OPINION: Zuma's plans transcend the numbers
When you ask political pundits and enthusiasts what they are doing these days, they proudly shout, "number crunching." This refers to people trying to discover, before the act, who will win the upcoming ANC national conference.
The truth is that no one really knows. That some people's numbers will be closer to the truth than others' when the winner is eventually declared will not be a function of astute mathematical correctness. It will be a function of coincidence with choices of factions and elite leaders of the ANC.
This is because factionalism creates a political environment that is extremely fluid, unpredictable and highly combustible.
The ANC is facing its biggest tipping point since its unbanning in 1990. The movement has been caught up in a vortex of perilous politics centred on President Jacob Zuma. This is its albatross.
Our president is worse than the drunken bus rider who makes the journey terrible for everyone by demanding pit stops at every point to relieve themselves. The drunken bus rider, though rowdy and an irritant, poses no real danger to fellow passengers. But Zuma somehow found a way to wreck the very bus while in motion.
He has been driving this vehicle for about 10 years, and it reaches its final destination at Nasrec on 16 December 2017. All are invited to come see it when it finally parks. The fellow passengers on the bus are already battered and bruised and Nasrec will likely resemble the biblical place of darkness where conference goers shall weep and gnash their teeth.
Indeed, as we edge closer to conference it seems more evident than ever before that the oldest liberation movement in Africa is walking to the grave it has been digging for itself.
Oliver Tambo, the party's longest serving president and an important builder of the foundations of our democracy, is said to have repeatedly warned the ANC to "beware of the enemy within; remain vigilant". Even Zuma once evoked these words in 2012 (ironic, since he probably brought the enemy within to life and prosperity).
Rearing its head, the enemy within has achieved what Tambo feared – collapsing the political project, mission and commitment of the ANC to the total liberation of our people from the clutches of dehumanisation, poverty, corrupt governance and debased democratic norms.
The ANC of Zuma thrives at being an agent for the realisation of the very things that the ANC of Tambo, and many who came before him, fought against.
Who will inherit this disgraced organisation at the much anticipated conference? The number crunchers are hard at work, simulating impossible numbers because there are certain variables that are not under their control. The present day politics of the ANC are just so haphazard that any form of predictability is lost.
At some point this year the departure of Zuma from the Union Buildings looked highly possible, but alas. A commission of inquiry into state capture was promised and a commitment to hasten the process was pronounced, but alas. In this same vein, the prospect of Zuma going if Cyril Ramaphosa becomes president could be an elusive hope.
If a cat has nine lives, Zuma is political life itself – one of the shrewdest politicians of our time. This is the only thing that gives the Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma faction hope for a victory.
Zuma has survived many political storms. So forget about his motives for supporting Dlamini-Zuma, focus on political manoeuvring for now. The next week is going to be one of deal making. How dirty is Ramaphosa willing to play this game? We know Zuma can get his hands dirty and he sure will for his preferred candidate.
Ramaphosa may well be ahead on branch nominations; he could even be ahead on delegates from those branches that nominated him, but some comrades are up for sale. This phenomenon is well documented in the ANC discussion documents produced over the past 15 years.
The truth here is, absent a leadership consensus, the person who will emerge as the ANC president will be a product of some vote buying, deal making with unscrupulous power brokers, and slate politics. The candidates themselves might not directly participate in such acts but by agreeing to have some of the most questionable characters in ANC politics as their lobbyists, they endorse the behaviour.
What is evident is that, in colloquial speak, Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa are in the same Whatsapp group. They hope to retain their moral standing even though they will ascend to the presidency under imperfect conditions controlled by disastrous politics. Does it get any more confusing? You decide.
- Lukhona Mnguni is a political analyst from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
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