Donwald Pressly: Zuma ‘on notice’ – who would replace him?

Succession planning is as tough a job as any. Worse so in politics, as it’s an area where ego, ultimately becomes the biggest hurdle. And given the reports that President Jacob Zuma offered his resignation at the ANC’s National Executive Committee, quickly refuted by the ruling party it must be said. Who is his ideal replacement? The two incumbents are current deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. It’s a critical debate with no clear winner. – Stuart Lowman

By Donwald Pressly*

Donwald Pressly
Donwald Pressly

At the weekend, the structures of the ANC sort of avoided the process of deciding whether Jacob Zuma should remain as president of the country. Most commentators believe that Zuma will last another day, actually probably a few months more as president of the ANC and president of the country. He will, most likely, now lurch on as national government leader until after the municipal poll.

But as former President FW de Klerk said at the Cape Town Press Club commented last week, Zuma is “on notice”. Even his own people had lost trust in him. His removal by the party – or impeachment – would be slow and tedious processes. The national executive committee of the ANC is clearly dominated by pro-Zuma supporters. It would be the body which will decide to take any radical action. It has chosen not to. A lot of them – including the cabinet ministers who are de facto members of the NEC – back the president. The answer is simple, they have R2 million a year jobs to keep. They ain’t going to mess with that, are they?

Peter Attard Montalto, Nomura analyst, believes it is more likely that Zuma will go after the municipal elections, expected in August. If the ANC is trounced in the key cities – Tshwane (Pretoria), Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) – the political pressure will come from within the ANC for Zuma to go. But the question then is: Who replaces Zuma?

A private thought on breaking the Zulu dynasty

Seasoned journalist Allister Sparks also pondered the state of our politics at the press club last week. He said it was his private thought but he drew much significance from the fact that Dr Zweli Mkhize, the ANC treasurer general, had nominated Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy president of the governing party at the 2012 Manguang national conference. He said he had no evidence for it but there may be a plan to break the Zulu dynasty in the ANC. Mkhize, described by Sparks as “a clever and sophisticated medical doctor” who also happens to be Zulu, may just have put two-and-two together. He has realised, Sparks speculates, that one needs to avoid another 10 years of Zulu dominance in the ANC with a President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the helm. Sparks commented that although she was bright, she was exceedingly dull. She would also keep all the patronage schemes in place and protect her ex-husband after he left office. Mkhize may wish to have Ramaphosa in power, with himself as deputy president when Zuma goes. Indeed, Mkhize probably thinks it is unlikely he will become president after 10 years of a Jacob Zuma presidency and another 10 years of Nkosazana. Sparks is extremely careful to say this is his own speculation. But one suspects that he is spot-on! Mkhize could then take power after Ramaphosa serves one and a half terms – probably in 2024. That is assuming of course, that Jacob Zuma doesn’t complete his current term which ends in 2019.

Sparks also doesn’t know whether Ramaphosa – who will effectively become a proxy president much like interim President Kgalema Motlanthe did in 2008 – will re-ignite the “Mandela” dream of a prosperous and non-racial South Africa, but let’s face it, it would be better than retaining the status quo.

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