The rational mind plans for the worst and hopes for the best.
So what do we get when applying this approach to Tuesday’s events in South Africa when, for the 8th successive time, corrupted president Jacob Zuma saw off a No Confidence challenge?
In his superb book Fate of the Nation, Fulbright scholar and ISS founder Jakkie Cilliers makes a compelling case of how Zuma’s ANC has split into Traditionalists and Reformers. Nomura’s Peter Montalto makes a similar distinction between the two factions, describing them as “Tenderpreneurs” and The Rest.
The Traditionalists, personified by Zuma, are a ZANU-PF lookalike and home to those who prefer looking back at their often inflated “struggle” credentials. They are deeply suspicious of anything smacking of modernity, especially white South Africans and the West.
Their antithesis are the Reformers, the better educated forward thinking members of the party who align with bookish Cyril Ramaphosa. They are non-racial, embrace the complexities and challenges of a rapidly changing world and have a pragmatic approach to foreigners, appreciating that a developing country needs to import capital.
South Africa’s non-Gupta media and much of its educated population support the Reformists. Their pundits have been heartened that at least 40 ANC Parliamentarians either abstained or voted with the opposition against Zuma in Tuesday’s vote. The more naïve among them are even celebrating Speaker Baleka Mbete’s decision to allow the secret ballot at all.
The rational approach to Tuesday’s result is that it was a victory for the Traditionalists. Arithmetic tells us that five out of every six ANC Parliamentarians sided with Zuma. What should shock us back to sobriety is this overwhelming support of the corrupt president came despite each of them having been provided with fact-filled dossiers (by OUTA) and the security of a secret ballot.
Apologists for the ANC are concocting all manner of theories about how this was an excellent result for the Reformers. The rational mind, drawing on facts, must reach a different conclusion.
Remember, for instance, that two weeks ago Zuma shamelessly took his 17-car convoy straight from the ANC’s Lekgotla to the Gupta compound in Saxonwold.
It was a reckless decision with a high risk of detection, suggesting panic on what to do about the forthcoming No Confidence vote. The convoy’s arrival and departure was duly witnessed and reported by two respected journalists. This action removed all doubt about who is really running South Africa.
Equally, one needs little imagination to work out the Zupta plan of action.
In a move similar to the one that saved Brazilian president Michel Temer last week, the Zuptas had ten days to lobby and provide suitable encouragement to those 198 supportive ANC members. There is no doubt in my mind that only once that had been done, was Zuma’s ally Mbete instructed to give the vote the legitimacy of a secret ballot. Long before the voting started, the ANC benches were singing in celebration of their guaranteed victory.
Fast forward to the ANC’s elective conference in December where once again the Traditionalists go head to head with the Reformers. No matter what the pundits are predicting, the rational mind urges us to expect with few exceptions, those five sixths who supported one Zuma on Tuesday will vote for the other one just four months hence.
After another defeat, the Reformers and their candidate (Ramaphosa) will have to decide after the vote whether to continue trying to effect change from within or to leave the kraal in good time to challenge the ANC’s hegemony in the 2019 general election.
That is the only fact-based conclusion that can be drawn after this week’s developments. Absent some unexpected seismic shock, the captured elite in the ruling political party are set to continue their reign. At least for the next two years.
Nothing is more powerful than the truth. In the end, it will triumph. But given the facts and the extent of the disease, it is irrational to underestimate the Zupta network of patronage by expecting its speedy demolition. After the past week’s developments, plan for the worst. And hope to be pleasantly surprised.