If the ANC is serious about retaining power in 2019 and attracting “clever blacks” back to its ranks, then it should put economic transformation at the centre of its succession debate and elect Zweli Mkhize as its president in December this year.
It is common knowledge that the ANC was hoodwinked during the Convention for a Democratic SA into agreeing to a political settlement that favours the status quo and so it is no surprise that 22 years after 1994 the economic architecture of the country remains mostly intact.
Due to their economic power, whites are now able to dictate the national discourse through their almost unfettered access to the media, courts and certain public institutions.
If nothing is done about this, there is a great likelihood that the DA will gain power in 2019 with the help of those clever blacks, and disgruntled ANC offshoots such as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the Congress of the People, the United Democratic Front and other hangers-on.
As demonstrated in the August 2016 local government elections, no amount of racial vilification of the DA works any more.
The people of Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg still voted for opposition parties, and reduced the ANC majority to below the 51% threshold.
So, the ANC must be more strategic in its choice of a leader.
It must be a sophisticated modern politician, able to navigate with ease the complex world of global finance and command respect among captains of industry.
The ANC must elect someone whom the clever blacks can easily associate with – someone who speaks their language while possessing measured radicalism to rally the disgruntled and impatient youth away from the extremism of the EFF.
I recall an interaction with the ANC treasurer-general when I was part of a National African Federated Chamber of Commerce team that lobbied for the establishment of a small business ministry – he related a story about setting up cooperatives in the black community, the challenges that often accompany such initiatives and the central role a small business ministry could play.
As I sat taking notes of his lucid analysis about South Africa’s complex challenges and various ways of tackling them, I thought that if the ANC knew how to identify leadership talent, this man should be made president sooner rather than later.
It was the same Mkhize who reportedly saved South Africa’s face in the aftermath of the firing of then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene – convincing President Jacob Zuma to reconsider his decision on account of the adverse reaction of the financial markets.
While the business community respects him, as evidenced by his many speaking engagements – addressing the business community’s concerns that the ANC would resort to radicalism following the disastrous local election results – he does not have the tag of being beholden to the white business interests as his competitor, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, has.
On the other hand, many believe and have argued that Ramaphosa is wealthy and therefore suitable for high office, with his large bank balance shielding him from temptation to dip his hand into the cookie jar.
However, his business success and alleged close ties to the Jewish business community put a spanner in the works of what could have been an excellent campaign for the ANC presidency in 2017 and that of the country in 2019.
This has raised suspicions that Ramaphosa has been captured by super-rich white business and cannot be trusted to deliver on the economic aspirations of the black majority.
As the radical economic transformation agenda gains ground, and will in all likelihood be a major feature of the ANC electioneering for 2019, Ramaphosa does not qualify to be the face of this campaign as he is deemed reluctant to rock the boat that has propped up his personal wealth.
Another pretender to the ANC throne, and considered a leader in this presidential race, is outgoing chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
However, being the ex-wife of the country’s incumbent president makes her candidature undesirable – particularly to clever blacks who will not stomach another Zuma as their first citizen.
If the ANC goes to the polls with Dlamini-Zuma as their presidential candidate in 2019, they will probably end up in the opposition benches.
In fact, the Premier League (Free State, Mpumalanga and North West premiers) has been told so by its Gauteng counterpart.
It is unfortunate that she should be punished for being Zuma’s ex-wife 19 years after they divorced in 1998.
I recall that, many moons ago back in Durban in my political science lecture, our lecturer went to great lengths to tell us about the credentials of Dlamini-Zuma as a formidable ANC leader in her own right and how unfair and patriarchal it is to always see her as Zuma’s wife.
But this is South African politics – it’s loud, messy, cut-throat and dirty.
The news that Zuma arrived unexpectedly at an ANC 105th birthday rally in KwaDukuza recently, where Mkhize was billed as the main guest speaker, indicates that the Zuma camp is in panic mode, particularly with regard to Mkhize as the dark horse in this presidential race.
Buthelezi is a communications strategist, and head of corporate communications and stakeholder relations in the public sector
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