Could SA stomach another Zuma?

 Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

The more President Jacob Zuma pronounces himself on the ANC succession debate and the more he advocates a woman to be ANC president, the more damage he does to the prospects of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma taking that role, especially by those opposed to his continued stay in the highest office in the land.

Given Zuma’s divisive leadership of both the party and state, his enthusiastic endorsement of a female leader – which can rightly or wrongly be read as an endorsement of Dlamini-Zuma – can inadvertently put off those who are opposed to his leadership of both party and state.

Why would those who are vehemently opposed to Zuma suddenly warm up to his idea of a future leader of the ANC and state? If Zuma has been so wrong and so inappropriate these past eight years, why would he suddenly and so spectacularly be apt and on point as far as the choice of a future leader of the ANC and state is concerned?

Reports suggest that Dlamini-Zuma was part of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) members who argued against Zuma’s recall in that watershed NEC meeting in November last year when Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom and his fellow objectors concocted a motion of no confidence against Zuma.

Therefore, Zuma’s overt support for a female president – and, by extension, Dlamini-Zuma – is likely to be seen as self-serving in that it can be perceived as a ruse for the appointment of someone who will protect him against impending corruption charges, should the courts rule in his protracted litigation against the DA’s attempts to have the 783 corruption charges reinstated.

The scepticism around Zuma’s call for a female president is further compounded by his lack of enthusiasm for a takeover by his current deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa. Could it be that he does not trust Ramaphosa to protect him should his legal woes continue after retirement?

Zuma became president of the ANC behind the clamour for the so-called tradition in which the ANC deputy president becomes the ANC president. Today, he says there is no such tradition. To muddy the waters even further, Dlamini-Zuma is not even part of the ANC top six, so how is the ANC going to explain her being parachuted into the ANC presidency, especially given that she spent the past six years in Addis Ababa and neither in the ANC nor in government?

How will the ANC counter perceptions, whether these are right or wrong, that she is being brought in to be a proxy of her ex-husband? How will the ANC counter the charge that she is being parachuted into the ANC presidency to make sure that law enforcement agencies do not necessarily charge her husband with corruption once he leaves office?

Does the ANC want to spend the next five years after the elections in 2019 trying to convince all and sundry that Dlamini-Zuma is her own person? Does the ANC want to spend the five years after 2019 having to explain that her every decision is not in the interest of Zuma or, for that matter, the Gupta family?

Dlamini-Zuma’s decisions are likely going to be second-guessed should she become president. Every decision that she will make will be scrutinised through Zuma-Gupta lenses. The electorate is bound to look for traces of Zuma or the Guptas, rightly or wrongly, in every decision that she is likely to make.

More importantly, should she be elected as president of the ANC, what impact would this have on the middle class vote? Would her election alienate the middle classes who would see her election as nothing but an extension of the looting period for the Zuma-Gupta networks?

Will her election be seen as an extension of her ex-husband’s lethargic years in the presidency? Given that her candidature is being supported by other rapacious Zuma supporters, wouldn’t her election be seen as nothing but a proxy for those who are engaged in primitive accumulation at the expense of ordinary citizens?

While those who want to continue to loot are using the clamour for a woman president, this might actually be the ANC’s undoing, especially if the electorate were to see her elevation as nothing but “Zuma Presidency Part 2”. After 10 years of the Zuma presidency – if he does finish his second term, that is – is the ANC prepared to spend the five years after 2019 on the back foot again, always defending Dlamini-Zuma?

Furthermore, we are always warned about the company we keep and Dlamini-Zuma’s ambitions might be stillborn, especially given that her cheerleaders are not exactly paragons of virtue.

While the idea of a woman leading the ANC is long overdue, Dlamini-Zuma might not necessarily be an inspired choice, especially given her ex-husband’s divisive presidency.

Some may argue that, should the electorate see her as nothing but a proxy for her husband’s forgettable presidency, the ANC is at risk of losing the elections in 2019. It’s been argued in the US that had the Democrats fielded any candidate other than Hillary Clinton, they might have won the elections, as the electorate could not countenance another Clinton in the highest office. Will South Africans be tolerant of a Zuma dynasty?

Ngobeni is a book publisher and the 2007 South African finalist in the British Council’s International Young Publisher of the Year awards programme

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