Plans afoot to ensure Zuma doesn’t remain state president
President Jacob Zuma will secure a comfortable victory for a second term as ANC president in Mangaung, but his supporters and detractors are plotting how to ensure he does not remain state president.
A regional Zuma lobbyist in the Eastern Cape who is also a delegate to the Mangaung conference said having already prepared themselves for a Zuma win, “we’re beginning to think about 2014 and the impact of our Mangaung decisions on the national elections”.
Said a Free State lobbyist for Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe: “We are seeing that there are increasingly South Africans who equate the ANC with Zuma, and they don’t want to vote for that.”
“There will be 3 million new voters in 2014, young people voting for the first time. They’ll tell you they want Kgalema,” the lobbyist said.
Even on his home turf, KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma supporters are worried about how his role as presidential candidate in 2014 will affect the ANC’s performance at the ballot box.
Insiders in the province say there are concerns about the impact of the space created for the DA to mobilise in the townships around corruption and poor service delivery and how this translates into votes in the 2014 national and provincial elections.
But staunch Zuma supporter and ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete told City Press: “It does not matter who is leading.”
She said the question was whether “that particular leader is that monster and whether if he goes, criticism won’t be levelled against whatever leader comes in. Because sometimes I have a sense that it is not so much the individual that is under attack, it is the ANC.”
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe also rejected the idea of splitting the two positions – having one person as state president and the other as ANC president.
He said to change a system “because you happen to hate that person today” is not sustainable.
“It is about which system serves the country better,” he said.
But Motlanthe lobbyists are saying if Motlanthe loses out on the presidency – which he is widely expected to do – he will try and retain his current position.
There will then be “constant talks” with Zuma to convince him to step down from the state presidency.
The focus of these discussions will be how South Africa is viewed by the rest of the world.
“Mandela has positioned us in the centre of things and now we are battling,” an Eastern Cape lobbyist who is also a senior provincial government official, told City Press.
“Zuma does not have the kind of style we need in international affairs. He got us into BRICS, but what does that matter if you are just sitting there but you’re not heard? No one listens to what you say.”
The lobbyists said there are talks with other heads of state in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to speak to Zuma about this issue as well, but he would not name the countries.
“Heads of state are talking, from here in SADC all the way up to the north,” was all he was willing to say.
According to him, Zuma will be told Motlanthe is better suited to deal with international affairs.
“We will say this is the man who can assist you and these are the people that can assist you. And if you don’t accept this help, there is something very wrong with you.”
Motlanthe jetted into Mangaung knowing he was going to lose the bid for party president. An aide said he was not relying upon a swing vote and is running as a show of independence and principle. He has refused the offers of all lobbyists to be on their campaign slates. “As things stand, the ANC is not an organisation,” said the aide, who explained Motlanthe’s view that the ANC had become a federation of provincial empires, where branches had been mortgaged to the highest bidder. Why stand then or not play the game?”
Motlanthe often tells the story to show that the ANC has become inward-looking under his successor, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. Mantashe is of the view that anybody who is not an ANC member cannot critique the party. This week, he told church leaders who issued an impassioned 10-page assessment of the precarious state of the nation, to leave the ANC alone.
“Nowadays we see ourselves in the mirror and tend to talk (only) to ourselves,” Motlanthe has been telling his circle. With a presidential salary for life, Motlanthe is said not to be too worried about his future and may well end up running the ANC’s political school. He is also running for party deputy president as well as for a member of the national executive committee.
The ANC is unlikely to reject him completely.
- Mandy Rossouw, Carien du Plessis, Paddy Harper and Ferial Haffajee