A tough time for Zuma

2012-04-05 05:43

It must be really hard for president Jacob Zuma  to have to run for re-election at the same time when the ANC is taking stock of itself to prepare for its national conference.

Because what Zuma wants, I imagine, is for his presidential mistakes to remain in the background and his victories to be shouted from the rooftops. Sadly for him, the opposite is happening.

In its discussion documents the ANC is taking a hard look at itself and clearly not liking what it sees.

A key issue the party raises is cadre deployment – which is the practice of ensuring key positions in government and business is held by comrades, rather than just ordinary people who did well at school and seem willing and able to do the job.

Unfortunately recent history is littered with examples of cadres who could not make the grade and had to be shifted when the going got too tough. Some were simply given another job, this time as far out of harm’s way as possible.

But of course, cadre deployment starts right at the top. The ANC “deployed” Zuma to lead the country, and it is the wisdom of this choice that some are now disputing.

Last week I decided to catch up with some comrades and take a temperature reading of the succession race.

Is the campaign to replace Zuma with deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe for real or is it just a pipedream of a group of disgruntled comrades?

I would say Motlanthe’s lieutenants now are probably a new coalition of the wounded of sorts. They are politicians, businesspeople and comrades who are unhappy that they did not cash in enough on the Zuma administration.

It was fun to see how comrades who, two years ago, got tears in their eyes when they told me about Zuma, now looked at me with icy stares when I mention his name.

The first thing one asked me when I sat down at a trendy Sandton coffee shop (because these guys don’t do Wimpys) was if  I was a “Zuma journalist”. Because if I was, I wouldn’t be let into the secret society of Motlanthe supporters.

He then proceeded to tell me about all that’s bad about Zuma. Starting with the love-child affair, the dropping of the corruption charges, the lack of real change in the economy and how all the sucking up to China resulted in very little for the ordinary man or tenderpreneur on the street.

So what is up with Kgalema’s campaign? It is still embryonic and rather disorganised, with initial advances now being made from its headquarters here in Gauteng. Not even the whole of the ANC in Gauteng is convinced yet that Motlanthe is the man for the job. Some are still holding out for Tokyo Sexwale – especially the Diepsloot dwellers with whom he spent a night in 2009 – while others have grown quite comfortable with Zuma and still have Polokwane fatigue, so they’re not up for another election battle.

So as with Zuma’s campaign all those years ago, Motlanthe’s one is starting with a small but well-moneyed group who is hoping to sell their message to the rest of the country – and I mean sell in the crudest way possible.

When Sexwale finally called it quits on his Polokwane ambitions, his supporting role for Zuma was that of the Campaign ATM, where money for whiskey, KFC and votes was sourced.

Making matters worse for Zuma is that Motlanthe seems to say and do all the right things. Even before campaign season opened he was clearly in favour of the Dalai Lama visiting South Africa while the South African government got entangled in semantics when they tried to explain why mr Lama could not get a visa.

Motlanthe has the media on his side after his public utterances displaying a willingness to consider a public interest clause in the secrecy bill, while the ANC was – and still is – dead set against it.

And now, with campaigning in full swing, Motlanthe actually berated his supporters because they wore T-shirts with his picture stating “Kgalema for president”.

And when his partner Gugu Mtshali was named in possible soliciting of a bribe, he marched both of them to the nearest Public Protector office and said: Investigate us.

So for now Motlanthe can comfortably quote Keri Hilson when she says in the pop song Pretty Girl Rock – “don’t hate me cos I’m beautiful”.  But will he sing in Mangaung “don’t hate me cos I’m president”?

I’m not convinced, not yet

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