Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, December 11, 2006

There was a great piece in the Tribune this weekend around the ANC's Mbeki cabal plans to thwart Zuma's presidential bid. Christelle Terreblanche writes:
A strategy prominent in ANC thinking is to build wide support for Mbeki to take a third term as ANC president, while the search for a compromise candidate is instead focused on a new party deputy president, who in 2009 would take the reins of government as president.

Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has emerged here as a front-runner.

The former wife of the incumbent, Jacob Zuma, stands the best chance of being anointed by him should he face corruption charges and have to abandon the succession race.

Zuma has apparently indicated that he will not stand against her for the top job, tacitly approving her. It is widely expected that he would remain a prime kingmaker even if charged and convicted.

I was unaware of this admission by Jacob Zuma, but feel if Zuma beat the corruption rap and that if the presidency was at stake, that Zuma will renege on this. However, it offers an interesting angle on the debate. Dlamini-Zuma is not very well known to many in the ANC rank-and-file, despite being the Foreign Minister, as Mbeki usually takes the lead in most foreign affairs discussions. [Look for this to change should this strategy be implemented]. One also wonders whether the rank-and-file are ready for a female president, given the social conservatism of the lower LSM groups. However, this voting bloc is not very well represented at the ANC's AGM, and should Zuma not beat the corruption charge, then Dlamini-Zuma may easiest candidate for the re-unification of a divided ANC, given Zuma's role as 'king-maker'.

Terreblanche also writes that "Two recent developments - the outcomes of the Cosatu presidential elections, and the Eastern Cape's new pro-Mbeki leadership - indicate that Mbeki has gained control over the succession processes." This I'm not so sure about. I think it's still very shaky, and difficult to call either way. Zuma has been laying quite low of late, perhaps in preparation for his upcoming legal battles, and this may offer a false sense of security for Mbeki, but Mbeki's recent troubles (booing, walkouts) a various speaking engagements in KZN also offer a serious warning to him of Zuma's populist strength.

Anyway, there's much to be watching at present, and it will be interesting to see other developments that will indicate that this strategy has taken root. However, the bellweather of Zuma's trial remains. A successful defence of the corruption allegations will make him very difficult to stop.