Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma speaking during a press conference as head of the African Union (AU) Commission. (Simon Maina, AFP)
The possibility that the ANC might lose power in the 2019 elections is increasingly bearing on members of the party as they struggle to take positions on the leadership that need to be elected in the forthcoming elective conference of the party to be held in December.
This is the only eventuality that has any pulling power to get ANC members to realise that South Africa can and will indeed carry on into the future without the ANC.
Losing the 2019 elections is something that is becoming as real as the force of gravity for the ANC. Having lost control of key metros in the 2016 local government elections, the ANC has learned the hard way that when the roof collapses over your head you don’t need any further proof that the force of gravity exists.
When it comes to the possibility that the party will further shed support in 2019, the only thing remaining for the ANC is to adopt an effective damage control plan to minimise an impending loss.
Of course, removing President Jacob Zuma would have played a major role in minimising potential loss of electoral support in 2019. Since the option of removing Mr. Zuma failed to garner sufficient support within the party, the only remaining choice is to find a way to rapidly undo his legacy and ensure voters that the party will turn a corner. This commitment has to be made before the 2019 elections.
An agreement has to be speedily reached on what type of leadership would send a strong message that the ANC will not be spending the next few years defending the indefensible legacy left behind by Mr. Zuma when his term as president of the party expires later this year.
It is probably out of this reality that ANC members are rumoured to be talking about a compromise leadership scenario; a chop-and-mix picture of the top six that need to be elected in the December conference. This is possible only if the warring factions within the party acknowledge that on their own, their respective victories at the elective conference will be hollow.
For example, Dlamini-Zuma has to realise that she has no chance of leading her party to a successful 2019 election if she carries on with the negative messaging, including blaming apartheid for everything under the sun. She is experiencing a trust issue since she became part of the Jacob Zuma leadership incubation programme driven by the president’s allies.
On the other hand, Ramaphosa’s base within the party is not strong enough to fully dislodge President Zuma’s allies from key positions within the party; something that could make him a lame duck president from day one.
In a situation like this, Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma would have to be brought to compromise and agree to some form of a list of top leadership comprising of individuals from both camps.
Ramaphosa could agree to serve one term as the president while Dlamini-Zuma becomes deputy president and focus much of her attention on stabilising the party. This would allow her to work her way into the party and repel the reputation that she is just jumping on Zuma’s compromised ticket. She can then take over after Ramaphosa’s one and only term as the president of the country.
I see Ramaphosa as both a deal taker and a deal maker; having taken a deal from Zuma’s people to become the deputy president of the party back in 2012.
Regarding Dlamini-Zuma, she has no realistic chance of inspiring anyone to return to vote for the ANC as long as she is seen to be too dependent on Zuma’s allies to survive and clinch the presidency. Her only way out of the political wilderness she currently finds herself in is to reach out to Zuma’s detractors.
After all, if Ramaphosa could nestle in Zuma’s ticket since 2012 when he was offered an opportunity to become the deputy president of the party, why isn’t Dlamini-Zuma strategic enough to realise she has to wait in the Ramaphosa transit lounge until such time that she can proceed to become the president of the country?
– Ralph Mathekga is an independent political analyst and author of the book When Zuma Goes. He writes a weekly column for
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