Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

2006: The Year of Zuma
If Zuma's woes in 2005 dominated the media cycle in 2005, it's only set to increase in 2006. With two trials covering the most heinous of personal and political offences - rape and corruption - Zuma's name will be the ink used by many a scribe's pen in the coming months.

His first challenge to the ANC leadership has been his December 30th statement that he will continue to campaign for the ANC in KZN for the upcoming local elections, flying in the face of his previous assertion to stay clear of ANC activities until the culmination of both trials. And this sets up the pivotal prelude to Zuma's year - which side of the party line will his former colleagues and allies fall? This move is undoubtedly a pre-emptive attempt to assess the lie of the land from his faithfull, ensuring that he can start the new year, and the run-up to his watershed trials knowing full well who is in his camp, and who is not. The ANC will be forced to make a tough decision; to bar him from campaigning, or to sweep it under the carpet. Anything less than a complete barring will be seen as a victory for Zuma.

With the rape trial set for court in February, and the corruption trial in July, Zuma will have no respite from the media, the public, or his party. And with little political party support from inside or outside the tripartite alliance, Zuma has only his populist followers to call on. The problem for him, is that the opinions of populist supporters are easily swayed by the Cosatu/SACP leadership, and an emphatic guilty verdict in the either trial (especially the rape trial) would probably lose him even the most one-eyed of loyal supporters (non-withstanding his jail time!).

Either way these trials conclude, Zuma will find it incredibly difficult to find his way back onto the ANC party lists. One would imagine that he would be forced to go it alone, or find a position within the Cosatu/SACP area of the tripartite alliance, which, given his support for government macro-economic policies would make for an unusual inclusion. But one thing is for certain, we will undoubtedly be very tired of hearing Zuma's name come the end of 2006.