No amount of champagne, cakes or booze-fuelled parties can mask the reality of the what the ANC has become.
Showers late. More sun than clouds. Cool.
Baleka Mbete (L) talks with ANC Treasury General Zweli Mkhize (R) at the party's policy conference on June 30, 2017, in Johannesburg. (AFP)
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Recently there has been much talk about a possible
third way as a compromise position before the ANC elective conference.
The so-called third way is pushed by David Mabuza
(from Mpumalanga) under the banner of unity and in an attempt to prevent
another bruising electoral battle at the conference.
The idea would be to reach an agreement before the
conference on some of the top positions and thus they would be elected
uncontested. In order to secure that Mabuza and co.
are proposing Zweli Mkhize as the presidential candidate.
Of course Mkhize has a long history in politics, is
liked by the business community and most importantly has significant support in
It also seems that Mkhize was deeply hurt by the fact that he
was dropped from Ramaphosa’s slate, which is why he announced that he was
running for the presidency just three days after Ramaphosa’s preliminary slate
Rumour has it that senior members of the premier
league have been unhappy with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s unwillingness to assure
them of key positions on her slate, so undoubtedly such a third way will also
feature some of the premier league leaders on the slate.
However, it might also include Paul Mashatile from
Gauteng and Gwede Mantashe – both of whom are more aligned to Ramaphosa.
Of course for the Ramaphosa camp this alternative
becomes acceptable if they realise that they are going to lose. For the Zuma
camp the advantage would be the prevention of a split
in the party – which is very likely if Dlamini-Zuma wins.
Although this looks like a good compromise, I am
convinced that the third way as proposed at the moment is a win for the Zuma
faction in camouflage. With Mabuza and other premier league leaders involved it
cannot be anything else – and is probably Zuma’s plan B.
It was always obvious that a strategist like Zuma
would never put all his (political) eggs in his ex-wife’s basket. The question
was just what his back-up plan would be. This could
The third way possibility will diminish Ramaphosa’s
chance of winning. If kingmaker Mabuza can secure the support of the Free
State, North West, Mpumalanga, and Gauteng as well as the Mkhize and Zuma
support of KZN, it is game over for all the other candidates. If presented with
such an alliance Ramaphosa would be wise to withdraw.
It is also worthwhile considering that Dlamini-Zuma
might be willing to work with Mkhize and that he could become her deputy or she
his. So President Zuma gets the dynamic leader in Mkhize and the figurehead and
safety net of Dlamini-Zuma.
It is interesting that those supporting Ramaphosa are
now pushing the narrative of tradition (that the deputy president always
becomes president) in order to oppose the Zuma camp’s narrative of unity, but it
seems that the unity argument – albeit a rather dishonest one in this case – might
win the day.
If this camouflaged Zuma-win actually materialises the
ANC will without a doubt form a more united front and assuming President Zuma
retires shortly after the conference, it will most likely ensure a comfortable
majority for the ANC in 2019.
However, even though Mkhize is a different calibre of leader
than most in the Zuma camp, the question remains how compromised he will be by
those who secured his victory?
My guess is that he will not be able to bring much
reform or a different way of governing, because he will be beholden to those
who put him there.
And so, over the long run the ANC might win, but the
country will lose.
Some have argued that the proposed third way might be
a cunning plan between Ramaphosa and Mkhize. They argue that Mkhize would drop
out at the end to support Ramaphosa with the promise of a senior Cabinet
position – such as Finance Minister.
That would be a very high risk strategy.
It is important to remember that Mkhize (like all the
other candidates) can stand for only one position in the top 6 (which might now
become the top 9 or 10). So if he was to withdraw at the last minute he would
be out of the office bearers’ race and could at most be an additional NEC
So if Mkhize were to drop out at the end he would have
to be pretty sure that Ramaphosa would win and also honour his word for a
senior position in government.
The question remains that if Mkhize can secure a win
for Ramaphosa by bringing in for example enough additional votes from KZN, why
would Ramaphosa not put him on his slate from the start? Why risk this
In order to secure a Ramaphosa win Mkhize would most
probably have to “deliver” Mabuza and it is very doubtful that Mabuza would
agree to this – not without his premier league brothers-in-arms, such as Ace
and Supra, also joining the slate.
It is also doubtful that Mkhize (who is clearly
ambitious) would help Ramaphosa to be president if he could secure the top job
So as much as we might want to believe otherwise, this
is far more likely Zuma the ultimate strategist at work.
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