An exit deal for Zuma?

2012-04-16 00:00

THE best solution to prevent an implosion in the ANC and South Africa because of the destabilising battle for the presidency of the ANC is to cobble together a compromise political deal, which will see President Jacob Zuma as the president of the ANC and either Kgalema Motlanthe or Cyril Ramaphosa or someone else as the president of the country.

The harsh reality is that even if Zuma wins re-election at the ANC’s December 2012 Manguang national elective conference, his battles with his opponents within and outside the party will continue, post-conference, continuing to paralyse his presidency. South Africa may have the spectre of another five-year Zuma presidential term with the same ANC and government divisions, infighting and paralysis — which it cannot afford.

These political fights are crippling and will freeze the implementation of public services, job creation and development initiatives to lift economic growth, at national, provincial and municipal level.

Civil servants and political and business leaders are likely to go slow until it is clear that Zuma is going to be re-elected at the Mangaung conference before committing to any major economic development programmes.

Already South Africa has seen double-digit price increases in electricity, fuel, the coming e-tolls and the related price increases of almost every service, with little innovative leadership from political leaders preoccupied with their power games. It is likely that the combination of political and government paralysis and the continued impact of the global and euro zone financial crises will increase local unemployment, poverty and economic difficulties among the middle classes not employed in the public sector.

Not only the poor, unemployed and young are suffering, but the middle classes, particularly the black middle classes, will also suffer. This was in fact the main reason behind the so-called “Arab Spring” uprisings in North Africa: the poor, unemployed, youth and the middle classes all combined to protest economic difficulties, development for only a small ruling elite and endemic corruption.

So far Zuma, in his campaign battle to secure his re-election, appears to be using state institutions, such as the intelligence, judiciary and police services, to sideline opponents to his bid for a second term.

Furthermore, neutrals and critics perceive him to be packing key positions in the ANC and state — especially intelligence, police, prosecuting authorities and the judiciary — with close allies who could protect him against prosecution for past wrongdoing, including his alleged involvement in SA’s controversial multi-million-rand arms procurement deal.

Clearly it is unlikely that political opponents of Zuma’s bid for a second term will roll over. They will also fight back, using their very own positions in the state, security, intelligence and police services to leak information of present and past compromising behaviour of Zuma and his allies.

They will most probably also use the pockets of the security, intelligence and police services in their (anti-Zuma) control to attack Zuma and his allies. These attacks from opponents against Zuma will not stop if he is re-elected ANC president in December.

Every dismissal perceived to be orchestrated by Zuma of an official seen as an opponent to his re-election, and every attack on a constituency seen to be “opposed” to ­Zuma, will create new enemies and centres of hostility ready to take him on.

A political deal can be cobbled together for Zuma in which he gets immunity from prosecution on condition he relinquishes the presidency of the country.

Such a deal would offer the president a dignified exit while he still retains some power. As president of the ANC, for example, he could focus on issues such as the modernisation the ANC’s clearly outdated structures, internal election procedures and rules.

It appears that many of the president’s current actions are aimed at preventing him being prosecuted on allegations of corruption in South Africa’s controversial multi-billion-rand arms procurement deal. In a democracy, extrajudicial political deals should normally be discouraged.

Cobbling together a political amnesty deal for Zuma is of course controversial and it will set a dangerous precedent. Others implicated in wrongdoing may justly ask that they also be given such freedom deals.

However, it could save South Africa from certain implosion. Unless the country’s leadership, values and priorities are overhauled lock, stock and barrel, such a deal may be absolutely necessary.

This will mean that others involved in the arms deal may also have to be given a deal to walk free. A condition should be set that they come clean on their wrongdoings before being given amnesty.

Ultimately, the best deal at Mangaung would be for a neutral candidate to be elected as the ANC’s president in order to bring an end to this paralysing infighting; but also someone who could galvanise all the ANC factions and South Africa around a new strategic direction for the country, new ideas and new energy to deal with the country’s deep-seated problems.

As the most senior ANC leader Zuma should put his stamp to such a deal.

Most importantly, Zuma appears to have lost the trust of large constituencies within and outside the ANC. The reality is that whatever reform he announces and whomever he appoints will be viewed with scepticism and seen as yet another partisan move to benefit him personally, his allies or his faction.

No matter how popular one is, if one’s credibility is gone, government will remain in paralysis as opponents fight your every move.

Ordinary ANC members and citizens are suffering and will continue to suffer the most from the ANC’s leadership battles at a time when the country needs credible, trustworthy and forward-looking leadership to deal with rising poverty, joblessness and poor public service delivery.

The country is also facing an increasingly uncertain future because of the negative spill-overs from global and euro zone financial crises, which will mean fewer buyers for South Africa’s products, which will translate into fewer jobs at home.

Furthermore, new rising emerging powers such as China, who portray themselves as our allies, but who are in fact our deadly competitors, will edge us out in Africa. Again, this will mean fewer jobs at home.

Unless we have intelligent leaders who can innovatively deal with the rise of the new emerging powers, such as China, South Africa may face the prospect of being recolonised, this time not be Western powers, but by these new emerging powers.

Unfortunately, the perception has taken root that the Zuma presidency is only looking after its own and is not using the talents of all South Africans, let alone all the talent within the ANC, to steer a course that is absolutely necessary to create wealth for all rather than for the few.


Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC.

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