Zunami may have fizzled

2012-04-07 17:08

ANC President Jacob Zuma’s political tsunami could be on the wane as the tide in his party’s youth league, in trade unions and even churches turns against him.

Even though Zuma’s supporter, Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza, retained the ANC ­provincial chairmanship this weekend, Zuma’s detractors – who call themselves the “pro-change” lobby – said this was expected because Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal were traditionally Zuma’s strongholds.

Mabuza and his faction won the conference without a contest, in effect signalling that he would keep the province united behind Zuma before the party’s December elective conference in Mangaung.

At the conference, Zuma stressed calls for unity and proper discussions before any leadership elections.

In a week that saw the ANC gag youth league leader Julius Malema for calling Zuma a dictator, mainstream church leaders from the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Apostolic Faith Mission, Anglican and Dutch Reformed congregations, among others, emerged as the latest group to slam the Zuma-led ANC for failures in leadership.

In a document titled “Theological and ethical reflections on the 2012 centenary celebrations of the African National Congress: A word to the ANC in these times”, the 309 undersigned clerics and theologians reprimanded the ANC on several issues, some of which were raised by Zuma’s detractors within the party and the ANC’s allies.

In the document:
» They suggest churches would form alliances with grass-roots ­organisations in communities to demand better services from the ANC-led government;

» It’s revealed that church leaders are angered by the way state “intelligence and security forces are manipulated for the benefit of a faction in the society”;

» They ask that the Constitution be held in “the highest regard by us all”;

» Factionalism and voting slates in the ANC are condemned because they are “often the direct outcome of a weak conception of participatory democracy in our ­political parties”; and

» They give a biblical warning: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Zuma used churches to help him rise to power, but they were mostly charismatic and non-mainstream congregations.

This week Malema copied Zuma, using churches to drum up ­support.

He went to Butterworth churches in the Eastern Cape on Good Friday to speak out against “individuals trying to silence” him.

Malema has been banned from talking from an ANC or youth league platform.

This, and his possible expulsion following his appeal hearing next Thursday, have strengthened the resolve of Malema’s supporters to oust Zuma at the party’s elective conference in December.

A source in the league, as well as sources in the ANC, told City Press that “removing Zuma” was the ­only hope Malema had of saving his ANC membership.

According to league strategists, Zuma now has minority support in the Eastern Cape, North West, Northern Cape, Western Cape, Limpopo and Gauteng, while the Free State is hotly contested.

Two pro-Zuma Eastern Cape leaders, however, dismissed claims that Zuma was losing ­support.

This was merely the talk of lobbyists who spend time in restaurants and hotels “drinking liquor and puffing cigars without involving structures”, they said.

Pro-change lobbyists are also making overtures to ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe, promising him the position of chairperson.

A Zuma supporter on the party’s national executive committee said Mantashe was unlikely to abandon Zuma.
But others said it was possible because Mantashe had worked closely with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in the mineworkers’ union NUM and could side with him again.

Motlanthe is being punted as a possible replacement for Zuma.

Zuma’s support is also falling in the trade unions, with the most powerful faction in Cosatu aligned to its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, pulling away from the man Vavi once called an “unstoppable tsunami”.

Metalworkers’ union Numsa and teachers’ union Sadtu, two of Cosatu’s strongest affiliates, have bashed Zuma’s government on several issues.

But Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini is still firmly behind Zuma, with the backing of health workers’ union Nehawu and NUM.

The labour federation is set to have its own elective conference in September and its outcome could determine who Cosatu will be lobbying for come December.

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