Allow me to start this piece by plagiarising Thabo Mbeki’s famous speech and saying, “I am an Mbeki-ite.” The former president could move me with his (written) speeches and the mannerism in which he would deliver them. The same with his successor, Kgalema Motlanthe — his ethical leadership held me in awe.
With that said, I believe that the African National Congress’s local government election campaign of whipping the former heads of state together with the former deputy president and the former Executive Director of UN Women, among others, will not yield outstanding results. I hold the opinion that the ANC’s brown sheep, former president Jacob Zuma, has done more for the ANC’s election machinery with his last two addresses where he pleaded for the party loyalists to cast their vote in favour of the party.
With his bag full of shortcomings, Jacob Zuma has managed to do more than what Mbeki, Motlanthe and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka have been able to this past week as a lead to Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign trail.
The ANC and Ramaphosa’s strategy here is clear, whip out leaders who are seen as “ethical” and “true cadres” of the movement. Those who epitomise the values of OR Tambo and others. The belief that the party’s campaign management hopes to achieve is that of “clean and ethical governance”, which is what President Ramaphosa preached when addressing local government candidates and party members during the launch of their manifesto just a few weeks back. The hope here is that these party heavyweights will preach the same gospel and their “perceived” stature will drive this message.
Will this be the case?
The reality they seem to forget is that there is still deep-rooted hatred within some factions in the movement of Thabo Mbeki based on his relationship with Zuma — the Pied Piper of those who see themselves as being marginalised by the party.
On the other hand, Mlambo-Ngcuka is still perceived as being an Mbeki-ite. This is further compounded by the fact that she does not wield as much influence in the ANC’s matriarchy as Bathabile Dlamini or the likes of Nomvula Mokonyane. Her voice will not move nor sway those who have long taken sides.
While Mkhuluwa Kgalema Motlanthe showed ethical leadership by coming out and declaring that there should be an investigation when his wife was accused of benefiting from government deals, the current president has only paid lip service in Parliament by promising to drag his children to the police station when there are signs of wrongdoing. He simply did nothing, and kept mum when his son was implicated.
President Ramaphosa has not walked the talk when it comes to ethical leadership. The Zweli Mkhize affair proves just that. The former minister of health was placed on “special leave” — funny, his position has been filled and under the Cabinet reshuffle, the former minister has no portfolio. The question, therefore, is from which position is he on “special leave”?
The same with Deputy Minister Zizi Kodwa who has been implicated in some dubious loans at the Zondo Commission.
President Ramaphosa and his campaign team have shown us that the cogs in the ANC’s election machinery are not in sync.
Let’s get back to the brown sheep Zuma. In his last virtual address to those who had gathered to “welcome” and “pray” for him, the former president was able to deal a blow to the current campaign by coming out and saying there are those who “speak of shortcomings and failures” of the ANC and in doing so they “sponsor their own urgency”. That is a classic move there. The message is that the former presidents and deputy president — if they are going to speak of acknowledging the failures of the ANC and throwing every apology in the book in the hope of winning votes — have been dealt a blow. Zuma has come out to say they are “sponsoring their own urgency”.
So crafty was Jacob Zuma that he went as far as urging those who have opted to leave the party and become independent candidates to come back to the party. In a nifty way, he preempted the party’s upcoming 55th national conference and said that the “enemy” must be “taken out”.
One must not waste time and shed a tear for the current leadership and the state in which the ANC has found itself. They have over the years brought this upon themselves. I have written before that a motion of no-confidence was brought against Jacob Zuma eight times and the ANC defended him eight times. In that way, they created a Frankenstein monster who went on to endear himself with the masses as the victim of “the party that is his home”.
Whipping up the so-called big guns in the form of Mbeki, Motlanthe and Mlambo-Ngcuka, and even invoking the spirit of Nelson Mandela, will not help the ANC. The former three appeal largely to the middle class, and the ANC is a movement, as from history, of the oppressed and downtrodden. The sneaky Jacob Zuma knows that. His calling back people to vote for the ANC is not for the benefit of the ANC but a strategy to call back people to remove those who currently hold office.
As to who he is preparing to endorse and sway the masses to, the next campaign in the run-up to the ANC conference will tell us.
The local government election strategy with the list of keynote addresses we saw during last week is like having three punctured tyres and bringing three flat spare wheels to try and get the car back on the road. As much as I admire the leadership that is Mbeki, Motlanthe and Mlambo-Ngcuka, there is nothing they can do to salvage Ramaphosa and the ANC’s upcoming failure in the local government elections. DM