The war for the ANC's soul

2010-01-26 00:00

IN 2005, when the African National Congress held its national general council (NGC), the then deputy president of the organisation, Jacob Zuma, was a man under siege.

He had been kicked out of a job and had, in a fit of anger, walked away from his other responsibilities in the organisation.

The forces that were to rehabilitate his political fortunes were just coalescing, and the NGC became the site of the beginning of the end for Thabo Mbeki and the start of the rise from the ashes for Zuma.

Zuma’s backers used every trick in the book to start the campaign that would unseat Mbeki two years later.

The ANC Youth League’s 65th anniversary was celebrated the whole year, with Zuma the featured speaker at almost all of the rallies. The youth league had decided the time had come to push Mbeki out and no amount of rhetoric about ANC tradition around campaigning for office would wash.

Fast forward to 2010.

Zuma is, in a sense, where Mbeki was, trying to contain groupings that have their own designs about what the leadership that must emerge two years from now should look and smell like. And while Zuma is himself safe, other people around him who also helped put him where he is, are the targets.

And Zuma is trying to push back the tsunami being galvanised by the youth league, arguing, as Mbeki did, that it is too early to start campaigning. Is anybody listening?

When National Executive Committee (NEC) member and cabinet minister Tokyo Sexwale pens a report for his organisation that is described by a cabinet colleague as having no standing, and is rebuked publicly by secretary general Gwede Mantashe as having chosen to fight over a nonissue, do we need to ask where all this is coming from?

Sexwale’s ambition to become president of the country is in the open. He tried prior to Polokwane to launch his candidacy through a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interview.

He learnt the bitter lesson that support from ANC structures is key — you can’t be a candidate in the media, parachuted into the masses and hope to win. His decision to move back into politics proper as a member of the NEC is not unrelated to rehabilitating his image and standing within the ANC.

A successful businessman, he is avowedly anticommunist.

When he was asked to draft a report on the booing of a number of ANC delegates at the South African Communist Party conference in December, Sexwale­ did not mince his words. He blamed Mantashe and the new god of the left, Blade Nzimande.

By so doing, he took the side of the youth league and the so-called nationalists who are out to nail the communists. He has calculated that this is the side that is not only buttered but that will continue to be so in future.

In the middle of all this drama is Zuma, beholden to both the left and the new so-called nationalists­.

He is expected by both sides to stand with them and he has so far avoided making the choice. It may not be possible for him to hold this neutral position for too much longer now.

For example, if all the talk in Polokwane is anything to go by, a provincial cabinet reshuffle in Limpopo is in the offing, after which all known lefties will be left out.

If Julius Malema cannot get his way at national level, he will start the erosion of communist influence in the province that he calls home. A place where some

people call him the de facto


Where does this leave the country, its economy and the implementation of policies designed to better the lives of “our people”?

All three take a back seat as everyone, from Zuma down, focuses on survival.

And with 2012 about 23 months away, the hiatus is going to be felt everywhere, unless Zuma bites the bullet and throws his lot in with one or the other of the groupings involved in the war for the soul of the ANC.

Don’t hold your breath.


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