ANC’s NEC is still unlikely to take action against Jacob Zuma

For the alliance partners, in particular for Cosatu and the SACP, the ANC as a brand effectively gives them airtime, it gives them oxygen. Without the brand of the ANC they would find it very difficult to gain representation or indeed be as fully represented in parliamentary politics as they are under the ANC banner.

But clearly there is a distinct lack of trust between a variety of factions within the ANC and this at least publicly centres around leadership and in particular the persona of Jacob Zuma.

BDTV: Does the ANC then have to take action before next year or risk losing these alliance partners and you have mentioned that they need the ANC as much as the ANC needs them, but does the ANC need to move on Zuma perhaps as early as the NEC meeting this month? DS: I always said that the bickering that would take place this year would be destabilising for the ANC. After all, we’re still counting down until the end of the year. The ANC largely has lost about a year in terms of regaining any kind of cohesion amongst itself and amongst the electorate. And the disunity and factionalism over an entire 12-month period, longer really since the local government elections last August, have been the worst possible decision for the ANC not to come to some sort of bolder move on leadership.

But there are still six months to go before the elective conference and for the moment, I think most South Africans, the business community and for that matter within the ANC, will be hoping that a new slate of leadership will be elected in December that can somehow at least arrest the slide of the organisation and the alliance and the popular support of the ANC as well and reboot the party into the next year.

It really will depend, I suppose, on which faction comes out in the ascendancy in December and whether that faction can indeed impart a degree of loyalty and enthusiasm, a fresh look at where the ANC should be on moral and governance issues, whether they are being strengthened even to do that, or whether there will still be disruptive elements even once a new slate of leadership is elected. And there I believe the jury is out and we will only know that towards the middle or latter part perhaps of next year.

BDTV: What that further emphasises is the fact that the issues go beyond just President Jacob Zuma at the helm. How are you rating the ability of the tripartite alliance as a whole to iron some of these pressing issues out? DS: I certainly agree that the issue goes beyond the persona of Jacob Zuma. The ANC has got into a myriad of bad habits over an extended period of time. Some of these in terms of crony capitalism, in terms of tender irregularities, graft and corruption. These are issues, cadre deployment and what’s been wrong with cadre deployment in terms of the weak performance of state-owned enterprises, all of these issues have been creeping into governance in SA well before Jacob Zuma took office. They might have been exacerbated under the Zuma administration but they’re not new to those observers of the country.

I believe that it would take a particularly gutsy leadership, new leadership of the ANC, to crack the whip. And the real question is whether this gutsy leadership, and good leadership does exist within the ANC, and it is important to note that there are any number of highly qualified and highly respectable leaders within the ANC who with the right level of support across the board in the various state-owned enterprises, entities and peripheral organisations, and even with the support I would also argue, of opposition parties within SA can embark upon a rescue mission, not just for the ANC but also a rescue mission for SA.

But we clearly have a six-month period in which the factions are battling the different visions of where does the ANC see itself, a crony capitalist vision versus perhaps a more pragmatic centrist vision with a much broader outlook as to rescue SA, these are two competing interest groups and they are going to battle it out until the end of the year….

BDTV: I read an interesting analysis on Fin24 yesterday where they suggested that Zuma could be removed at the upcoming National Executive Committee of the ANC, which would mean that we wouldn’t have to moot a motion of no-confidence in Parliament, which would obviously embarrassing and would have to see who stood up against the President. Do you think Zuma could be removed before that motion of no-confidence? DS: I certainly think technically it would be possible to remove the President if there was broad consensus within the NEC. However, I still would argue that the NEC is unlikely to take any action against President Zuma, and will largely leave the decision to the larger consultative conference at the end of the year, which will be electing a new slate. I don’t think that there’s a desire or the stomach within the ANC to embark upon what could be a highly divisive early embarrassment for President Zuma, given that there are processes in place for the ANC to reboot leadership at the end of the year.

I certainly also think just on the issue of the no-confidence debate, that whilst opposition parties are certainly right within their own mandates to call for this no-confidence motion, again no matter how many ANC MPs are distrustful now of President Zuma or wish to see a change, I still think that the ANC are not going to want to be dictated to by a motion that extends from the opposition benches, and again will largely protect the integrity of the ANC, not the integrity of Jacob Zuma, but the integrity of the ANC to allow the ANC to deal with these matters internally. And as difficult and as slow as it might be I am not convinced that a motion of no-confidence, secret ballot or otherwise, is really going to have the desired effect of what the opposition would like.

BDTV: Having said all that, could we in fact be moving towards a more mature democracy of alliance partners and coalition politics as well? DS: There’s no doubt that we already have in a sense. We’ve already seen substantial change in coalition building. We’ve seen the ANC lose support in the last local elections. We’ve seen the ANC even adopt new policies around future coalitions with an acknowledgement themselves that SA is moving into an era of politics. Yes there is a maturation of our politics, there is a greater desire amongst South Africans to really debate the issues without the emotional attachments of the past.

There’s a much more clinical analysis by the majority of South Africans to really assess where we should be and where our strengths and weaknesses lie, wherever the leadership and whatever the struggle credentials of leadership might be. And that takes the emotion out of our political debate or at least it shows the beginning signs of that and I think a cold clinical approach to politics in SA is going to be a lot more … it will bear a lot more political fruit in a sense, than blind emotional attachment which has been the characteristic really of the first of two decades, since 1994.

BDTV: We did have former Reserve Bank governor and labour minister, Tito Mboweni, tweeting over the weekend that dirty politics are likely to raise their heads ahead of that December leadership election ….