In January, the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the African National Congress, celebrated its centenary in Mangaung – the birthplace of the organisation that led the revolution towards a democratic South Africa. Eighteen years into democracy, a lot has gone right and a lot has also gone very pear-shaped. In true South African fashion, I will focus on what has gone wrong, especially in the ANC.
While President Jacob Zuma has not been the country’s best or favourite president, the situation in the ANC did not, as many might say, deteriorate in December 2007 when he was elected as ANC president at the party’s Polokwane national conference. Things fell apart when President Thabo Mbeki fired Zuma as deputy president of the country, after facing a plethora of criminal charges. Mbeki (and the ANC) then failed to position someone else as a credible successor, like Nelson Mandela did when he positioned Mbeki.
Leading up to the Polokwane conference, Mbeki still had influence in the ANC, and thus had the ability to lobby for a candidate endorsed by him - a candidate who appealed to his camp and the Zuma camp. He did not do so. We must remember that Zuma was elected, not because of his leadership abilities, but rather because he was not Mbeki.
Zuma managed to win 60 percent of the vote and Mbeki the remaining 40 percent. If Mbeki had stepped aside and made way for another candidate, it is possible that given the numbers, the vote could have gone in a different direction.
Upon Mbeki’s defeat to Zuma, ‘the people’s president’, things began to slip further. The ANC made the decision to recall President Mbeki in a haphazard fashion in September 2009. It was at this point that the ANC reached the point of no return. The ANC would never be the same again.
In order to avoid further polarising the party, respected elder and voice of reason, Kgalema Motlanthe was elected as the person to complete Mbeki’s term in office.
If we fast forward to 2012, the ANC is again split on who should be the next president of the party and subsequently of the Republic. Expelled ANCYL President Julius Malema is actively pushing to remove Zuma, after having been his biggest supporter on the road to Polokwane. Now on the road to Mangaung, Malema is rallying behind Motlanthe.
Article continues on page two: what if Motlanthe is elected as president in Mangaung?