With the diminishing shadow of the vanquished Zuma, Malema must be re-reading Machiavelli – the trump cards have fallen into his lap with a resounding thump. God, how he must be enjoying this.
If you were Malema you would be thinking – the stars have aligned, time to marshall the forces of destiny.
If you were Malema you would be thinking – the ANC is toast in 2019. A hung top six, a hung NEC, and a bunch of post-Zuma ghosts and thugs still gumming up the works.
If you were Malema you would be thinking – but I alone can save the ANC. I bring my 9%, perhaps more, into the ANC. And together we will again control all the cities, the provinces, the state and most importantly, the narrative.
If you were Malema you would be thinking – and for saving your sorry ass, I will tell you what I want. Oh yes, and you are going to give it to me.
Malema has been consistent and true to his most dearly held position – while his arch-nemesis Zuma was in power, he was going to insult, stonewall, resist, oppose and generally grind away at the edges of the ANC. He was extremely good at this, from internationally broadcast performance-art routines in Parliament to cunning municipal alliances with the DA, a party that he abhors. Malema was more than a political gadfly on the nose of the ruling party, he was a nest of hornets – loud, swarming and painful. But with the diminishing shadow of the vanquished Zuma, Malema must be re-reading Machiavelli – the trump cards have fallen into his lap with a resounding thump. God, how he must be enjoying this. I half suspect he might have DM’d Zuma – ‘Happy holidays and all the best for the future.’
Had the Zuma slate swept the NEC elections, there would have been little to discuss. Malema would have continued in his alliance with the DA and others, forced into an enraged oppositional stance by the continuation of the Zuma legacy. And then 2019, a possible ANC dip below 50%, and the chaotic world of coalition politics.
And had the CR slate swept the NEC elections, the trajectory of the ANC would have been very different. There would have been a rebirth, or at lest the perception of one. A great many of the disillusioned and once faithful would have returned, buoyed by the promise of technocracy and clean government, a commitment to solutions, a fix-it attitude and the removal of the ugly incompetent and corrupted stains of people like Busisiwe Mkhwebane at the Public Protector and Bathabile Dlamini at Social Security and Mosebenzi Zwane at Mineral Resources and Dudu Myeni at wherever she is now, to say nothing of the Guptas and Ace in the Free State and DD in Mpumalanga. And Malema and his party would have faded to sepia.
If that result had materialised, the ANC would have been back, with millions of re-animated voters rejoicing in the return of the imagined and real values of Mandela’s and Tambo’s ANC.
But it didn’t.
What we got was a milquetoast vote, a waffling, fearful, limp-waisted, perhaps, maybe, on-the-other-hand hedge. Which leaves the ANC pretty much where it was before, mired in corruption and incompetence, with a new leader who will have to fight off an impossibly tensile tangle of special interests to get charges against the big thieves pinned to the court doors.
Which opens a appetising pathway for Malema. He can bring millions of voters back to the ANC. Maybe not the ones they have permanently lost to the DA or SACP, but millions nevertheless. He can simply say – we’re back, and exchange the red overalls for civilian cloths and a tearful, huggy reunion. Solidly underpinned by the clear knowledge that CR desperately needs these votes in 2019.
But he needs more. He needs someone with the callous and scar of bruising combat and merciless manipulation to help him defang Ace and DD and Duarte. Malema has the stomach for this, I suspect. For all my problems with him (and they are manifold) I believe that he would relish this fight, and he would most likely win it.
And in return?
If you were Malema you would be thinking – a large ministry. Perhaps Treasury. Or Safety and Security. Or Home Affairs. And a couple more for my friends. And some premierships and some mayorships and ambassadorships. And some legislative changes here and there to feed my constituency.
And then the slow but steady march towards the biggest prize of all. DM
Award-winning and multi-shortlisted novelist Steven Boykey Sidley has meandered through careers as an animator, chief technology officer for a Fortune 500 company, jazz musician, software developer, video game designer, private equity investor and high technology entrepreneur. He currently lives in Johannesburg with his wife and two children. Free Association is his fourth and latest novel.
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