Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, August 17, 2007

Paranoia and Desperation...
The latest proposal from ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe shows an unnerving insight into the paranoia currently gripping the ANC about their internal battles. Motlanthe's proposal is to completely do away with the traditional power of the Presidency, and replace it with a Prime Ministership, with the President being largely a ceremonial figure. The patent target of this proposal? Both Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki.

Motlanthe's proposal suggests that in 2009, conveniently when Mbeki's term ends, an office of prime minister would be introduced, whereby the president would be concerned with meeting heads of state, moulding the nation's citizens, and driving the vision of the country. The prime minister would be concerned with the nuts and bolts of leadership. He or she would be "a managerial specialist", who would drive regional government, service delivery, and civil service performance.

The proposal would seek to remove Zuma, should he be successful in his quest for the Presidency, from the day-to-day operations of the country. It would also seek to decentralise the power of the Presidency, such have been the lessons learnt for the ANC from Mbeki's terms. As such, it would limit Zuma's power to shape domestic policy - economic, social or otherwise. It also would dissuade the party from the internal battles that currently threaten to split the party in two. Mothlanthe desperation is to thwart the power battles that will begin in earnest in December at the ANC AGM and continue until 2009. We have seen the threats to the ANC's unity in the past 18 months; it's understandable that Mothlanthe has the old show tune in his head - "You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

Besides the tension it would inevitably create between the two offices, the proposal illuminates and increased fear from within the party of what the immediate future holds. Mothlanthe is well respected within the party as an ultimate ANC loyalist. He has served his party well, and it is clear that he has major concerns. This is a proposal that in my view, should never come to fruition, but it is a palpable bellwether of where the party's mindset currently stands.