In any attempt to analyse how we got to this very worrying point in our current polity, one must draw on our past. Where does President Jacob Zuma come from and how have we ended up with having to deal with him?
First, I would like to make a bold statement that it was not only the membership of the ANC that elected Zuma into his presidential position at Polokwane. Business South Africa was also very supportive of his ascendency to the highest office of the Union Building. They shared a common hatred towards former President Thabo Mbeki and his reign as President.
ANC comrades hated President Mbeki for being an inconsiderate or aloof intellectual who always thought he knew best and showed up various ministers in their ineptitude and incompetence during his tenure. Luthuli House hated him because he increasingly allowed policy development to become a government function and in that way side-lined the ANC and its influence on government strategy and policy direction.
But the captains of industry also hated the man because as a developmental economist he started hitting corporate South Africa where it hurts most, their bottom line. He did this by legislating the various charters governing industries, insisting on black ownership of various companies in a number of key sectors. And by refusing government contracts if companies were unable to demonstrate black shareholding and ownership patterns.
He also constantly reminded white South Africans of the historic injustice blacks have had to endure over the centuries. Something they hated with such a passion. “Can’t we just move on as Mandela advocated?” they lamented. Mbeki came to carry the derogatory titles of an Africanist, a racist and an absent foreign policy president.
But that all came to an abrupt end during those fateful eight days in September 2008. The then NEC of the ANC saw an opportunity to rid themselves of this African intellectual once and for all. And they sure got rid of him.
Add in the black spots of the HIV/Aids tragedy and the handling of the Zimbabwe crisis, and both the ANC and the private sector were happy to see Mbeki’s back. Little did they know what a political tsunami would be unleashed in his wake.
But Zuma’s rise to political prominence started a long way back. He has an illustrious Struggle history, both in the country and during his exile years. No one will deny that he earned his stripes in the army of liberation and the struggle for the emancipation of all the people of Mzansi.
One of the common mistakes that people make however is to state that he was the Intelligence head of the ANC in exile, which is technically not correct. I say technically because actually there were three individuals who were collectively responsible for intelligence gathering in the ANC during those days: military intelligence, headed by Ronnie Kasrils, internal intelligence spearheaded by Jacob Zuma, and the external intelligence mandate under Joe Nhlanhla. So it is simply not true that Zuma was the head of intelligence of the entire ANC. He was head of internal intelligence.
I mention this only to dispel this notion that Zuma somehow is “ever present” and able to employ a cloak-and-dagger skills set to deal with his political opponents. I’m sure his experiences in intelligence help but Zuma is actually just a clever political animal who should not be undermined.
As soon as he ascended to the presidency, unlike Mbeki, he plotted a succession strategy.
His first choice was Zweli Mkhize. Unfortunately that fell through after the chosen candidate dared to suggest that maybe the president should consider an early exit, especially after the Constitutional Court ruling on his dereliction of duties as president of the Republic.
Plan B had to be initiated. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma entered the fray. If possible prosecution is facing me as the president, I would need someone that I can trust to a certain extent but also someone that will not want to see me in prison, especially if I’m the father of her children, Zuma must have considered.
To fulfil this domestic need, the African Union was left wanting. After fighting so hard to see the first woman commissioner in the driving seat, it is a travesty that the AU is all but left to its own devices. After such a dramatic political manoeuvring process it is nothing short of disgusting that we left the AU in the hands of the weakest state on our beloved continent, Chad.
Chad, and hence the AU, is no doubt now being managed by their former colonial masters, France. Yes, thanks to our dear President Zuma and his political need for his ex-wife in his succession plan, South Africans have surrendered the AU to the French.
But this was just another move in a carefully planned and orchestrated struggle for full control. A process of purging was orchestrated by the teetotaller, long before Dlamini-Zuma’s return to South Africa.
Zuma made sure that he changed the leadership of the ANC Youth League. The then President of the Youth League, Julius Malema, his blue-eyed boy, had to go. He was becoming a thorn in Zuma’s flesh. And so Collen Maine –that chap they call Oros, who read closely from the Bell Pottinger script – came to light. Then Zuma got rid of the President of the Women’s League (Angie Moshekga, current Minister of Basic Education) and replaced her with a most incompetent person (think TravelGate, think Sassa grants, think smallanyana skeletons… that’s the one), need I say more. And finally, he had to make sure that he took charge of the MK veterans’ league leadership, hence we have Kebby Maphatsoe and the likes of Carl Niehaus now. These lapdogs are doing Zuma’s and the Guptas’ bidding.
I have previously written about the state of affairs in the various provinces and how political turmoil is playing out in each one of them. I won’t bore you with these details again. Suffice to say that a political tsunami called Zuma is causing havoc on all fronts and in all provinces with the run-up to the December elective conference of the ANC in order to ensure that provincial cadres are in line with his wishes. He has had various degrees of success on these fronts.
The third matter is taking total control of the state apparatus, especially the security cluster. Here Zuma got rid of so many DGs in the intelligence agencies and other persons of importance in the Hawks, NPA and SAPS Crime Intelligence.
With these three master strokes, we can safely say Zuma is fully in charge.
As for Mama Zuma, as she is affectionately called, she is a good comrade. She cut her political teeth under OR Tambo’s leadership in exile and sharpened her skills sets under Mandela’s and Mbeki’s leaderships in government. She has always acted in an exemplary fashion and, bar the Sarafina debacle early in her ministerial exposure, very few will be able to find fault with this remarkable comrade.
However, and she knows this, one cannot ignore the team she is associated with in the run-up to the presidency in the ANC and ultimately the country. The less said about the unethical, corrupt and unprincipled Premier League the better. She is aware that she will be deeply compromised with this team and crop of so-called cadres. She is also acutely aware that more than 90% of the current NEC will have to go permanently. In fact, if it were up to me, she should retain only those under 50 years old – Fikile Mbalula, Malusi Gigaba, Nathi Mthethwa, Andries Nel, Lindi Zulu, Ayanda Dlodlo, to mention a few, must remain. The rest should tsamaya permanently. Retire, take a golden handshake, I don’t care, but do not return to the political fray in the ANC and government.
Our cunning and ruthless teetotaller has played a long and dirty game to ensure his political survival and a particular outcome at the December elective conference. So, after all these efforts, does he really intend to subject himself or his faction to an objective voting process at conference? Do you think he will trust an honest and fair process, where the best man or woman will win?
When we pray for the rain, we must deal with the mud. Zuma was the rain we thought would bring prosperity and growth but instead we got the mud of dirty politics, political killings, corruption, junk status and state capture.
Fair play, as we have observed, is not in the teetotaller’s vocabulary.
Your move, Cyril. DM
Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is an active fellow of the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflections (MISTRA) and is a trustee for the Kgalema Mothlante Foundation