An hour in SA politics is a long time

By Janice Roberts

Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi’s lectures are always a pleasure to listen to – and the one he gave at the annual Nedgroup Investments Treasurer’s Conference last week was no exception.

He always manages to make his audience laugh, at the same time as he’s telling some rather unpleasant home truths. He quipped at the start of his presentation: “I tend to make more sense with every glass of wine you have.”

While many often said a week in SA politics was a long time, Matshiqi said he didn’t agree. “I think that is wrong. An hour in SA politics is a long time as there is so much that can change between now and tomorrow.”

He asked us to cast our minds back ten years to when the now ex-Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) boss, Zwelinzima Vavi had supported Zuma, saying that he was an “unstoppable tsunami”. Julius Malema – who was then the ANCYL leader- also sang Zuma’s praises: he’d die for Jacob Zuma and he wasn’t concerned about the more than 700 charges of corruption against the man.

“That was a decade ago. Today, Jacob Zuma isn’t allowed to speak at Cosatu events – they are calling on him to step down. Now Cosatu is behind Cyril Ramaphosa – and not Zuma’s choice, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.”

As Matshiqi reminded us, Blade Nzimande was another who spoke up for Zuma who has now, allegedly – and along with the Gupta family – captured the state.

But Matshiqi said he didn’t believe in the term ‘state capture’: “I don’t call it ‘state capture’ because the state was simply handed over to the Guptas.”

He reminded us how former president Thabo Mbeki had lost control of the ANC completely – and was voted out and then removed as head of state.

“A decade ago, Jacob Zuma was very popular within the ANC and the Alliance (Cosatu and the SA Communist Party), but not in the media and not in society. In fact, there were doubts among investors whether Zuma could govern a modern state and a modern economy.”

Zuma’s plan

Matshiqi recalled how Zuma’s plan to come to power was very well laid out.

“Firstly, he had to capture Cosatu, the SACP, the ANC Youth Leage and the the ANC Women’s League. But things did not go according to plan: Cosatu split and is now basically a public sector federation. One would have thought that a weak Cosatu would support a strong Jacob Zuma, but that isn’t the case. The weakened Cosatu is now against Zuma.”

Matshiqi then moved to dispel the myth that Zuma was now a weak man.

“There have been several attempts to remove Zuma as head of state – in fact the rand strengthened last month when we heard a rumour that the National Executive Committee of the ANC would pass a vote of no confidence in him – because the market wants regime change.”

Matshiqi was in the middle of a road show when this rumour broke.

“I refused to talk about it because Jacob Zuma is going nowhere. When Mbeki was recalled as president of the country, he was not sitting president of the ANC. Zuma has not lost control over the ANC like Mbeki had.”

And Zuma had the ‘Premier League’ on his side – meaning that the premiers of Mpumalanga, the North West and the Free State favoured him.

For Matshiqi, there is no doubt that Zuma has lost some support, some power and some influence but his position is not completely compromised – “and that is why it’s difficult to recall him.”

There were, however, deep fears that no credible probe of ‘state capture’ would occur if Zuma remained in office. There had also been a resurgence of service delivery protests.

“But this is exactly what the doctor ordered for Jacob Zuma as some of his opponents think that if these protests escalate and become more violent, extending deep into 2018, Zuma will say a general election cannot be held in South Africa under these circumstances.”

Matshiqi then asked an important question: If the ANC loses power in 2019, will it accept the election result?

“Some opponents are saying they don’t want to find out and therefore it is a matter of urgency to remove Zuma as president of the ANC and as president of the country.”

A decade ago, there weren’t thousands of South Africans calling for Mbeki to step down – but now there are thousands wanting Zuma to be removed.

“This is very important. It means that ordinary South Africans realise that strategically, it doesn’t help to ask Jacob Zuma to go. They, as citizens, must demonstrate to the ANC what might happen in 2019 if the ANC doesn’t recall Zuma.

“If the ANC takes Zuma to the 2019 elections, it cannot be ruled out that the ANC’s support will fall below 50%. By people marching, it shows that there is a possibility that the ANC will lose power if it does not recall Zuma. And it’s not correct to say that ANC leaders are defending him – they’re just defending their own interests. That will change when they conclude that Zuma has become a direct threat to their personal interests.”

During the liberation struggle, the ANC argued that the people were the force of the liberation movement and lately, the South African people had demonstrated their capacity for independent choice.

“The ANC is not acting in the interests of the people, so people don’t act in the interests of the ANC.”

Ramaphosa vs Dlamini-Zuma

Matshiqi remarked that “something” had happened when it came to the character of the deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. “He’s now trying to create a distance between himself and Jacob Zuma. He’s remodeling himself as an ANC leader. Is he too late? Is he not tainted because until now he has been silent? Look at where he’s gone to deliver his speeches – to constituencies that already support him and Dlamini-Zuma is doing the same thing.

“But the problem for Ramaphosa is that Dlamini-Zuma already has support and doesn’t have the challenge of creating a new majority for herself – she already has it. Ramaphosa doesn’t have as much support and has to create a new majority in the ANC. He already has Cosatu’s support but Cosatu is weak. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) supports him – so does the ANC in Gauteng – but they don’t speak on behalf of the ANC branches.”

However, the support given to Dlamini-Zuma by the Zuma camp did not necessarily count in her favour.

“The premier league, the ANC Women’s League and the Youth League all support her. They all belong to a project that is thoroughly discredited. They have become the face of all things corrupt.”

The negativity around President Zuma was bound to impact on Dlamini-Zuma’s leadership bid.

“At the head of this dominant faction is Jacob Zuma who is going through an image crises that is rubbing off onto the ANC. It is causing collateral damage to the ANC itself and there are growing levels of antipathy toward the president.”

It was, however, possible that Dlamini- Zuma could be elected as the leader of the ANC in December, but ultimately not as president of the country.

“In 2019 we may face a very interesting situation, where the president of the ANC is not the president of the country. Simply because the voters, or at least the majority, have decided to delink their interest from the interests of the ANC. That is Cyril Ramaphosa’s strength.”

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