Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tokyo's Chance
I think Tokyo read my post from yesterday. He came out today with a "third way unity" list which is premised on the delivery of a party president drawing his lieutenants from both Zuma and Mbeki camps.

Tokyo Sexwale's supporters have put a new list on the ANC succession table, premised on neither Jacob Zuma nor President Thabo Mbeki in the top six, but incorporating lieutenants in both rival camps.

The so-called "third way unity list" has Sexwale in the position of president, but includes names in the Zuma and Mbeki camps which the ANC business tycoon's campaign agents hope will result in "maximum unity".
Tokyo's definitely feeling a bit of strain after being left out in the cold by the regional ANC branches, but one wonders whether this will have any hope of seeing the light. For my money, I think not...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Vavi playing a dangerous game
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is treading on very thin ice. Cosatu has put all of their eggs in one basket in terms of their backing of Jacob Zuma. Vavi hit the headlines over the weekend by stating that the tripartite alliance would "not survive" a Mbeki third term as ANC party president.

This is patently untrue, and largely overstates the power of Cosatu within the tripartite alliance. As we've said before, Cosatu and the SACP need the ANC more than the reverse, as most Cosatu and SACP members would vote ANC regardless of whether there was an alliance or not (Markinor Research 2006).

The problem for Vavi is that there is an increasing call from the regional ANC branches for a 'third way' candidate. With Tokyo's chances seemingly fading as he is yet to get an official branch endorsement, Cyril Ramaphosa's star may be on the rise. So far, he's made all the right moves, and he has the correct stature within the ANC NEC and credibility with the Left to make a serious bid for the party presidency. As we've seen, a lot can happen in six weeks though.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Zuma woos business
Jacob Zuma yesterday took investors from Merrill Lynch to lunch yesterday, to explain his economic policies and other positions 'should he become president'. Notably, the Business Day stated that:
Zuma spoke at length about the interdependence between political and economic stability and told the investors that the ANC’s internal process would ensure a smooth transition when the ruling party changes guard.

Zuma told the 20 asset and hedge fund managers that there would be no major shifts on economic policy post-Polokwane, and that the ANC policy conference proposals would guide the party on key political economic and social questions.

On social policy Zuma spoke of the importance of partnerships between the government and businesses, and said that the education sector needed greater investment from the private sector to yield stability in the longer term .
One thing we learn in politics is that talk is cheap, but in line with my previous Zuma posts, I imagine that this is Zuma's true position.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

T-Bone's losing the love
Thabo Mbeki's approval rating has fallen to its lowest in four years, around 40%. This is not the lowest it's ever been, but is markedly lower than the 2005 euphoria, when it as about 61%.

It's easy to see why if one looks at three key trends. Firstly, Mbeki is in the last vestiges of his second term, and has largely given up on creating policy, with his vision very squarely on who will succeed him. Secondly, his paranoia has grown exponentially in the past three years, and some of his decision-making has been questionable at best(Pikoli, Manto, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge), which has certainly led to some strain in confidence. Finally, there is the succession battle, which is splitting the ANC membership base, and thus the nation, and views are hardening on either side.

All of these factors together explain this slide, which is common in the final years of a presidential term. Expect it to get worse in the next year...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Farewell Lucky
It's a sad day today and this does somewhat depress in what should have been a great weekend for South Africa. Last night Lucky Dube was caught up in a botched hijacking last night in Johannesburg, and was killed. The Mail & Guardian currently carries the best coverage here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tokyo making all the right noises
Good to see presidential hopeful Tokyo Sexwale making all the right noises on freedom of speech at The Star's 120 year anniversary event last night.

"You have the right [to freedom of speech], you don't have to ask for that right ... you have won that right by being citizens of this country," he said. "Let nobody in this country preach otherwise ... the right was won through many years of struggle. Let us hold the ANC accountable to this founding statement of freedom of expression. It is important to remind the ruling party that they are not ruling anybody ... you [the ANC] are a servant of the people and not the other way around."

Sounding very presidential there, Tokyo. We like.

Interesting also was the assertion by The Star's editor Moegsien Williams that "tension between the government and the media was necessary in order for the media to fulfil their constitutional role." Williams went on to say that in his view, ANC policy documents which mooted tighter controls over media and the recent Sunday Times journalist prosecution issues were not matters for concern.

Interesting indeed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mbeki: Indispensable or Simply Arrogant?
Very interesting op-ed piece in the Business Day yesterday, written by UCT public policy lecturer, Anthony Butler. Butler investigates the driving forces behind Mbeki's desperation to hang on to the ANC party presidency, ultimately argues that it is due to his perception of his own "indispensability", and then goes on to debunk that notion.
Under close examination, however, the arguments advanced for Mbeki’s indispensability are even less persuasive than those put forward by Putin’s or Chavez’s champions. First, there is the purported need for the president to safeguard his “economic legacy”. Mbeki’s degree in economics once boosted business confidence, especially in the days when Trevor Manuel, Tito Mboweni and Pravin Gordhan were considered leftist radicals. Today, however, talented economists such as Jabu Moleketi have burst through the ranks and fresh ideas about how to reduce poverty and unemployment have supplanted Mbeki’s tired economic orthodoxies.

Mbeki also has no remedy to offer for the limited participation of black South Africans in the formal economy. As Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena told delegates at last week’s Black Management Forum, after a decade of Mbeki’s rule, whites still control 70% of the land, 98% of the banks, “all” manufacturing and tourism, and the overwhelming majority of precious metal reserves.

A second claim by Mbeki’s circle is that a power handover would create an insoluble challenge of continuity planning. Those not in government, they observe, necessarily “lack the experience” to be considered for high office. But does the current assemblage of ministers, directors-general, security chiefs and political managers really represent an irreplaceable national treasure whose hard- accumulated knowledge must be safeguarded at any cost?

Third, Mbeki’s people now implausibly claim that only they can resolve problems that result from their own past mistakes. Many health professionals, for example, believe that SA’s HIV/AIDS crisis has been made immeasurably more dangerous by sluggish interventions under Mbeki, and they now fear the rise of the sinister menace of drug resistant tuberculosis. Mbeki’s team remains eerily calm. Asked about slow implementation of government AIDS programmes, his health minister recently remarked that “Rome was not built in one day”.
An interesting read.

Friday, October 12, 2007

ANC Membership Audit a Boon to Mbeki
There was a very interesting development yesterday that could have a major impact on the succession debate. The membership audit of the ANC was published, which defines the provincial voting rights for the voting in of the party president in December.

The ANC currently has just 621 237 paid-up members (vastly below Cosatu's 1.8 million). The breakdown by province thought, is what's of interest. This is as follows:

Eastern Cape: 153164
KwaZulu-Natal has 102742
Limpopo 67632
Gauteng 59909
Free State 61310
Mpumalanga 54913
North West 47353
Northern Cape 37267
Western Cape 36 947

It is in this proportion that the provincial vote will be split, and guess who's up top, the Eastern Cape - Thabo Mbeki's stronghold. Not far behind though, is KZN, which is a Zuma stronghold, but the fact that the EC holds the most votes is a real boon to Mbeki's misguided (IMO) pursuit of the party presidency for a third term.

Time will tell, but follow murmurings coming out of the smaller regions (WC, NC, NW etc), because they may prove to be the critical swing voters either way.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tito rightly mocks the African common currency
I can't believe the ACB is still seriously considering this. A while back I wrote about the plans for a United States of Africa, which included the single common currency. The USA (United States of Africa) seems to have been shelved, but this single currency idea is proving more hardy.

There simply is not the economic stability in Africa to afford the luxury of a single currency. People may point to the success of the Euro, but this is patently different. African economies have huge variances in size, complexity, sophistication and history, and there is no way that a single currency will prove advantageous (least to South Africa) within our lifetimes. As Tito Mboweni states, it would be “a laughing stock”.

Please guys, let's focus on regional trade blocs and regional inter-dependencies, and leave the single currency for our grandkids... or maybe their kids...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"South Africa's Going the way of Zimbabwe"
My latest Thought Leader article is up, in which I give a rebuttal to that most irrational of assertions - that South Africa is "going the same way as Zimbabwe". I think it's an important rebuttal to have access too, please feel free to add to it in the comments.

Read it here.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Tokyo preparing his team
Tokyo Sexwale must have enjoyed the underdog wins in the rugby world cup over the weekend, as he silently prepares his team for his presidential run. He had another small shot in the arm over the weekend with the appointment of one of his point men, Paul Mashatile, as provincial chairman of the ANC at the party conference in Midrand.

It's not going to mean instant wins for Tokyo, but it does give him a friend in a very high place, given the nominations process of the ANC president, which comes through the provincial structures of the party.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Imperialism by Proxy?
I've largely moved away from commenting on international politics with all that's been going on in South African politics of late. However, last week's US Senate resolution supporting the split of Iraq into regional sects concerns me.

The US Senate passed a resolution calling for Washington to support "a political settlement among Iraq's major factions based upon the provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions." Translated, this means partitioning Iraq into various Sunni, Shiite etc sects, largely to lay any platform that will allow US forces to leave Iraq.

I find this disconcerting. The Iraqi government is under huge pressure from the US, and is treated as a mere subsidiary of its foreign policy at present. What the US Senate is doing, is trying to control the state of a foreign nation by proxy, largely to cover for its misadventures in Iraq. Decisions taken by the US Senate are largely seen as instructions to the Iraqi government, and Iraqi leaders have been noticeably disdainful.