The political contest which has much of the nation convulsed at the moment is difficult to predict, with many twists and turns yet to come. Ten days ago it seemed as if Zweli Mkhize was building momentum, then the Eastern Cape ANC held its conference and seemed to back Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Perhaps the only constant so far this year has been the apparent lack of support for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma outside of parts of KwaZulu-Natal. There are probably many reasons for this but the most important could be the motivations behind those who publicly back Dlamini-Zuma (and therefore Zuma as well) and those who back Ramaphosa. It may point to a difference between principle and money. By STEPHEN GROOTES.
These days, several organisations in South Africa appear to exist for no reason other than to back President Jacob Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. They do this in different ways on different issues, but in the end, the main aim is the same. Consider the Progressive Professionals Forum. On Monday it issued a statement criticising Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago because he had suggested that auditing firm KPMG was “too big to fail” and that banks should not stop using it for that reason. Within the statement Kganyago was accused of the “unethical protection of White Monopoly Companies”, and Zuma was called upon to investigate his comments.
It is obvious this really is an attempt to put pressure on the Reserve Bank using any possible option. It was about taking a side in the much bigger fight over KPMG and SARS, and of helping Zuma in his apparent agenda to weaken the Reserve Bank. If you look through many of the statements from the PPF, they are exactly the same; the forum supports the “changes at the National Treasury” that saw several officials being moved from positions they were acting in, they congratulate their president, Mzwanele Manyi, on his acquisition of The New Age and ANN7, and of course there is the delight in the announcement that they will host Dlamini-Zuma in a speaking engagement that no doubt saw much speaking but little engagement. Of course, there are several other issues mentioned, but they are very few and far between.
The same of course can be said for the ANC Women’s League. Its statements, those that can actually be understood, are generally explicit gestures of support for Dlamini-Zuma, or smack-downs of people like Angie Motshekga who have taken them on. The ANC Youth League is exactly the same (when it’s not being forced to defend its leader, Collen Maine, for allegedly accepting a bribe). And of course there is the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans association, a grouping which is surely not properly constituted anyway, after its last “conference” that saw people younger than 30 taking part.
These groups never seem to focus on the plight of women, or the youth, or even military veterans. The majority of their public comments are about the ANC, and why they believe Zuma should remain in office and be replaced only by Dlamini-Zuma. The only other issue they seize upon regularly is that of race. Of course, this is hugely important in our society, and should be addressed regularly. But unfortunately these groups tend to give the appearance of trying to use the issue of race for the political benefit of Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma. So, instead of an informed critique of banking and barriers to entry and how Capitec has made banking cheaper and at the same time perhaps “captured” a new class of people with bank accounts, there is just the same old “white monopoly capital” narrative, with very little attempt to properly examine our racialised inequality, or ways of changing it.
There are of course individuals who are exactly the same. Manyi is a good example, while Carl Niehaus, who now appears to be playing an important role for Dlamini-Zuma, is another. One is a self-confessed liar and a fraud, the other is a Gupta-created media “owner”.
In politics, it is difficult to determine whether anyone has principles or not. Those supporting Ramaphosa could be accused of simply hoping to benefit if he becomes ANC leader and then president.
It may be possible to create a test that could help us determine whether someone is acting out of principle or simply because to support someone will make them rich. The test might be to ask the question of whether a group or an individual will still have any prominence if their chosen candidate loses.
So, ask this question: if Zuma were to be removed from power and Dlamini-Zuma were to lose in December, what would happen to the Progressive Professionals Forum? What would happen to Manyi and Maine and Bathabile Dlamini and Kebby Maphatsoe at the MKMVA? Or BLF? Would they simply disappear from the political map, or would they still have a role to play? The key to this question probably lies in whether they have a natural constituency or not. If the only role they are playing now is as a cheerleader for someone, and if that someone loses, they are political toast.
It is worthwhile to now consider those who are supporting Ramaphosa. There seems to be a slightly different picture.
If he were to lose and Dlamini-Zuma to win, it seems likely that groups like Save SA and Business Leadership SA (who are surely punting for Ramaphosa) would continue on. People like Derek Hanekom and Pravin Gordhan and Gauteng ANC leader Paul Mashatile would surely continue the fight. As would the leaders of Cosatu (well, apart from S’dumo Dlamini) and the SACP. In fact, they may even be stronger if Dlamini-Zuma were to win. Their constituencies could even grow, as they would be fired up by the apparent “loss of the ANC”. It could be argued that they have everything to lose by taking on the incumbent, whereas people like Manyi and Niehaus were backing someone already in power.
This could suggest that they are backed by some kind of principle rather than the simple pursuit of money or political power for its own sake. But this is politics, and it may also be too easy to go that far. This test does not address those who could be supporting Ramaphosa out of the simple fear that a Dlamini-Zuma-led ANC would lose the 2019 election. But it does remind us again of how important it is to have a natural constituency, as Zuma did in KZN for so long. The SACP and Cosatu show the strength of Ramaphosa’s position here, compared to that of Dlamini-Zuma.
It may be that if Ramaphosa does win, this difference in motivation and the importance of a natural constituency are what will have made the difference. DM
Photo: eNCA/Herbert Opland
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