[DEBATE] : Now that the walls are down, knives come out for Zuma
rangreen at sn.apc.org
Mon Feb 11 06:29:43 GMT 2008
Posted to the web on: 11 February 2008
Now that the walls are down, knives come out for Zuma
SOUTH African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande recently notified the
owners of City Press that a workers´ boycott of the newspaper might soon become a matter
of historical inevitability. The impending vengeance of the proletariat was presented as well
deserved retribution for the paper´s alleged partisanship in African National Congress (ANC)
The piece that apparently triggered Nzimande´s outburst was headlined: Cracks in Zuma´s
national executive committee. The thrust of the story was that ANC president Jacob Zuma
had launched a "blistering attack" on fellow NEC members, accusing them of seeking to
advance ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and treasurer-general Mathews Phosa
for the positions of state president and deputy president next year.
Although City Press has indeed flirted with crude Mbeki partisanship, claims that the paper
was simply trying to destabilise the Zuma camp are not very convincing. Even ANC
secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has mysteriously confirmed that Zuma had to apologise
to the NEC for using the word "angry", although not, apparently, for actually being angry.
Strong independent indicators support City Press´s contention that many NEC members are
horrified at the prospect of a Zuma state presidency. One view is that Zuma has never
exercised much control over his destiny. When he was chosen by Thabo Mbeki to be ANC
deputy president and then state deputy president, his detractors portrayed him as an
unthreatening and loyal underling.
The rise of a "no-hoper" to the deputy presidency sparked the first rumours that Mbeki had
no intention of relinquishing power in either 2007 or 2009 - rumours that turned out to be
not altogether inaccurate. As it became clear that Zuma did not feature in Mbeki´s post-
Polokwane plans, cynics even speculated that Mbeki had counted all along on his deputy´s
vulnerability to prosecution.
The downtrodden deputy´s fight-back brought out his most admirable characteristics:
strength of purpose, boundless energy, enormous charm.
Zuma brilliantly courted Mbeki´s supposedly persecuted enemies: regional barons passed
over for offices they believed were their due, businesspeople circling the procurement
trough, and regionalist or ethnic political entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, because he was
formed in the same exile world as Mbeki, he was fishing from the same stagnant pool of
supporters. The Mbeki machine, with its command of state resources, was on course to
What changed Zuma´s prospects was his adoption by the left. Although Zuma was Mbeki´s
ideological twin, a conservative traditionalist, and a man who had not yet been allowed the
opportunity to clear his name in court, the left knew it could not win without him. Zuma was
their Polokwane battering ram. The resulting political incoherence of the post-Polokwane
leadership coalition is reflected in the manner in which the organised left overshadows
Zuma. Motlanthe and Mantashe are former trade unionists who worked with Zwelinzima Vavi
in the National Union of Mineworkers in the late 1980s.
Now that Zuma´s role as a battering ram has been acted out, some of his erstwhile leftists
allies are doubtless reflecting that a different leader - their own candidate rather than one
forced upon them by circumstances - might better advance their political objectives.
The problem with Zuma is not in fact that he is socially conservative and almost absurdly
unconvincing as a trade union sympathiser. Rather it is that he cannot bring the
international and domestic business credibility that any leftward shift in social and economic
policy will require.
Especially in these more difficult economic times, investors must be persuaded that the
crafters of industrial and antipoverty programmes are sensitive to their concerns and
committed to prudent macroeconomic policy. The ANC president´s ventures into
"Zumanomics" have not shown that he can generate the investor confidence that any
government of the left desperately needs.
Zuma has likewise given no indication that he is capable of providing leadership around
practical policy challenges, such as energy security.
It is because of his weakness that Zuma and his motley band of malcontents need to
sustain the momentum of Polokwane and to consolidate their control over ANC structures
while they can.
The left, however, is restless. Through his alleged NEC tirade, Zuma may have perfectly
illustrated the adage that just because you are paranoid that does not mean that they are
not out to get you.
Many of Zuma´s supposed friends are loudly praising him for his brave heart and incisive
mind, and calling for the urgent disbanding of his Scorpion enemies. In this way, they are
ensuring that their hands appear clean. Meanwhile, they are sharpening their knives and
waiting for the opportunity to plunge them into Zuma´s back.
Butler teaches public policy at UCT.
Johannesburg, South Africa
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