Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cosatu's Choice
Quite a weekend for Jacob Zuma. The Sunday Times came out with a front page story declaring that the Cosatu leadership had "dropped" Zuma as their presidential candidate of choice, a claim vociferously denied by the self-same Cosatu leadership.

It's difficult to tell at this stage where the truth lies. However, Vavi over the weekend did state that Cosatu's support for Zuma during "his trials and tribulations" was a separate issue from their 'potential' support of him as their presidential candidate. This would imply some merit to the Sunday Times' story. Cosatu clearly has to play a waiting game to determine whether the NPA will in fact prosecute, but time is running short before the ANC AGM later this year. Given the research studies conducted last year, which claimed only 40% support for Zuma within Cosatu's rank and file, I would place a speculative bet that Cosatu will indeed drop Zuma as their candidate.

Zuma himself addressed a Cosatu conference over the weekend and was transparent in his attempts to get Cosatu to remain in his camp. Zuma called on Cosatu to reclaim some power from Thabo Mbeki, realising the huge danger the centralisation of power around Mbeki plays in his political future. Zuma stated: "All I am saying is that this is the crucial year (ANC conference), when all decisions that we take will be important for long time to come. It is going to be critical what we do about this issue of concentration of power at the policy conference (in July)". Zuma continued throughout his speech to hint toward his 'working masses' credentials and his promises to never 'turn his back' on the working classes.

Whether it will be enough will have to be seen, but one doubts it. The NPA's increasing willingness to bring charges against Zuma again are troubling his allies, and Zuma faces a tough battle for crediblity this year. The populist support for Jacob Zuma remains strong, but the consequences for Cosatu backing the wrong horse for 2009 are significant. Look for Cosatu to adopt a "safety first" strategy.