Tuesday, January 08, 2008

South Africa Update: How Will Zuma Deal With Tensions in the ANC?; Motlanthe's Profile

How will Zuma deal with tensions in the ANC?

Jacob Zuma on Monday has the chance to turn his words into action when he guides the party on the election of the 15 members of the ANC's National Working Committee (NWC). He has called for the party to find unity in the wake of the bitter contest that saw him replace President Thabo Mbeki as the party's president.

Analysts will watch closely to see who is elected to the all-powerful NWC as a guide to how Zuma plans to deal with the tension between the party and the state. Zuma heads the party and the man he deposed, Mbeki, heads the state.

"It will be interesting to see how the NWC elections turn out. If people from both camps are elected, then it will be what Zuma wanted in his closing address in Polokwane - to see unity," said political analyst Adam Habib of the University of Witwatersrand.

Zuma was elected president of the ruling party at the party's national conference in December, while Mbeki remains head of state, possibly until the country holds general elections in 2009.

Habib said the first ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting since the election of the party's new leadership, taking place at Esselen Park on Monday, was likely to be an acrimonious one.

It will be the meeting where 15 members of the NWC are elected. The working committee comprises the elected members as well as the top six leadership figures. Ex-officio members are former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, Youth League president Fikile Mbalula and Women's League president Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Likely to be discussed is the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority to re-charge Zuma with corruption and racketeering. Zuma has appealed for calm and discipline among supporters in the wake of the NPA re-charging him with corruption and charging him for the first time with racketeering.

Former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson and eminent advocate George Bizos SC have jointly called on the public to respect the country's judiciary and not to criticise the courts in connection with Zuma.

Mbeki was likely to cut a lonely figure at Monday's meeting with many of his key allies no longer on the party's NEC.

An opinion piece attributed to Mbeki's mother, Epainette Nomaka Mbeki, published in the Sunday Times on Sunday, bemoaned the treatment of her son.

"And South Africa today is on the verge of a mighty upheaval that, if left unchecked, might set back all the gains our fledgling democracy has hitherto achieved on all fronts.

"A very ugly prospect has appeared.

"The main horror is the attitude toward the State Presidency. A section of the public is bent on destroying the respectability of the office and besmirches the president's name with all the vitriol reserved for enemies of the ANC," the piece read.

Fresh charges against Zuma are also likely to feature on the agenda of Monday's meeting.

Chaskalson and Bizos on Saturday said Zuma's innocence or guilt should be decided by the courts and not through rhetorical statements from his detractors or supporters.

"We are concerned at the tone of the debate around the contemplated trial of Mr Jacob Zuma," they said. - Sapa

This article was originally published on page 1 of The Daily News on January 07, 2008

Motlanthe could be just the man to take over ANC helm

THE major challenge facing the ANC in the New Year is what happens now that Jacob Zuma has been charged by the NPA. Zuma himself has asserted that if he were charged he would only stand down if found guilty.

The fundamental issue therefore is if he is found guilty, who is the ideal candidate to take over the leadership of the party? The ANC‘s official position is that the party will only decide when this scenario plays itself out.

However, there seems to be a real possibility that should this happen, Kgalema Motlanthe, the party‘s current deputy president, might take over. Motlanthe has, however, diplomatically remained mum on this possibility, projecting the welcome and positive view that he is not power-hungry.

For example, when pressed at the December conference, he noted that personally he would prefer somebody else to take over.

It is not amiss therefore to suggest that Motlanthe is the ideal candidate. One major advantage he has is that he is acceptable to the majority of ANC members, including both the Mbeki and Zuma camps.

His stature is not questioned despite the fact that he has ostensibly been elected on a Zuma ticket. Also, as former secretary general, Motlanthe distinguished himself by holding the party together through its divisions. He charted a path that did not indicate any overt support for either side, which has clearly endeared him to the ANC‘s membership. This is in contrast, for example, with former chairman Mosiuoa Lekota who blundered seriously when he pinned his colours to the mast by indicating he supports Mbeki by castigating Zuma publicly.

Motlanthe also comes across as a very astute politician who is not afraid to articulate his ideas and be firm, no matter how unpopular his decisions are. And sadly enough, this is a quality that is in very short supply in the current leadership of the ANC.

He bluntly and very frankly made his viewpoints known, for example, about unruly behaviour at the conference.

He has also been very astute by completely staying away from the internecine feuds that have characterised the tensions between the Mbeki and Zuma factions, but criticising both camps if the need arose. Some commentators have argued that his neutrality has been helped by the fact that he was the secretary general and thus he could not be seen to be embroiling himself in internal disputes.

Such analysis is accurate to a certain extent but does not do full justice to his political acumen. Other leaders are in similar positions but have spectacularly failed to be neutral, to their detriment.

The other powerful trait that favours Motlanthe is that, with the intense mood sweeping through the ANC of demanding new leaders, he stands a very good chance. The fact that he has never before been in government makes him an ideal candidate to represent this impetus to change leaders.

Critically, he does not carry any kind of baggage from his past and – most importantly – unlike other leaders of the ANC, has not been tainted by scandal or impropriety.

Motlanthe, unlike many ANC leaders, puts the party before his own interests – and purely on this score he deserves to be given a chance.

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