Melanie Verwoerd

The only way to save South Africa

2017-04-12 08:45
An ANC supporter dances at FNB Stadium. (AFP)

An ANC supporter dances at FNB Stadium. (AFP)

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On Friday we saw an extraordinary outpouring of emotion against President Zuma and his cronies. Marches of this size have certainly not been seen since the fall of apartheid. But will it do anything? Sadly, it won’t.

I am sure the ANC leadership took note of it and they might even have been uncomfortable watching it on TV, but the spin machine quickly kicked into gear. The same night the government said that only 60 000 people took part in the various forms of protests country-wide.

Seriously? The people who calculated that figure must have been smoking some of the newly legalised dagga.

The ANC leadership (noticeably those who support President Zuma) also kept on suggesting that it was largely a white, middle class event, sponsored by white monopoly capital. What ever the real numbers and racial make-up were, it was clear that the ANC (in true Trump style) was not going to take any of this seriously. As Jessie Duarte put it outside Luthuli House, “the ANC has not agreed to change the leadership and we will not let anyone from outside tell us who to elect as our leaders”.

So is there still anything we as ordinary citizens can do? I believe there is and it involves R20 and doing something many people never would have considered. Let me explain.

Many who want change now focus their hopes on the vote of no confidence in Parliament. As I wrote last week, there is almost zero chance of that motion passing. Even if the Constitutional Court rules in favour of the UDM, my understanding is that it will still leave the decision on whether a secret ballot should be allowed on the day to the discretion of the Speaker.

Given the pressure she will be under from the broader ANC, it is highly unlikely that she will agree to a secret ballot. As also explained last week, even on the off-chance that it passed with 70+ ANC MPs voting with the opposition, it could create a worse scenario than the one we have, negatively impacting the balance of powers in the ANC and risking a very dangerous outcome when a new president is elected.

After the ANC press conference last Monday, it is as clear as daylight that the Zuma faction still has the upper hand in the NWC and NEC. Even though the Zuma faction might be under more pressure than before, they are still in control.

So, one can safely assume that if the vote of no confidence passes, the new ANC presidential nomination will come from the Zuma camp. The only way an anti-Zuma candidate could win was if someone from the ANC is nominated by one of the opposition parties and a united opposition together with at least 70 ANC MPs voted for this candidate. (There is also a tiny possibility that if 120+ ANC MPs abstain during the presidential vote and if the opposition unite, that their candidate could win, but more about this next week).

With the EFF’s objections to Cyril Ramaphosa it is difficult to see who that candidate could be. This scenario would also presumably require a deal around some seats for opposition parties in a future Cabinet. It is highly unlikely to succeed.

If a secret vote is not allowed, the more likely scenario is that the 70+ ANC MPs would lose their ANC membership and seats in Parliament. Given the balance of power they would be replaced by Zuma-ites, thus weakening the pro-change component in the ANC parliamentary caucus significantly. It would also weaken the same lobby in ANC structures as the ANC heads to the electoral conference.

It then follows that the next president of the ANC would almost certainly be from the Zuma camp and that the ANC and country would be led by the Zuma faction for the next decade. It is therefore clear that the only way we will see change in the country is if the right person and faction comes to power at the next ANC electoral conference later this year.

And so here it is: The best form of civil protest for those who are serious about change in this country is to join the ANC. I know that many people reading these words will choke on their coffee in disgust and be tempted to move to the next article, but hear me out.

It is purely a numbers’ game. The next president of the ANC (and presumably the country) will be determined by the individual votes cast by the delegates at the next ANC electoral conference. The number of these delegates (who hold our future in their hands) will in turn be determined by the membership numbers in the different provinces. Although delegates will have individual votes the practice has been for them to vote as per agreement or mandate from their provinces.

If the ANC presidential race ends up with only Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma competing, one can safely assume that Dlamini-Zuma would get the support of the Premier League (North-West, Mpumalanga and the Free State) as well as the Women’s, Youth and Veteran’s Leagues.

Based on the Mangaung conference figures, if she then gets all of the votes from KZN, Ramaphosa would be about 28 votes short, assuming he can secure all the other provinces (which is certainly possible). If KZN splits Ramaphosa could win, but it would be too close for comfort.

So, to ensure that Ramaphosa or someone from the pro-change faction wins, the provincial delegations from Western Cape, Gauteng, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo have to be strengthened. That can only happen if those provinces are able to sign up more members before the end of April, when the books close and the membership audit starts.

During the period preceding the Mangaung conference the membership in KZN tripled whilst the ANC membership overall just doubled. To prevent a repeat of this, those provinces who are likely to support change must ensure that they are not out-maneuvered again.

At the last conference approximately every 350 members secured a delegate. If the numbers were to stay roughly the same as in Mangaung, only 10 000 additional people in the five non-Premier League provinces would have to enroll to make up the 28 votes that Ramaphosa would be short. That is only 1/6 of the official number of Friday. (Although to be safe 20 000 is most probably a better number.)

The membership fee is only R20, which is a real bargain if one considers that it could save the future of this country.

This is a crucial year for our nation. What happens at the ANC’s electoral conference will determine the economic and political future of our country. Marches and votes of no confidence will at most only serve as (important) expressions of moral outrage, but given the current balance of power cannot bring about any positive change.

So, even though many of the people who marched on Friday might hate the idea, the counter-intuitive truth is that the most, if not only, effective way of saving the country at this stage, is for them (and the millions of people from all races who want change) to spend R20 and sign up as ANC members before the end of the month. And of course, as with any party membership, if things don’t work out, future resignation is always possible.

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland. 

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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