Mpumelelo Mkhabela

Zuma's main gripe with Mbeki

2017-01-13 09:16
Gwede Mantashe (Picture: AFP)

Gwede Mantashe (Picture: AFP)

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The biggest post-94 political grievance Jacob Zuma ever had was against President Thabo Mbeki for allegedly conspiring to block his ascent to the highest office in the land. 

His strategy to unseat Mbeki as ANC president in 2007 and ensuring his removal as head of state in 2008 because, as he put it, “public confidence in the ANC has declined”, had nothing to do with the well-being of the party. 

Nor was it meant to improve the ANC’s relations with its alliance partners – the SACP and Cosatu – who supported Zuma “the unstoppable Tsunami” without strings attached. The two organisations, particularly Cosatu, are poorer under Zuma than they were under Mbeki. 

Zuma’s rise to power was not about providing leadership to improve the stature of the ANC Leagues. Under Zuma, the Youth League and the Women’s League are shadows of their former selves. 

It was not about improving the lives of the poor who have since grown in numbers. It was not about reducing income inequality which is worse now than it was under Mbeki. It was not about reducing unemployment which has increased dramatically under Zuma. It was not about fighting corruption which has spread its tentacles like cancer. 

On the foreign policy front, it was not about taking South Africa’s stature in world affairs to greater heights. Our position in international relations has declined. Fewer countries take us seriously. It was not even about helping Zimbabwe change course and improve its political economy. Zimbabwe has regressed even further. 

It was not about improving the efficiency of government. Under Zuma, we have an expensive Cabinet and a bloated and costly spousal office. It was not about fast-tracking land reform. If anything, land reform has stalled. It was not about enhancing respect for the rule of law and the Constitution. The Constitution is routinely violated without consequences. 

It was not about providing better leadership on HIV/Aids policy. Zuma is known for “take a shower” solutions. It was not about respecting the dignity of women, who Zuma is now campaigning for to lead the ANC. He is on record saying if they wear revealing clothes it means they want “it”. The women Zuma now campaigns for to lead the ANC are yet to criticise him for this stance. So much for the “readiness of women” to lead the country, let alone fellow women. 

It was not about increasing the support base of the ANC so much as it was about keeping Zuma himself in power. Under Zuma, the ANC has lost support in all four elections – two municipal and two national elections. He has brought nothing but the decline of the party. 

It was not about helping South African companies navigate a tough global environment. Under Zuma, an iconic South African company, MTN, suffered the heaviest regulatory fine on the African continent, the first since our companies started expanding abroad. 

It was not about improving relations between government and business. Under Zuma, companies that create jobs and pay taxes have been described as white monopoly capital and “enemies of the revolution”. 

It was not about fighting imperialism. Under Zuma, a new form of imperialism has been invented where some foreign nationals use political proximity to him to acquire state-sponsored wealth. 

To recap: Zuma’s main political gripe was against just one man – Thabo Mbeki. This was for one reason: allegedly blocking him to ascend to the Presidency by dismissing him as deputy president. Zuma had no vision for the country other than using his power to repel the sting of the law. The ANC failed to impose a vision on him as he persistently conducted himself outside the stated norms and values of the governing party.

So, why did Zuma feel so entitled to run the country that he saw his dismissal as deputy president in 2005 as a strategy to stunt his political career? It was because in his view, a deputy president should naturally ascend to the highest office. And if this was his view, why is he now campaigning for people other than his own deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa? There can only be one answer to the question: Zuma wants to rule from the grave. 

President Zuma wants his successor to be someone he can trust to block law enforcement agencies to pursue corruption allegations against him, his family members (who suddenly discovered entrepreneurial flair soon after December 2007) and his friends.

Zuma does not trust Ramaphosa, a lawyer by qualification and a wealthy former businessman, to stifle law enforcement. There is a lot at stake. Zuma and his allies will ensure that they use their experience that won him the two conferences in Polokwane and Mangaung to clinch another victory in December. They have mastered the patronage networks of the ANC branches.

Unless ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who seem to prefer a debate on Ramaphosa’s abilities, disqualifies corrupted branch leaders from attending the conference, Zuma and his allies have already won the elective conference.

But of concern to those who still hold the ANC in high regard and who want it do well will be whether voters will have faith in an ANC leadership supported by Zuma in 2019. If the last four elections are anything to go by, a Zuma-backed slate is headed one way at the polls. South.

- Follow Mpumelelo Mkhabela on Twitter.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  elections


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