In case you missed it, the Financial Mail’s cover story is worth reading.
Written by Ken Owen, it asks if Jacob Zuma will see out his term. An extract:
The events at Polokwane disclosed to us that under SA’s flawed constitution, power lies not with the electorate, nor in parliament, nor even in the presidency. It lies in the labyrinthine recesses of Luthuli House where the ANC leaders plot and connive, and decide who will be “deployed” to what job, and for how long.
The process is hidden from public view, reducing the entire constitutional paraphernalia of elections, parliamentary debates and traditions, and checks and balances to marginal relevance. The public clash of ideas between government and opposition in an open forum where (if I may resort to one of the noblest phrases of parliamentary democracy) “strangers may be present” is little more than public theatre.
Parliamentarians pontificate, the opposition denounces and cajoles, the media solemnly records public statements and gathers comments, all the while hiding the brutal fact that the real debates take place in secret at Luthuli House. To discover what happens there requires not simply press freedom but something like Kremlinology, a reading of political tea leaves.
THERE are those who have tarred ANC Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, with the Zuma brush. They believe that he sold his soul to get the number two position on the Zuma slate at the ANC’s Polokwane conference in December 2007.
They are very wrong. Motlanthe has always been and remains very much his own man. He made this clear at the conference itself when he was the lone ANC leader willing to stand up and call the baying masses to order. He reprimanded them. They listened and sat down.
Since then, he has distinguished himself from Zuma with a serious of public actions that appear at odds with Zuma’s vague policy stance.
For one thing he has spoken out unambiguously against the likes of Julius Malema when they have sworn to “kill for Zuma”. Zuma himself was a little vague on this, preferring to explain away the militancy.
For another, he has spoken out clearly and unambiguously in favour of protecting judicial independence, a concept foreign to the Zuma camp who are trying the cow the judiciary into relieving Zuma of the burden of a corruption trial.
And, he has put some real policy on the table, proposing a sunset clause for affirmative action, something which will not sit easily with some of Zuma’s backers.
What distinguishes Motlanthe from Zuma is a clarity about what is or is not acceptable to the ANC. He creates the impression that he is holding the party together for the broad purpose of transformation while others appear to be steering it in their direction to accomplish narrow ends.
SINCE he roundly defeated President Thabo Mbeki in elections for the ANC presidency in Polokwane, Jacob Zuma has had a few wobbles. He has been famously asked by the BBC: “Are you a crook?” and he has made a few ill-conceived statements. But, on the whole, he has substantially shifted the political terrain in his favour and is emerging as the de facto political leader of South Africa. How has he done this? By being the first to place on the agenda responses to the key matters that are on his countrymen’s minds. This blog has (not for the first time) gone off half cocked, suggesting last week that Mbeki appeared to be turning on Mugabe as the election results fiasco dragged on. This was not the case as the hand-holding in Harare showed. A much better take on Mbeki’s declining political clout comes from The Times columnist Raenette Taljard, who wrote today:
As the commission failed to release results and the days ticked by without any credible formal response from Mbeki, the ANC’s president Jacob Zuma and the party stepped into the breach and met MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai before he secured a meeting with Mbeki.
It was almost comical how formal state structures tried to scramble to keep up with the party and Zuma’s pronouncements and call on the electoral commission to make the results available forthwith.
Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad’s press conference had the script all but dictated by the manner in which the president of the ANC made the right noises on matters of principle, long before the president of the country had anything to say beyond calling for patience. Mbeki’s excuses that he had to protect his role as mediator by not making pronouncements lacked credibility .
South Africa’s speaker of parliament also spoke out bravely about the electoral atrocities in Zimbabwe — providing another echo of how far Mbeki seems to be drifting from the new ANC leadership’s growing concerns about Zimbabwe.
THE chickens of Polokwane are returning home to roost and its an awfully messy little nest that they’re building.
When it eventually got under way three or four days late, the ANC Youth League’s conference at the University of the Free State degenerated into a drunken display of factionalism and macho politics.
The youth league leadership were quite happy to boo and jeer President Thabo Mbeki, so they should not have been surprised when they were treated in the same way by their impressionable members.
Speakers have been jeered, bottles have been lobbed across the hall, no discussion has taken place on policy and several days late, voting finally began for the leadership yesterday.
More alarming was the fact that the youth appeared more interested in drinking and partying than meeting to discuss the heady questions facing the nation.
Some went so far as to tell our reporting staff yesterday that they were planning to burn down the technikon campus because they were “bored”.
Polokwane entrenched the politics of populism and personality cults and this culture is finding ready purchase in the ANC’s youth league.
The fact is that once the personalities contesting leadership positions eclipse questions of what they stand for or how they might offer leadership, political decay is inevitable.
The decay must grow exponentially as the populists placed in high office are dependent on beerhall politics to stay in power.
The ANC’s Youth League is nothing but a crystal ball into a political future which promises thuggery instead of considered debate.
Is there a youth leader who can stand up to this tide and win enough support to rise to the top? Apparently not.
THE deep political divisions in the ANC appear to be healing if the reaction to Finance Minister Trevor Manuel’s budget is anything to go by.
Manuel was given unequivocal backing for his budget by key ally of newly elected ANC president Jacob Zuma.
A key ally of the new party president, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, was glowing in his commentary shortly after he delivered it.
And Manuel has since publicly spoken of having Zuma and the party’s “unequivocal backing”.
Fears of a creeping left revolution led by Zuma’s allies are receding.
THE announcement by President Thabo Mbeki that the Scorpions are to be absorbed into a new, more powerful anti-crime unit that will play “exactly the same role for which the Scorpions were established,” is to be welcomed.
Mbeki said the new unit would be guided by prosecutors and would have its own intelligence capability.
He made no mention of the unit falling under the police service — a demand that was made by the ANC at its Polokwane conference in December.
Mbeki has made a bold move that will enjoy the support of the nation. The ANC must decide whether it supports him or organised crime.
Reports on Radio 702 say that papers have been served on Jacob Zuma relating to the fraud and corruption investigations against him by the Scorpions. Zuma will now have to persuade the nation that this is part of the grand conspiracy against him mounted by Thabo Mbeki, something he pulled off with his victory in December. I wouldn’t want to miss this weekend’s Sunday Times for anything …
Thabo – I might have destroyed your political career, but you are still my friend, okay?
To my supporters: You shouldn’t have shouted at Thabo like that, it made us look like rural trash.
Business must chill out, I’m not planning to take your toys away, although I will be asking the unions and communists what they think before I make policy.
I will be making a lot more noise about crime and Aids, but I don’t have any specific plans yet.