No amount of champagne, cakes or booze-fuelled parties can mask the reality of the what the ANC has become.
Partly cloudy. Mild.
Former president Jacob Zuma has threatened to air the dirty laundry of those who keep talking about him in public. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)
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Former president Jacob Zuma is back, and he is threatening to call Jesus on the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
Judging by his appearance in the Durban High Court last week, Zuma is a wounded, desperate man who is resorting to trading threats and blackmail.
A few days before he appeared in court on corruption charges, he threatened some senior leaders in the country to stop talking about him on TV. He did not say anything about people who write about him, probably because the reading space does not concern him much.
The former president pulled a massive crowd to the court last week – probably the biggest crowd to have ever gathered to support someone in court since the collapse of apartheid in the country. Reports have since come out to indicate that Zuma has been at work in KZN, mobilising support for himself and brewing a mutiny against Cyril Ramaphosa's ANC presidency.
Zuma is implicated in the collapse of KZN's provincial conference which failed to take off over the weekend following a successful court interdict. No doubt, he has all the reasons to mobilise political support through which he can continue to fight the criminal charges against him which he insists are politically motivated.
But the factions that exist in the ANC at national level and in a province such as KwaZulu-Natal are at this point only an opportunity for Zuma to drive his political campaign to evade corruption charges. It is a stretch to conclude that he is actually causing the factional divides.
Factions continue to exist after the Nasrec elective conference, not because Zuma has continued to recreate them, but because the newly elected national leadership of the ANC has thus far failed to lead the party away from it. The party leadership has collectively failed to lead the party on a path of unity, despite having sung the unity hymn ever since the Nasrec conference.
At some point, it becomes ridiculous and unfair to blame Jacob Zuma for the party's failure to move away from his brand of politics. The collective responsibility regarding this lies with the current national leadership of the ANC. But at the moment, the ANC leadership is an absentee boss who is not there to lead the staff in a moment where there is an opportunity for a major transition.
What Zuma continues to do is simply what any desperate man in his position would do – he is exploiting the existing divisions in the ANC for his narrow purpose of building a political campaign against the criminal charges he is facing. If this is his last lifeline after he's tried everything to push against this trial for the past eight years, why would he not give it a shot?
He is aware that KZN is potentially a centre-stage for resistance against Ramaphosa's leadership. This means that all those whose fortunes and political careers are to be destroyed by Ramaphosa's anti-corruption agenda should head to KZN for a refresher course on how to fight back and stay out of jail.
It is not the pro-Zuma fan club in KZN that should worry people, it is rather the growth of the anti-Ramaphosa fan club made up of multiple agendas. If it grows bigger and bigger as it seems to be, the anti-Ramaphosa fan club has the potential to outlive Jacob Zuma's legal woes and cripple the ANC and the country further.
The domino effect of the defiance and chaos experienced by the ANC in KZN is that power brokers in other provinces will begin to realise that the national leadership of the ANC lacks the backbone to pronounce itself upon provinces. This will intensify power struggles in provinces as factions intensify and evolve, overwhelming the national leadership of the party.
If provincial leadership squabbles continue to intensify in the ANC, it will undermine the talk of a "new dawn" pushed by Ramaphosa. If ANC provinces are cantankerous, the national picture we call the ANC cannot be said to be looking good.
The whole which we refer to as the ANC – often represented by the national leadership – is simply a collection of provinces. Therefore, given the current state of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and the North West, for example, it cannot be said that the general picture is that of a healthy and coherent ANC.
For the first time in a long time, or since the beginning of democracy in South Africa, ANC provinces bear negative impacts on the overall picture of the party. The biggest threat the ANC faces going into the 2019 elections is the state of leadership in the provinces. Ironically, the provinces are a perfect reflection of the state of the leadership of the party: it's a so-so situation.
- Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg. He is author of When Zuma Goes and the upcoming book, Ramaphosa's Turn.
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