Day celebration held at Harry Gwala Multi-Purpose Centre in Sasolburg, Free State.09/08/2015 Kopano Tlape GCIS