It is only 12 days to go before the ANC national conference starts. The prospect of Cyril Ramaphosa becoming president of the party is giving many of his comrades heart palpitations and loose tummies. The era of patronage and looting is about to be disrupted, many of them think.
This is the motive behind the feverish call for unity from the likes of President Jacob Zuma, Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza and many others now criss-crossing the country talking of dire consequences if the party does not have a “united” leadership.
It is now clear that Ramaphosa is ahead in the leadership race. Tomorrow the biggest of the ANC’s provinces by membership numbers – KwaZulu-Natal – will pronounce on its leadership preferences. There are no surprises there: Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will get the province’s nomination to succeed Jacob Zuma.
What will be interesting, though, will be just how much of her allegedly solid KwaZulu-Natal base Ramaphosa will have eaten into.
A significant showing by Ramaphosa – helped by his allies in the province, such as former premier Senzo Mchunu – will mean he is ahead at least until delegates enter the voting booth at the conference. It is a secret ballot.
The ANC has been losing support since Zuma became its president in 2007. Soon after he ascended to power, the Congress of the People was formed.
In the 2009 elections, 7% of the electorate followed COPE. The ANC’s electoral tally declined from the 69% that it commanded under Thabo Mbeki to 65.9%.
Zuma didn’t give a toss. Soon after his re-election as party leader in 2012, the Economic Freedom Fighters was formed. Again, this “unity” man didn’t give a toss. He was in charge and it was at this time that he handed South Africa lock, stock and barrel to the Gupta family.
In 2014, the EFF attracted just more than 6% of mainly ANC voters to its fold. The ANC declined to 62% of the vote.
The trend continued with last year’s local government election, where the ANC commanded a mere 54% of the national tally of votes. In the Free State’s Metsimaholo municipal elections held last week, the ANC has gone from 82% of the vote in 2011 to a paltry 34% – with its own off-shoot, the EFF, and its disgusted ally, the SA Communist Party, the big winners.
What it all means is that the ANC has been falling apart since Zuma became leader. He is the most divisive ANC president in its 106-year history. So the idea that he, of all people, could bring about unity of the ANC is preposterous.
Even worse are those who are preaching unity on his behalf.
In the North West, the provincial chairman, Zuma die-hard Supra Mahumapelo, has presided over a kleptocracy that has seen the province’s residents wailing for the return of the Bantustan leader Lucas Mangope. In Mpumalanga, corruption is so commonplace there isn’t even space to report it in the local or national press – it is a way of life. For an example of what Mpumalanga produces, look no further than Zuma’s brand new State Security Minister Bongani Bongo – his entire history screams “payola”.
With the urging of Zuma, these are the people who are walking around trying to engineer a “unity candidate” to lead the ANC.
They want Ramaphosa to step aside for a “unity candidate” or to accommodate some of their own on his leadership team.
Their motives are clear. After three years of campaigning for Dlamini-Zuma, things have not panned out quite as envisaged. The plan now is to neuter a new incumbent by placing around him (in this case Ramaphosa) enough of their own corrupt clan that every single attempt to reform captured institutions, such as the National Prosecuting Authority and the SA Revenue Services, will be stymied. They have no interest in ANC unity, but in continuing the looting of the past 10 years.
If Ramaphosa and his fellow reformers in the ANC fall for this ruse they will live to regret it.
The next national election is just 18 months away. The electorate will see through any attempt to allow Zuma and his cronies to rule from the grave.
If a “unity” candidate wins the ANC election, expect the party to suffer hugely in 2019.