Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Zuma needs Mbeki to be Party President
Political analyst Xolela Mangcu yesterday laid out his thoughts on Zuma's presidential hopes, stating that the only way Zuma could gain the presidency was if Mbeki clung to the ANC party presidency.

Whilst I agree with the sentiment, I'm not sure Mbeki's standing is a guarantor of Zuma's success. Zuma largely represents that disenchanted masses who have fallen outside of the riches gained by a market-led economy. These voters see Mbeki's macro- and microeconomic policies as the reasons for their poverty, and the seeming indifference of Mbeki's leadership style only fuels their anger. They have clung to Zuma as the antithesis of Mbeki; a populist leader 'with their best interests at heart'. Whilst I've stated before that I believe that this is just clever stump work by Zuma, which would probably not materialise in his presidency, it is a powerful driver of the voting power behind Zuma.

According to Mangcu's thinking, Zuma needs Mbeki to remain party president to focus and crystallise this discontent behind him. Mangcu believes that if Zuma were to come up against Ramaphosa or Sexwale in an open race, he would be defeated with ease. I would imagine that Zuma would find much more focussed support behind him should Mbeki remain party president, but I can't discount the voter's viewpoint. Zuma currently faces a lot of problems, even beside his legal issues. I think a lot will need to happen between now and December for him to be a shoo-in for the candidacy. I don't believe that Mbeki retaining the post will be enough. Remember that much of the decision-making for the candidacy takes place behind closed doors, and even with Zuma's shrewd political nous, I think he will be outdone in this kind of game by Mbeki and Sexwale (and/or Ramaphosa). Mbeki would undoubtedly assist these two in a foot race against Zuma, and with their pure halos of success, one would think that these candidates would easily find the 'boardroom' trades of power to secure either one of them the state president candidacy come December.

Mangcu also stated that he believed Sexwale to be the leading for the presidency.