In a day or two the 5000 odd delegates from all structures of the ANC will gather at Nasrec in Johannesburg for the party’s 54th elective congress it will a matter of do or die for Africa’s oldest liberation movement.
The ANC goes to this congress in a state of crises; it is a party and a government at war with themselves. At present five of the nine provinces are involved in litigation which could have an impact on the delegates attending the congress. There is no consensus among the factions on the nuclear procurement policy, the meaning of radical economic transformation or whether there should be an investigation into state capture or not.
The damning judgement handed down on Wednesday 13 December by the North Gauteng High Court that President Zuma’s legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Public Protector’s State of Capture Report and the order that Zuma is responsible for the costs of this action in his personal capacity will also certainly affect the voting at congress.
Rumours abound of brown envelopes changing hands amongst delegates of between R15000 and R70000 or the promise of a position in the ANC or government in exchange for their vote. One commentator believes that it may cost up to R250 million to “buy” the election. In the past a photo of the marked ballot paper sufficed as proof but now that the party has banned cell phones in the voting area I do not know what proof of a vote will be required.
The adoption of credentials at the conference will in all probability be a long drawn out process which could once again end up in a “festival of chairs” and scuttle the whole conference.
Going into the conference Cyril Ramaphosa would appear to have a substantial lead in the de legate tally with 1859 delegates compared to 1330 for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. There are still the 223 “unity” votes controlled by Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza who most pundits think will go to Dlamini-Zuma. The other five presidential hopefuls who stood for the leadership also received votes which will now have to be shared between the CR17 and NDZ campaigns.
While this may seem to be a substantial lead a candidate is going to need about 2700 votes to win the election. There are still many delegates not yet accounted for, every branch gets one delegate for100 members and a second delegate for 250 members and so on. These additional branch delegates are not accounted for.
Also not accounted for are the other ANC structures. The Women’s League, Youth League and Veterans Association each receive 50 delegates. The top six in each province and nationally each get a vote as do the 80 members of the NEC. None of these are accounted for as yet.
Assuming that the congress goes ahead there are four possible scenarios.
1. Cyril Ramaphosa Wins:
At present this is probably the best short term solution for South Africa which would be popular with the international rating agencies and the business community. However, merely winning is not good enough it will depend on what happens once elected that really counts and Ramaphosa will be faced with two choices.
* He could react immediately and take steps to remove Zuma as president of South Africa, get rid of controversial cabinet ministers and announce plans to investigate and eliminate state capture and corruption.
While popular with the markets and business this action would be very divisive in the ANC which will try to portray an image of unity after a year of factional battles and scandals.
* In my opinion the more likely course that he will embark on is to follow the path of least resistance and not rock the boat. He will be reconciliatory to Dlamini-Zuma and her allies. He will not rock the boat or do anything to split the ANC.
After all we have always been told that the ANC is more important than South Africa,
2. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma Wins:
This result will certainly not be well received by the international rating agencies or the markets and there will be a depreciation of the Rand and inevitably a ratings downgrade by Standard and Poors to junk status. Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating and her actions after the congress will be crucial.
* The most likely course that she will embark on is to follow the path of least resistance and not rock the boat. She will leave Zuma to serve out his term of office until 2019 and try to drag out the investigation into state capture for as long as possible. She will be reconciliatory to Ramaphosa and his allies. She will not rock the boat or do anything to split the ANC.
* She may confound all the pundits and try to prove that she is her own person and find a way to get rid of Zuma, immediately request Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to select a judge and appoint the commission of enquiry into state capture. She will still try to be reconciliatory to Ramaphosa so as to prevent a split in the ANC.
3. The Congress Collapses:
This will certainly be the worst result for South Africa and definitely will not be well received by the international rating agencies or the markets and there will be a substantial depreciation of the Rand and inevitably a ratings downgrade by Moody’s to junk status.
Jacob Zuma would remain on as president, the nuclear procurement deal will go ahead and as the calls for his removal grow he will impose a state of emergency and dramatically limit all civil liberties.
South Africa will then be a truly failed state and once again a pariah in the eyes of the world.
Irrespective of the outcome of the congress the problems of the ANC and South Africa will not go away. The damage within the ANC is too big for the party to self-correct which in its self will be a near impossible task considering the number of cadres who have been captured at all levels of the party.
While Cyril Ramaphosa will be infinitely better to Dlamini-Zuma it must be born in mind that he is no saint. He has been Deputy President of the ANC for five years and a member of Zuma’s cabinet for the past three years during which time he did nothing. He supported Zuma throughout Nkandla, he voted for Zuma in seven votes of no confidence we don’t know how he voted in the eighth vote.
Dlamini-Zuma’s backers have tried to promote her as not being tainted by any scandals or corruption. They clearly forget her involvement with the Sarifino 2 debacle and her promotion of Virodene the miracle cure for HIV/AIDS which turned out to be radiator fluid. Neither did she cover herself with glory as Chairperson of the African Union. Reports are that she did not stand for a second term because she would not have been re-elected as a result of her poor performance.
The outcome of the congress will also have some far reaching effects on the opposition parties:
1. Democratic Alliance: James Selfe MP Chair of the DA once coined the phrase ‘what is good for South Africa is no necessarily good for the DA” and this is one such example. While Ramaphosa will in short term be good for South Africa the latest opinion polls show that almost 50% of the DA’s black voters in the urban areas are likely to give the ANC another chance. This could have serious consequences for the party. By the same token a NDZ win or a collapsed congress will mean that more disillusioned ANC voters will vote DA in 2019.
2. Economic Freedom Fighters: A Ramaphosa win would be advantageous for the EFF as he is portrayed as an agent of white monopoly capital which the EFF will exploit to attract NDZ supporters especially the young and unemployed voters. A Dlamini-Zuma victory could have the effect of winning back left wing voters to the ANC.
3. Other Smaller Parties: In my opinion there will be no significant change in the support of the smaller political parties, there real influence will be after the 2019 elections if the ANC does not get over 50% of the vote and a coalition government needs to be formed.
In my opinion the new political party formed by former ANC MP Makhosi Khoza the African Democratic Change is a non-starter and will play no significant role in political landscape of South Africa. While she had a reputation of being a brave and principled MP I do not believe that she will make inroads into the current political terrain and she would have been better off joining one of the existing parties.
One cannot help but notice how ironic it is that when the ANC is at war with itself and it is holding its most important and conflicted congress in over forty years it starts on 16 December 2017, Reconciliation Day – it begs the question will there be any reconciliation at the end of Saturday when congress has to adopt the delegates credentials let alone by the end of congress?
It has been said that it will take a brave man to predict the outcome of this congress. The motto of my high school was Forti Nihil Difficilius (Nothing is too difficult for the brave); I will therefore venture my prediction.
After Wednesday’s High Court judgement I believe that Cyril Ramaphosa will win by a few hundred votes but the results will be challenged in court by members of the NDZ camp. South Africa will therefore start 2018 with more political uncertainty.
Only time will tell.
Until next time ………..
This newsletter is published by Clive Hatch former Leader of the Opposition in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature and former DA Provincial Leader. These views are my personal views and do not represent those of any other person or organisation.