Opinion: Zuma overplays his hand and discovers that the ANC has long moved on from him

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He said he stood by the candidate he supported five years ago at the Nasrec 2017 national conference. Photo: Gallo Images/Phill Magakoe
He said he stood by the candidate he supported five years ago at the Nasrec 2017 national conference. Photo: Gallo Images/Phill Magakoe


Former president Jacob Zuma will finally wake up to the realisation that he is no longer the same, influential leader he was a few years ago.

In typical Zuma style, he released a statement in the middle of the night on Monday, professing his support for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to be elected president of the ANC.

He said he stood by the candidate he supported five years ago at the Nasrec 2017 national conference.

“The candidate that we supported in 2017 at the 54th national conference remains the most capable to lead the ANC, given her track record in the movement and government, leadership capabilities and qualities, and her understanding and knowledge of the ANC.”

The statement was obviously an attempt to influence or upstage the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, which was due to announce its preference for the top six officials of the party on Tuesday.

It was clear that Zuma knew they would announce a different candidate from the one he preferred.

The province has since named former health minister Zweli Mkhize as their presidential candidate, as widely expected.

They also named Paul Mashatile as their deputy president candidate.

They endorsed the Limpopo nomination of Stan Mathabatha as national chairperson, former Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle as the secretary-general candidate and former Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane as the nominee for the deputy secretary-general position.

They said they would negotiate with other provinces on the name of the candidate for the treasurer general position.

In another move that is certain to go down like a lead balloon, Zuma also announced his availability to be the party’s national chairperson.

READ: Cosatu members ready to serve ANC with divorce papers

“I have indicated that I will be guided by the branches of the ANC and that I will not refuse such a call should they deem it necessary for me to serve the organisation again at that level or any other,” he said in the statement.

When the new ANC KwaZulu-Natal leadership was elected two months ago, one of their signature messages was their support for Zuma, who they felt had been ill-treated by government and abandoned by the ANC.

In large measure, former provincial chairperson and premier Sihle Zikalala was removed on the basis of this assertion.

Zikalala himself said rumours had been peddled about his lack of support for Zuma and that had funnelled negative attitudes against him.

All this indicated that Zuma was still respected and loved by large sections of the ANC in the province.

But, Zuma mistook this for a belief that he could still call the shots and decide the ANC leadership from his home in Nkandla.

When the newly elected leadership visited him in Nkandla, he was confident that they would still listen to him.

He also conveyed his wishes to ANC national executive committee members who were still sympathetic to him when they visited him as well recently.

But, much as these groups care about his welfare and wish for him to not be sent to jail again, politically, they have since moved on from where he is.

Based on their own assessments and whatever current interests, they believe that Mkhize is best placed to take on front runner Cyril Ramaphosa for the position.

READ: Zuma endorses Dlamini-Zuma and raises his hand for top ANC post

Zuma insinuated that money was the key factor in determining leadership preferences in his statement: “Unfortunately, it is not those that have a lot of money that count. On the contrary, it is those who have the capabilities to help lead the ANC and are trustworthy to the principles and policies of the ANC,” he added in the statement.

But, Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma are raising their hands for leadership at the tail-end of a process that has been under way for months now with Mkhize constantly engaging regional leaders and branches in KwaZulu-Natal and other provinces.

Other than accusing other candidates of peddling and being influenced by money, Zuma did not motivate why Dlamini-Zuma would be a better candidate.

The nomination process by branches is now under way and the former president still hopes to pull a rabbit from a hat.

But, he is best advised to focus on staying out of jail. Politically, he is now a spent force.

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