Skip to main content
Read page text

Page Text

THEWORLDTODAY.ORG DECEMBER 2007

PAGE 25

suspended by Mbeki for what the president called an ‘irretrievable breakdown’ between him and his nominal boss. The media, civil society and judiciary are also feeling the pressure with increasing calls by ANC leaders to ‘regulate’ the private media and judiciary. A commission of inquiry found that the public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), blacklisted commentators – including this correspondent – seen as critical of the president.

ETHNIC GAME Zuma has been running a thinly disguised campaign of corralling Zulu-speaking support. Now that the mainly Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party is declining, many of its black middle class supporters who became prosperous under apartheid do not see it as the sole guarantor of their culture and tradition and have adopted Zuma as a new messiah. Even the party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi has warned that embracing Zuma’s presidential candidacy on the basis that it is now time for a Zulu to lead the country was a dangerous ethnic game.

COMPROMISE CANDIDATE Some ANC members are calling for a compromise candidate, who should neither be Mbeki nor Zuma. The organisation has an extraordinary reservoir of internal talent, but, how does it break through the archaic predemocracy election rules, the power of entrenched interest groups and the dirty tricks environment that has scared off some candidates, such as Ramaphosa? There is an immediate group of younger leaders a generation below Mbeki and Zuma, the most capable of whom is Ramaphosa. He has deep support among whites, blacks, the left and the ANC centrist mainstream. Sexwale is fighting a very public campaign, arguing for openness, transparency and accountability – to the irritation of the leadership, which may block his ascendancy because he is not following ‘tradition’. He lacks deep support on the left, although he is working at that, and the leadership thinks him too much of a glitzy modern politician. The ANC’s national chairperson, Mosiuoa Lekota, of the same generation as Ramaphosa and Sexwale has criticised fat cat party members, lambasted Zuma’s divisive campaign and reprimanded leaders with lax ethics. He is seen by Zuma as a credible threat. Mbeki supporters have nominated Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as deputy president on a leadership list of six top members. This means that if Mbeki remains president of the ANC, he could stand aside for her. She does not have widespread backing, but supporters of her former husband may turn to her, if he stumbles. The centrist head of the policy unit in Mbeki’s office, Joel Netshitenzhe, is another Mbeki favourite. Like Dlamini-Zuma he is not popular, and has the drawback

of a similar stiff style to his boss. Mbeki also favours the current Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. In her 40s, she of an even younger generation than Ramaphosa, Sexwale and Lekota. So far, the closest Mbeki has come to endorsing anybody was when he praised her early this year, as having all the credentials to become the next leader of South Africa. Influential Zuma supporters on the ANC’s left increasingly accept that their man may be popular but his election would just increase internal tension. They have suggested a compromise candidate, current ANC general secretary Kgalema Motlanthe, the former mine workers leader, who succeeded Ramaphosa in both that union and the ANC. The simple solution would be for both Mbeki and Zuma to step aside, and make way for either Ramaphosa or any other capable members of the younger generation. Even if Zuma or another potentially divisive leader gets elected, the country will not collapse. But it would mark a missed opportunity to rejuvenate democracy, to lift economic growth further, and step up efforts at nation-building and restoring the country’s social fabric. And it would also mean the failure to introduce new ideas, and a fresh sense of unity and purpose to galvanise the nation again as Mandela did when he became president in 1994.

Skip to main content