For many, the ANC Elective Conference on Monday December 18th will signal a definitive ending to Jacob Zuma’s presidency. We’ll know who’s replacing him, and what will become of him.
Or will we? As the date draws ever closer, prominent figures inside and outside of the party are expressing their doubts as to whether the event will even go ahead.
Ambiguity surrounds the future of President Zuma, who has both teased us with a promise that he’ll step down on 18/12, and hinted that he will remain an active part of the ANC.
Any delay, no matter how slight, would be awful for South Africa. This regime has already stitched the country up so many times, that any sign of failure to hand over power would be a straw to break the camel’s back.
There’s a growing amount of evidence that the conference will be sabotaged and undermined. Ex-ANC Minister Trevor Manuel is on high alert, and suspects that the ANC are already trying to pervert the course of democracy.
Manuel has stated that branch numbers will be manipulated by the party. Each ANC branch gets a vote for the next president, so the numbers need to be absolutely perfect to represent a fair, untouched election. However, it’s feared that this round of voting will be just like Mangaung Conference in 2012.
That was the scene of alleged manipulation, which put ‘yes men’ and cronies into positions that favoured Zuma. Manuel sees that this will happen again, and it will be responsible for the conference collapsing ‘in a heap’ by the second day.
Another ANC stalwart to cast doubt over the conference is Tokyo Sexwale. He has supported Manuel’s claims, and fears that the ANC Elective Conference will merely produce a group of representatives who only want to serve themselves. Sexwale said the divisions in the party could throw the event into turmoil:
“Anyone who thinks it will be easy is self-delusional. The levels of hostility within the ranks… we are a thoroughly divided ANC. All leaders say we are divided. ANC leaders are characterised by common views. Currently the common view is division.”
This is where the concerns are coming from. Although he’s hinted that he won’t be President by 2018, it’s beginning to look like he’s embellishing the truth.
Mr Zuma is more politically active now than he has been for most of 2017. From nowhere, he working like a man possessed to push key reforms over the line. He wants to oversee the completion of the nuclear deal – which new Energy Minister David Mahlobo is demonically pursuing – and is going to war with the treasury over ‘free education.’
A delayed or collapsed conference would very much be in Jacob Zuma’s interests, at a great cost to South Africa. But this is not a man who cares for reputation. The President is at a point where nothing else he can do will turn away his loyalists, nor win back any former supporters.
In fact, Zuma is prepared to use his position of partisan division to his own advantage. Oh, don’t be so shocked. William Gumede is an Associate Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand. He believes that Zuma has poisoned the ANC, and inadvertently made himself stronger because of it:
“Zuma leaving the ANC is a real threat because the constituency of the ANC has changed in a way that plays politically into his hands.”
“Now Zuma tells his NEC every time when it comes to voting, who’s left? The rural voters remain and he’s got them. Urban voters may never return to ANC. If Zuma’s gone and he takes the rural voters with him, what is left of the ANC?”
Make no mistake, they would still go ahead. A collapsed conference doesn’t mean it is abandoned forever. But the longer it takes for the ANC to get their house in order, the worse they will look in the eyes of voters. Yes, lines have been drawn in the sand where few voters will change their mind either way in 18 month’s time…
But are the ANC genuinely capable of getting a majority? Will 50% of South Africa even contemplate backing Zuma? Even their closest allies have turned their back on an arrogant, gangster-inspired president.
The SACP and Cosatu have vowed to ditch their alliance with the ruling party if the conference turns sour. The groups that propelled ANC to a retention of power could just so easily be responsible for their catastrophic engine failure in 2019.
Expect the rand to tank. Every time there has been disruption to political structures, value has plummeted. Expect a further economic downgrade worse than junk status. Credit Ratings group Moody’s have called out the Zuma regime for personally destabilising the economy.
And finally, expect a recession. Expect investor confidence to slump. Expect South Africa to hit a new low, whilst the joker keeps on cackling. God knows this country needs a smooth, uneventful transition of leadership. But it’s anyone’s guess if that will actually happen.