The general public perception is that the ANC national conference is going to be a two-horse presidential race between Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, in the same way that Polokwane was a contest between Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki. Let me burst your burble, none of that is going to happen; writes Cue Sibiya.
In 2015, President Jacob Zuma said that he would never take part in elections for a third term as party leader, even if ANC branches begged him to. But…that was two years ago. Things have changed. Lives are at stake. Political killings are on the rise. Divisions in the ANC caucus are reported on a daily basis. To be frank, the ANC is going through a tough time and the only person to unite it, is none other than Jacob Zuma. Not my words, though. Zuma said it himself that he’s the only one who can reunite the ANC’s many and disparate factions. Hard to believe.
But believe it or not, President Thabo Mbeki also said the same thing when he was running for a third term. In 2008 – with Mbeki’s various rivals having been cut off at the knees – the suggestion was made that there was no one “of sufficient stature” in the ANC left to succeed him. Boy, oh boy!
Abraham Lincoln was spot on when he said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
I will come back to that quote…
For now, let me help you understand how, when we wake up on Tuesday, December 19, Jacob Zuma will still be the president of the ANC:
- Come 2019 (if the ANC wins the General Election), Dlamini-Zuma will be sworn in as SA President, but Zuma, as ANC President, will be the power behind the throne – with none of the checks and balances built into the Country’s constitutional system.
- Speaking of the constitution. Although South Africa’s constitution limits the president to a maximum of two terms, the ANC’s constitution has no term limits for its president.
- Jacob Zuma has already thrown his weight behind his ex-wife. (Don’t read that line again). Zuma has spoken glowingly about Dlamini-Zuma’s leadership qualities‚ describing her as “very bold” and “someone you can trust”, and wished that the ANC would see that it had a leader in her. But Dlamini-Zuma won’t see it coming when Zuma is done with her. (Point five explains it very well).
- Since the ANC is divided, with the potential of being more divided come December, Zuma (and others) believe that he should stay as the ANC president to sort out the mess. So here’s what’s going to happen; Zuma will politely accept the nomination to be the ANC president with the hopes of being the glue that keeps the party together, lest they have another COPE-like split in December.
- Going back to point number one. Zuma will remain the ANC president this December, come 2019, the ANC will campaign behind Dlamini-Zuma as the country’s president and probably Baleka Mbete as the deputy. And when Dlamini-Zuma wins, she will have the ANC president (Jacob Zuma) pulling all the strings – which is Zuma’s ultimate goal to position Dlamini-Zuma as incompetent with the hopes of the ANC re-positioning him as the country’s president to solve the mess caused by his ex. The same strategy he used when he had to bring back Pravin Gordhan.
Let me take you back a bit before I recite the Lincoln quote. You will remember that after the first rumours began circulating in mid-2003 that a constitutional amendment might be on the cards to allow Thabo Mbeki to serve a third term as South African president, President Nelson Mandela made it very clear that he would be completely opposed to such a move. Subsequently Mbeki, on at least four occasions, said that he would indeed step down as South African president in 2009. But did he? I don’t need to remind you.
Thanks to Zuma’s rebellion (I can’t believe I’m saying this), and the slipping of Mbeki’s grip over the organisation, Mbeki could have still been the country’s president by now, probably.
And this is exactly what President Obama said at the 2015 African Union summit. As he wrapped up his final trip to Africa while in office, Obama used his own tenure to take on one of the continent’s most enduring obstacles to democratic progress: its history of one-man rule by presidents and potentates who enrich themselves and cling to power for years, if not decades, in calcified regimes.
In July of 2015, the president of Burundi pushed ahead with elections that gave him a third term in office. In doing so, he threw his nation into upheaval in a move widely regarded as violating the country’s constitution and a peace agreement that ended a devastating civil war there.
The same month, in Rwanda, lawmakers voted to support a constitutional change allowing President Paul Kagame a third term.
The government of Burkina Faso collapsed in 2014 when protesters surged through the streets, denouncing President Blaise Compaoré’s plans to extend his 27-year rule. And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Joseph Kabila, well, need I say more…
Indeed, about half of the more than 50 countries in the African Union have presidents, prime ministers or monarchs who have been in power longer than Jacob Zuma, some of them for decades. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979. Robert Mugabe has been in power in Zimbabwe since 1980. Paul Biya has governed Cameroon since 1982. Yoweri Museveni has governed Uganda since 1986. Omar Hassan al-Bashir has governed Sudan since 1989.
And that’s my problem (hopefully everyone else’s); when a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife, as we’ve seen in Burundi. And this is often just a first step down a perilous path. And sometimes you’ll hear leaders say, “Well, I’m the only person who can hold the nation together.” If that’s true, then that leader has failed to truly build their nation.
That’s why Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Having survived eight motions of no confidence, most of you may never know why President Zuma desperately needs to remain in power. I do. And I will unpack it for you in my next article titled, “Why Zuma Needs To Stay In Power.”
Now, go and print or save this article so that you can revisit it three times: 1) in December 2017, 2) in the 2019 general elections, and 3) the day Dlamini-Zuma loses a vote of no confidence.
Cue Sibiya (@Cuemanbeing) is the Editor-in-Chief for The Republic Mail.