Ralph Mathekga

Are Zuma's allies jumping ship?

2017-06-19 08:54
Fikile Mbalula

Fikile Mbalula

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The road to the ANC’s December elective conference is becoming interestingly uncertain; even for those within the party who thought they were guaranteed victory in what promises to be a very dramatic conference.

President Zuma’s camp, Camp Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, seems to be encountering serious headwinds, not only caused by the rival Cyril Ramaphosa, but also from some people who were presumed to be Zuma’s allies.

The Zuma camp is driven by the so-called Premier League and draws membership from the premiers of Mpumalanga, the Free State and North West provinces. Together with the ANC Youth League, the Women’s League, and the Military Veteran’s League, this camp has outright credibility problems because it is seen as a coalition of the mean and corrupt.

The statement posted on Twitter a few days ago by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula shows that within the Zuma camp, there might be those who are beginning to feel that indeed a compromise has to be made on the top six leaders preferred by this camp. Mbalula stated that the presence of Free State premier Ace Magashule on this camp’s proposed top six list spells disaster.

Having been recently promoted to lead the influential police department, Mbalula’s statement seems to be a challenge to Zuma’s staunch allies including the Free State premier and the ANC Youth League.

Why would Mbalula take a position that could jeopardise his relationship with Jacob Zuma and his allies? Is he just being naively honest about the fact that the success of the Zuma camp in December will indeed spell disaster for the ANC in the 2019 elections?

It has always been my observation that if the Zuma camp gets all its candidates elected to the party’s top six positions, the ANC will lose the 2019 elections. With his tweet, Mbalula proposes a compromise by removing some of the people from the Zuma camp’s list and bringing to the list the name of Gauteng premier David Makhura; a known anti-Zuma person who does not have credibility issues. 

What boggles my mind, however, is how to interpret Mbalula’s proposal. Is this proposal a third way, or does it make Mbalula still a Zuma ally trying to patch a badly leaking boat? Perhaps his reasonable proposal that Makhura would be a fitting secretary general of the ANC is Mbalula’s way to shop for a political home away from the Zuma camp. Since his failed bid to topple the then staunch Zuma ally Gwede Mantashe as the secretary general of the party at the 2012 Mangaung conference, Mbalula has been forced to lie low and live under the mercy of the Zuma camp.

In his bizarre tweet last week, Mbalula mentioned his failed campaign to become the secretary general of the party, opening the wounds of 2012! The truth is that Mbalula has never been a Zuma ally; he only needed to be to survive politically.

It could be the case that within the Zuma camp, there are a few adventurers who are willing to bargain and join hands with the Ramaphosa camp in return for positions. Ironically, even the most corrupt politicians would prefer not to surround themselves with people who have no credibility in the eyes of the people. In politics credibility is a currency, and this is known even by those who lack it.

It has also been rumoured that another Premier League A-lister David Mabuza might be shopping for a political home outside the Zuma camp. Mabuza is suspected to be willing to bargain for a position within the Ramaphosa camp in return for bringing in support from Mpumalanga, a province he is alleged to dominate like a personal fiefdom. The Zuma camp is made up of a bunch of poker players who are beginning to raise the stakes.

With all the commotion within the Zuma camp beginning to point to uncertainty, it stands to be seen as to whether Ramaphosa’s camp will seize the moment and offer deals that would further infiltrate the Zuma camp. One area of improvement shown by ANC members since the 2012 Mangaung elective conference is, however, definitely in their slyness. 

- Ralph Mathekga is an independent political analyst and author of the book When Zuma Goes. He writes a weekly column for News24.

* This article has been updated.

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