Zuma for President! /static/./JacobZuma.jpg

All the indications are that Jacob Zuma will be elected as ANC president at the 52nd annual ANC conference in Polokwane from December 16 through December 20.

Much effort has been put into consulting the grass roots of the party, and the result is in - the majority of ANC branches around the country want Zuma to lead the party. This might have been as much to do with the lack of other candidates - rank and file members were informed of the process, but many were unfamiliar with many of the names put forward. As a result, it has shaped up tobe a two horse race - between a lame-duck president and .. err .. the other guy.

Jacob Zuma is someone they all know, if only because he has been a consistent headline-maker in the last year, mostly for the wrong reasons - his court cases. However, he is popular, and the masses identify with him as a contrast to the ‘fast-track blacks’ - the few that have benefited (often greatly) from the Black Empowerment initiatives of the ANC government since it came to power in 1994.

The ANC is a predominantly Xhosa body - with the power concentrated in a few hands, jokingly referred to as the ‘Xhosa Nostra’. They have had an uneasy relationship with the Inkatha Freedom Party, personified by Mangosuthu Buthelezi and representing the Zulus, with the uneasiness dating well back into the Apartheid era. The IFP were accused of co-operating too closely with the Nationalist Government, and the 1994 elections were characterised by a low-level war in Zulu territory- with large areas designated No Go for the ANC.

Jacob Zuma became the ANCs ‘token Zulu’, and as such has always had high visibility within the ANC and in the South African media. This appears to have back-fired - the show horse now has the bit between his teeth and is romping home with only yesterday’s favourite giving him any competition.

Zuma for president!

No point in wringing hands. Zuma is here, and large, and is likely to be South Africa’s next president. How will he shape up ? What will make him a good president ?

Any good president must have a good team around him. The affairs of a country as big as South Africa are far too large for one person to manage. This team cannot be the president’s yes-men, they must add knowledge and experience. It will also likely have his ex-wife as a member. Paul Kagame of Rwanda has managed to impress donor countries that he is serious about serving his country. I have heard from more than one source that he is advised by an impressive cabinet. As a consequence, Britain (for one) has a generous aid programme for Rwanda, confident that the money will be well-spent.

Until now, Zuma has not impressed me with his choice of advisors. His lack of formal education because of the struggle era contrasts with Thabo Mbeki’s grooming abroad in the leadup to the 1994 elections. So, he knows he needs advice. Schabir Shaik was his financial advisor - and is now in jail for exactly that - not a good start, especially as Zuma’s role in that partnershiphas not been tried in court. Zuma cannot even manage his own finances. But with the engine of the ANC behind him, perhaps he can choose better. And it will be interesting to see if a new broom sweeps clean - whom amongst Mbeki’s advisors will have to go get a real job?

But South Africa’s finances have been well-handled, currently by TitoMboweni, and previously by Christian Lodewyk Stals - maybe we can forget that. Investors are not yet nervous, but the fact that a man with so much controversy around him could enjoy such populism questions the political and legal structures in place in South Africa. The Constitution of South Africa could be called into disrepute if the President achieves office while flouting the law. The ANC’s national chairperson Mosiuoa Lekota has called Zuma a liar for mis-representing the reasons he stepped down as Vice-president. The highly-respected Desmond Tutu warns against electing Zuma.

There is still a lot of horse-trading to go on before December 16, but wiggle-room is rapidly dwindling on the options before the delegates. We must trust the future of South Africa, and our stature amongst peers in Africa, to those voting in two weeks time.

God bless Jacob Zuma.


Ben Turok says “It’s clear that there are not only going tobe two names (on the ballot papers) for the top jobs,”

He said they were expecting a number of names to be nominated from the floor with the required 25-percent support from delegates including other possible presidential candidates. This could effectively split the vote for either ofthe current favourites.