Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Mail & Guardian carries a sage analysis from Mbuyisi Mgibisa of the current Zuma presidential 'campaign' versus Mbeki's 'proxy' campaign.
Mbeki is painstakingly working party structures while Zuma is building constituencies of influence, notably among the left and lately with the Afrikaans community, both of whom the president has alienated over the years. In addition, Zuma is working the religious communities.

Who’s winning? While Zuma’s work may grab the headlines, Mbeki’s strategy is more wily. December’s conference will be run by the delegates, so party work is of the essence. Winning over constituencies will become important in the run-up to 2009, when the next national election is due.

This is an accurate summation in my opinion. Mbeki is driving the party brain, and if he can control influence within the party leadership, he can control the presidential vote. However, the SACP/Cosatu campaign for greater representation within the alliance is the only thing that could potentially upset the proverbial apple cart. Whilst they naturally will not be able make significant representational alterations before the conference, they could force a swing in delegate voting sentiment, should they be able to take advantage of the more fickle delegates. These delegates will vote according to where they feel the future influence may develop and 'back the winning horse'. It is under that scenario that Zuma will benefit.

How likely is that to happen though? The ANC will undoubtedly call the SACP's bluff, but may listen more carefully to Cosatu's concerns. However, the ANC knows that it is the spearhead of the political machine, and it is unlikely to defer too much to the other alliance partners. One may expect to see more high-level indabas between ANC and Cosatu/SACP leadership and some nominal representation concessions, but in pure voting power, I would imagine that little will change.