Is Zuma’s head on the NGC block?

2010-09-18 09:31

President Jacob Zuma’s performance will come under sharp scrutiny at the ANC national general council in Durban this week. Moffet Mofokeng and Sabelo Ndlangisa look at the thorny political issues confronting him.

President will have to reassert himself as the rallying point of the warring factions or make some very tricky choices.

President Jacob Zuma will enter the conference hall of the ANC national general council (NGC) in Durban tomorrow not as the hero he was three years ago in Polokwane, but as a beleaguered leader battling to hold together the many factions in the ruling alliance.

The ANC leader will enter the hall at the Durban Exhibition Centre just as he did at the previous NGC in ­Pretoria in 2005 after he was axed as the country’s deputy president: a wounded man.

This time around, though, Zuma will not be facing hostility from his supposed rivals but from within his own camp.

As the party’s 2 800 delegates – from branches, leagues, allies and various walks of life – prepare to assess how the top ANC leadership has performed since 2007, Zuma will be looking for assuring signs of whether or not he will serve a second term.

His one-time staunch supporters in the ANC Youth League have lately intimated that they could drop him if he fails to back their radical plan to nationalise the country’s mines.

Also, top of the league’s agenda is the organisation’s plan to ask the NGC to withdraw the sentence the ANC national disciplinary committee ­imposed onthe league’ president, ­Julius Malema – a move, if it is successful, that could further ­embarrass Zuma. Malema was charged with misconduct after he compared Zuma to Thabo Mbeki.

Even though this is not an elective conference, the youth league and its sympathisers are likely to flag the ­issue of leadership succession in the party.

Lately, they have been agitating for the inclusion of younger leaders in the top echelons of the party to replace the ageing cohort.

This has been widely interpreted as a ploy to remove Gwede Mantashe, the SACP national chair who was elected as the ANC boss at the Polokwane conference, with former youth league president Fikile Mbalula.

Mantashe’s sin was to insist on ­occupying his positions both in the SACP and the ANC.

Recently, Mantashe called on ­ousted Limpopo youth league leader Lehlogonolo Masoga to withdraw his court bid to challenge his suspension, but failed to instruct Malema not to proceed with his action against
Masoga.

SACP general secretary Blade ­Nzimande has often pointed out that the intention of those who attack Mantashe is to ultimately dislodge Zuma from power.

The squabble between the two main factions – the so-called nationalists and the Left – is likely to manifest itself through the contentious debate on whether the ANC or the alliance holds the political centre of power.

In its online journal, Umsebenzi, the SACP said it expected the ­disagreement regarding this matter to be one of the potentially disruptive ­issues at the NGC.

The SACP, like some in the ANC, is now worried about the ruling party being captured by a faction that wants power solely to dispense patronage.

It said: “Our response must be to work together with the overwhelming majority of ANC delegates attending the NGC who are thoroughly sick of this kind of disruptive behaviour. We must steadfastly remain focused on the core policy agenda of the NGC.”

Cosatu is not happy with the state of the alliance and how the ANC has been managed post-Polokwane.

Its major gripe is that the economic ­trajectory has not changed since ­Zuma became president.

This week, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi reiterated that the lives of poor South Africans have not improved because of policies implemented since 1994.

 “Instead, we have more unemployment, more poverty and more inequality,” he said.

The difference of opinion among those who propelled Zuma to power in December 2007 points to the fact that the coalition of the wounded was a tactical alliance.

It proves the adage that there are no permanent allies or foes in ­politics.

Now it is up to Zuma to use the NGC to reassert himself as the rallying point of the warring factions and channel their energies towards shared political ­objectives.

Or he could find himself having to make some tricky choices.

He could either dance to the tune of the youth league and alienate his Left allies, or back the left wing and risk facing an uphill battle to keep his position for another term as Mbeki did in 2005.

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