Towards 2012

2011-05-14 18:09

In 2006, the governing ANC took an overall majority of 67.71%. Its own strategists reckon the party will be down this time, not by much, but down still.

It has fought a “challenging” campaign, concede strategists, that only worked up steam right at the end.

There is one clear winner – ANC Youth League president Julius Malema who galvanised and gave direction to the campaign in the week he gave evidence in his hate- speech trial, turning it into a battle to protect the ANC.

Then the ANC ran with the baton and campaigned on being the party of liberation and reclaimed its struggle heritage.

A thrusting DA was presented as the party of a white madam (or monkey) who wanted to re­enslave blacks. Malema has been on every major platform with President Jacob Zuma – and on his own.

When the story of this election is written, he will be chronicled as its rockstar who built toilets, saved Gauteng, pushed back in Cape Town and secured his own future.

There isn’t even talk now of a challenger to Malema who is up for certain re-election at the ANC Youth League’s national conference in June. And he has thrown down the gauntlet to Zuma ahead of the party’s Mangaung conference.

In an unprecedented show of force, his league issued a release on Thursday denouncing Zuma’s position on both the nationalisation of mines and the expropriation of land.

Zuma was on the stumps with KwaZulu-Natal farmers talking down Malema’s rhetoric about expropriation as the ramblings of an inexperienced leader. The league’s ­response was swift and harsh.

“See what you can do to me,” it ­suggests.

Malema has allied himself to new seniors in the ANC, the foremost being Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale. They too have appeared on joint platforms.

In the midst of electioneering, Sexwale threw down the gauntlet to Zuma, pushing him to publicly refute the plot document of suspended police crime intelligence head, Richard Mdluli.

This places Sexwale at the centre of a plot to unseat Zuma in 2012.

While Sexwale has again said he is available to stand as ANC president should Zuma not be available. Its subtext is also: “See what you can do to me.”

In reply, Zuma has done what he does when in a tight spot: he has worked the masses, keeping up a punishing schedule.

He has pulled out the stops because he knows that an electoral battering places him in a precarious position come 2012.

There is nothing quite like Zuma on the stumps – a charmer who goes completely populist as the occasion demands. He cites ancestral wrath and aligns himself with the gods to keep the faithful in the ANC’s broad church. But two crucial pieces of unfinished business show just how check-mated our first citizen is.

This week he had to trade the passage of the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill to get the SA Municipal Workers Union to back off from a strike. He can’t afford a big union fight when his allies are deserting him.

And it’s now 82 days since the Public Protector’s report calling for Cabinet to take steps against both the public works minister and police commissioner Bheki Cele for entering into illegal and expensive building leases.

Zuma can’t afford to lose Cele’s support either.

This election, like most of our body politics, is quickly turning into a staging post for 2012. Hold tight.

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