Is Zuma walking the leadership tightrope?

2011-05-28 11:06

Now that the municipal elections have come and gone, leadership succession in the ANC is likely to take centre stage.

Some are whispering that the four percentage point decline in the overall electoral support for the party is likely to come back to haunt ANC president Jacob Zuma in Mangaung, home of the next elective conference.

After all, Zuma is the only ANC president who has presided over successive electoral losses.

The reasons for Zuma’s waning appeal to voters are legion.

The message of “a better life for all” would ring hollow to any critical voter who sees a political leader’s personal lot, and that of his family, improving dramatically while his grassroots supporters wallow in poverty.

Another reason is that the ANC’s 2011 electoral message was ineffective from the beginning. It was not the content of the ANC manifesto that hogged headlines after the launch in February.

Instead, it was eclipsed by Julius Malema’s remarks about councillors who benefit their families at the expense of the public.

It did not help that Zuma often veered off from his message about delivery.

The result is that very few people knew about ANC policy positions, whereas DA leader Helen Zille’s message remained consistent.

KwaZulu-Natal is the only province where the ANC did not record a decline and it has taken away control of the province’s municipalities from the rival IFP for the first time since the dawn of democracy.

The ANC’s support did not drop, even in municipalities like Pietermaritzburg’s Msunduzi, which was put under administration last year after the previous ANC mayor ran it into the ground.

If Msunduzi had been in the Eastern Cape, the ANC would probably have taken the kind of beating it took in Nelson
Mandela metro.

As City Press reported last week, the ANC’s support would have dipped to below 60% were it not for the turn of the ruling party’s political fortunes in KwaZulu-Natal.

So KwaZulu-Natal may once again rescue Zuma from those who want to oust him in Mangaung. This is not to say the provincial leadership will necessarily lobby for his retention in the run-up to 2012.

However, the reality of Zuma’s continuing appeal to voters in the province cannot be ignored.

It may also prove dicey to subject the ANC president to an acrimonious succession battle if the party wants to keep the support it enjoys in its new heartland.

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