– A nomination which will come with poison chalice alliances, weaved in mistrust, that may tear anytime –
As we move swiftly to the October date of open nominations for ANC presidency which sets the seen for Manguang in December, I have taken it upon myself to advance why the main contenders for the position of President may or may not make it. I have in two previous instalments attempted to argue why Tokyo Sexwale’s individual campaign for high office will fail and why Matthew Phosa, the dark horse’s one legged campaign will remain a dark horse.
Today we turn our focus to Kgalema Motlanthe, perhaps the most serious contender to be nominated against the incumbent. We will look at his campaign, strategy, message and style. Out of such we shall ask can the declared hope of the fractured Youth League unseat Jacob Zuma.
Motlanthe, former Secretary General of the ANC, deputy president of the ANC and South Africa, the brief hot seat-holder president of 7 -months before a Zuma took over, proves a very interesting character.
If Motlanthe today represents the hope of those who believe change is a must, the question must be ask from where this conviction of his campaigners?
Motlanthe remains perhaps the only president in SA embrace whose personal life proved a secret when he entered the hot seat and remained such secret until he left the same seat. Motlanthe is seen as a very private person, who is considered by many depending who you talk to when and where the closest thing to an Mbeki left in the ANC. This privacy aspect of Motlanthe makes him a dicey character, not many know his Faith persuasion although he at one point in his life considered the priesthood as vocation.
An Anglican former altar boy of Christian Faith persuasion he like many in the ANC share these strong religious backgrounds that shaped his thinking. What I just shared is not common knowledge for many, who are still struggling to know more of this private man.
The challenge of privacy if interpreted in this sense for a leader resonates in this that people want to feel a sense of owning, knowing and claiming their president, if we understand the president of SA to be the ANC president. On the one hand he remains a mystery for many, and people don’t do well with mysteries.
- Motlanthe the former Robben Islander is rightly or wrongly considered the current meridian of organisational sense, for some he is seen as a bridge-builder, one who has earned the respect of a cross- breed of those who constitute the decision makers if we may argue a sector based presence of influence. He represents an almost avuncular presence for some. His credentials speak for itself in tripartite alliance context, as one who was trusted to serve as the predecessor of the current Secretary General.
Let us now turn to his campaign,
- Motlanthe has shown due respect for the party processes as it relates to the upcoming elective conference. When I argue that, I am attempting to say, he unlike a Sexwale has resisted the temptation to be hoodwinked into showing his hand in media embrace. He opted to restrain himself from steering the subject matter of a future leadership in overtly attacking the incumbent, at least before the official Nomination process set for October 2012.
- Motlanthe equally, therefore it can be claimed, honoured the selfless agenda of putting the movement above personal interest. He understands very well this subculture in the ANC that defines leadership as a privileged opportunity and not a right. Anything else could be interpreted as careerist move. Again something Tokyo Sexwale can learn from this ANC leader.
- Motlanthe has attempted to craft the content of his campaign around policy matters. Recognising the significance of policy decisions as that which constitute the essence of development to define the famous National Democratic Revolution touted at times in a silly manner by some. An indication of this was his public questioning of the construct of Second Transition. As much as very little changed in ultimate adoption at the policy conference, Motlanthe here clearly made himself the face of consciousness for the central thought of where the ANC should be going. It could be argued that he raised the issue, for two distinct reasons, 1. To claim the space as one who can question and therefore direct, notwithstanding the fact that he could have felt outsmarted by Zuma who by pronouncing on a Second Transition theme, seemed to be setting the tone in leadership. 2. He also raised this issue to punch in typical Mbeki sense at the SACP, whose role clearly after Polokwane has grown in stature and influence in ANC leadership. He used to opportunity to advance justified reason for a distinction between ANC and SACP and the roles these played in cadre development. He did this almost claiming a right to know the ideological parenthesis of both organisation and the nexus of such congruence in historical definition.
- Motlanthe will not start his campaign in October 2012, but some of us have been arguing he has been on this elongated campaign for over two years. Some will argue he has been campaigning with different intensities since Mbeki lost at Polokwane. He has delivered a number of key speeches for a variety of constituencies over this period, one particular speech was at Wits, which I dubbed the clearest indication yet that he was running.
- Motlanthe’s campaign has a central message, supported by a theme. His theme is the issue of corruption, his message a new approach that inculcates a morality mirrored in civic education awareness programmes to be incorporated in education syllabus. His choice of the hot subject of corruption finds good ears and equally good support because the aggregate argument advanced by those who claim to know and those who do not know is that SA is a corruption infested country, and such corruption is immanent in government procurement actions and services. Motlanthe therefore notwithstanding the fact that Zuma’s government can be considered the only true government in Post-Apartheid context to have literally acted against corrupt officials and ministers with this major theme argues I will deal with corruption in my term when I am afforded a chance to serve.
- Motlanthe notwithstanding the fact that his educational background beyond his high schooling in Orlando Soweto is not known has managed to position himself as last frontier of intellectual thought in the ANC. In a climate where we are often told, the intellectual thought development in the ANC is waning and has departed, at least if the weekly ‘analysis’ of Xolele Mangcu, Prince Mashele, Mcebisi Ndletyana, Sibusiso Ndebele and others is taken serious. We may argue the veracity and validity of such from various angles and corners, what cannot be argued is the foresight he had in proving clever to capitalise on this vacant space. He seemed to have stepped right into the vacant space left by the departure of Mbeki. He has neatly crafted himself as the one to occupy the space left with the departing of Mbeki. We must still see if he truly represents the loci of intellectual meridian or if he is claiming shoes bigger than what may suit him. The fact is in politics a good politician can see gaps and spaces left and seizes upon those for his cause, this Motlanthe in my opinion has done successfully.
- Motlanthe, early on courted the ANCYL Youth League, he understood the importance of the youth league not because it is a bigger constituency but because it has a sentimental claim of kingmaker – status, a claim in my view Zuma has shown as over-exaggerated if not vacuous. In an earlier note I penned I argued that his first task to facilitate the ANCYL case with Ruben Masoga’s claims against Malema, was handled with one eye on his personal political future. It is my view that though Motlanthe back then arbitrated informed by the interest of the Movement, he clearly sold himself to Malema, when he vindicated Malema in what many thought was a justified case raised by Masoga.
- If Motlanthe today has the support of the Youth League we may ask what Youth League and the answer reverberates, Malema’s Youth League. As Zuma’s star in Youth League eyes faded, Motlanthe’s star was rising as he became the popular leader requested by the Youth League to deliver their keynote addresses. At many of these gatherings he was called and referred as the president in waiting. At one such gathering in the dying days of Malema’s leadership of the ANCYL, members were seen sporting T-shirts with Motlanthe’s face and the designation president blazoned across. Again Motlanthe, proved selfless when he rebuked them for doing such. In most cases Motlanthe the wise politician carefully used these platforms not to rebuke the youth but to sound very conciliatory towards the Youth. If you ask me as a shrewd politician he knew how important it was to claim the Youth as his constituency, though he was part of the very ANC top leadership who lodged the cases against Malema and his cohorts. Motlanthe managed to remain the darling of Malema’s Youth, as the hate for Zuma began to mount in youth articulation. Motlanthe clearly enjoys the idea of being the preferred ANCYL choice, who would not pay for such free marketing in an election year. Yet Malema’s Youth league is not a sustainable constituency for it seems to be a historical league and equally made promises to many others including Motlanthe, Sexwale, Phosa and Mashatile among others.
- Perhaps the biggest threat is Malema is no more, and he has become a liability for those who wanted to maximise on this young man’s ‘popularity’ in some circles. His insulting and continual castigation of Zuma’s leadership began to prove less aimed at Zuma but the ANC leadership. Provincial structures of the ANCYL began to distance themselves from Malema’s influence and absent -presence in a Ronald Lamola. Motlanthe however as a politician still counts the monopoly poker chips this highly directionless even leaderless Youth league offers.
- Motlanthe is a former NUM ( National Union of Mineworkers) member, having served this labour fraternity as secretary general. His entrance into mainstream politics in ANC context is therefore in recent sense paved from the labour context. This on the cuff proves a major plus because of the strong presence of organised labour in Alliance embrace. Yet it is not an outright guarantee as a finalised unilateral constituency of a Motlanthe. At best it can be accepted that he will muster some support from some sectors of the labour fraternity represented in the COSATU fold. When we say that we are saying COSATU is not anyone candidates claim but Zuma has secured a very solid block of support and Motlanthe will have to work for more support. COSATU has its own serious divisions immanent in personality politics who all seek to determine a final COSATU endorsed ANC candidate. Vavi is on record to be opposed to a second term for the incumbent, yet his boss Dlamini has a long time ago nailed his Zuma support colours to the mast.
- Motlanthe, cannot count on the support or the influential SACP block, he has done enough to stir the ire of this group and will struggle to secure their support, for they have made known the support for a second term for Zuma. Motlanthe therefore knows that his similar antics of what could be considered Mbeki’s stance has not endeared him to the SACP.
- Motlanthe, will battle to secure the Women’s League vote, though this league like all formations of the ANC proves not monolithic a constituency, it is known to make their choice for candidacy in one voice. Motlanthe with his perhaps correct stance on the Limpopo books scandal has taken his sight clearly to Minister Angie Motshekga. The challenge is Motshekga is the president of the Women’s League, meaning the less volatile of the three leagues, could be stirred into a split in deciding on its preferred candidacy. It could be a very tactical move on the part of Motlanthe to take the fight to Angie Motshekga with the hope of forcing Zuma’s hand to fire her, which could give him a potential inroad as he dislodges the perceived hold Zuma has of this constituency. This may prove a precarious strategy which could backfire for if Zuma digs in his heels and the Women’s League decides to close ranks around their leader, Motlanthe may prove an outright loser for this constituency, yet there is no error in attempting.
- Motlanthe’s campaign will capitalise on the somewhat clear divisions in the military Veterans League. Recent public statements from the League has seen some like Chairperson Kebby Mphatsoe condemn the behaviour of the ANCYL and its expelled leader for his vitriolic and insuling attacks on the ANC president, while others like Sejake are on record demanding a change of ANC leadership at Mangaung. The politics in the Veterans League is real marred by claims and counter claims of financial abuse, and as we move forward more and more dirty linen will be aired. It can be said that both Zuma and Motlanthe have backers in the League, what is not sure by what margin Zuma has secured the edge, because the leadership of the Leaugue did attempt to sanction Sejake for his comments.
- Motlanthe’s campaign needs the blessing and support of the Office of the Secretary General, the secretary general serves as the de facto CEO of the organisation and is at the heart of the organisations communication, the office represents the harness and critical cog of branch vetting, information sharing and all organisational and management issues. Motlanthe will know all too well the importance of this office in the election process. It can be said Motlanthe has not proven a friend to Gwede Mantashe who remains accused by the Youth as a co-conspirator to bring the charges against the Youth League leaders. Motlanthe’s pereceived ambivalence on the NDC &NDCA processes remains noted. Also Zuma has managed to have a good relationship with the SG.
- It is common cause that it is the branches of the ANC that will elect the ANC leadership which to a large extend becomes the leadership of South Africa. These branches make up provinces in geographical definition which is from where we derive a sense of which provinces may support whose candidacy. I have in adumbrated sense attempted to look at these provinces and how they potentially may vote.
1.1 It is commonly accepted that Motlanthe cannot count on Kwa Zulu Natal (the most powerful in numbers) Province. This Province has long made their choice known and such choice was not for Motlanthe
1.2 He also cannot count on the Eastern Cape, who represents a strong but fractured province. Fractured because it remains a contested terrain, which it is said Zuma can claim he has more than the edge at this stage. It also is an area that Sexwale’s individual campaign targeted to win over as his potential constituency. I still hold Motlanthe has work to do beat Zuma in this province.
1.3 Free State, it is said remains a Zuma endorsed province and though there are pockets of resistance, in the final analysis it will prove immaterial for a Zuma defeat. Motlanthe cannot fish too much in this pond.
1.4 Northern Cape, the smallest in representation has because of its youth league proven very vocally defiant, yet Block won and it is argued he is hurt because it is claimed he is being pursued with the current cases levelled against him. Motlanthe can most probably count on a better part of the province’s support, yet his campaign theme of anti-corruption may suffer if he is seen to cosy up to Block. In the end it’s a gamble he will have to make and it is one of those he may be able to offload easily if the court case is permitted to run its cause.
1.5 The North-West Province is a challenging province for many reasons, besides being the pothole-infested province with large sections of its road – infrastructure corroded away and in a generally dilapidated state. The province is arguably another of the corrupt ones, wrought with infighting and perhaps the worst scandal the convicted killing of a politician by another, proves another dead race for both Zuma and Motlanthe. Another element that proves important for wrong or right reasons is the premier Thandi Modise.
As deputy -secretary general she is a member of the top 5, and is considered an unhappy premier, who in all likelihood would rally in support behind a Motlanthe campaign. Again Modise is under much pressure with a province riddled with corruption, tender irregularities, political insights and a convicted politician murder, some have begun to call for her political head.
This may not necessarily help the Mr. Clean of corruption campaign Motlanthe want to be known for. He may decide which I think he will to accept the support of Modise and whatever she still has control over in the province as it relates to constituency. This I do not think will guarantee any majority by any stretch of the imagination, because Modise has lost the gravitas of her support. I would give Zuma a slight edge over him in North West.
1.6 Limpopo, the province that delivered for Zuma at Polokwane may prove Motlanthe’s strongest support if the conflated support of Mathale and Malema plus Motlanthe’s tribal background holds sway. The issue of tribalism surfaced during Mbeki’s administration when it was often accused as the Xhosa – Nostra. Now under Zuma as accused by his detractors we hear of the Zulu -Kingdom ( Nkandla), this in my view could easily become the Pedi- Caddy or get a Tswana – Twang. I am saying this to argue tribalism is not new and as much as some want to level that against others when it suits them, they too fall prey of being accused for al leaders come from tribal settings and easily could be defined by such for wrong or right reasons. The ANC remains a non tribal party and Movement, but it cant deny the realities of the excated claims immanent in personalities.
1.7 Western Cape, province is also one of the smaller provinces in comparison KZN and Eastern Cape. The province known for its ugly and perennial leadership squabbles be it at PEC or ANCYL level, where conferences liberally are cancelled because numbers were not attained, is a difficult constituency to assess, particularly because the province remains South Africa’s only province controlled in governance not by the ANC. The province is an open contest and I am of the view that Motlanthe cannot claim it as a done deal, instead I think Zuma has reasonable control over it and can claim if there is today a sense of stability in leadership it is because of the presence of the current Provincial Leader Marius Fransman , who equally serves as Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations. This could give Zuma the slight edge if not more of an advantage en-route to Mangaung.
1.8 Gauteng, as a Province similar to Limpopo it can be argued is in support of a Motlanthe nomination. Gauteng as led by Paul Mashatile has nailed its colours to the mast a long time ago, when it even attempted to persuade the nomination process to have an early start. Yet Gauteng is not a done deal because depending on where you are it reflects support for both Zuma and Motlanthe. Gauteng Central with its strong Midrand- claimed ‘think tank’ is Motlanthe’s yet Gauteng East is Zuma’s and the Tshwane area it is said Zuma has a lead in support and Motlante will have to do catch up work. We will remember how Motlanthe very recently in Soshanguve failed to draw a crowd to listen to his speech, this when the area is claimed to be his stronghold.
Yet I hold Motlanthe if he teams up with a Sexwale (one of the potential poison chalices he may have to drink) may secure the majority of support in Gauteng. The only challenge with this is he may only serve one term, because Sexwale will not wait for two terms.
1.9 Mpumalanga, former erstwhile political power zone of ANC Treasurer General Matthews Phosa, with David Mabuza’s win the Zuma ticket may claim the province yet the machinery of lobbying is hard at work to revive the old and former support Phosa had to bring to the table if and when a deal needs to be made. It can be expected that Phosa will use his support here and the Youth League to barter a position by choosing to back a Motlanthe candidacy. Phosa knows how to divide anyone’s power and make his power count in that, he may never be the main contender but he always will have a say, he is perhaps another poisonous chalice that an aspiring Motlanthe will have to cut a deal with, we not sure what the payback requirements will be because nothing is for free.
- Motlanthe has more challenges counting against him than what meets the eye. here are a few:
1.1 The challenge is there are no ideological differences between Motlanthe and Zuma. This reduces the campaign to a personality issue more than a fundamental ideological perspective that necessarily will prove earth shattering once he comes to power should he succeed as some claim he will.
1.2 In party sense, there are no overt differences on the policies of the ANC, the most recent policy conference items in principle agreed to conclude the items to incorporate the aspects the Youth League raised though not fully or in the sense exactly as they advanced it.
1.3 He must prove careful not to be seen to have been made by the Malema Youth League who may come back and demand of him for example nationalisation when that is not ANC policy.
1.4The critical question he must contend with is ‘why is this Youth League nominating me as a replacement for Zuma is my nomination in vengeance or because they believe I will do something different’. The jury remains out as to whether he will conclude his candidacy stands in its own shadow, or in a shadow of Zuma – Anger, to be settled in what I have consistently termed a ‘Promised Mangaung of Revenge’. It would be wrong to narrowly define his candidacy through the short-lived anger, tit-for-tat emotional claim.
1.5 In organisational sense depending who you speak to he is seen as one who cannot be trusted. Known for playing his cards close to his chest, may be questionable in loyalty as both the Mbeki and Zuma candidacies found. He it was said joined the Zuma side at a politically brutal and bloody Polokwane very late.
1.6 He often is regarded as one who lacks the will to fight, which makes him a not trusted candidate by others who would have preferred him raising his hand early.
1.7 He could be compromised by the latent anger of those who comprises those still mad with the departure of an Mbeki, who felt they lost the control, power and the very access to resources the same the now accuse others of corruption. He should not try and fight Mbeki’s fights as some may want him to engage in.
1.8The current publicised Iran deals of his girlfriend Gugu Mtshali, while not proven purports to show traces of irresponsibility potentially corruption, a flouting of SA policy directives by those who claim to have represented Ms. Mtshali in the claimed R10million bribery story. Motlanthe acted quickly by calling on the Public Protector to investigate and rule on such. It is expected that the Public Protector will release her preliminary report by the end of this week. This is considered by many as his firm commitment to even subject himself to scrutiny, which is a good sign of leadership, yet he takes a serious gamble because if the claims are verified and the apparent flight tickets were secured and recordings confirm the solicitation of the R10million bribe, where will it leave him, but to step aside because ultimately her sin if proven would be transposed on to him, and his campaign with its corruption theme will stand naked.
1.9The second aspect of this claimed corruption is that with a known history now of ANCYL leaders, turning on those they have preferred, the case can be made that should he secure the seat, he may be finding himself like Zuma questioned about this very Iran claimed corruption deal. Zuma’s sins flow from the lips of those who once pledge a loyalty to him. Even forgotten stuff features when people get angry.
1.10 His campaign if secured will be claimed by a Malema absent-present leadership as their victory, meaning he will be compelled to argue for the reinstatement of Malema. Malema in an interview in London last week arrogantly asserted he will be back once Zuma is gone at Polokwane. I am one of those who hold, Zuma has done not just himself a favour by showing leadership to have Malema expelled, but he has equally helped whoever will win at Mangaung because if Malema stays expelled the new incumbent will breathe a sigh of great relief, not having to deal with a Malema. Maybe somebody later will quietly thank Zuma for this.
1.11 Motlanthe, though apparently attempting to run his campaign informed by a policy base contention, truthfully cannot claim such policy as his because policy development in the ANC is a collective initiative in which no individual can claim it is his/hers. The critical point I wish to make here is that his campaign may purport to be a policy base one but on close examination prove vague if at all truly informed by such policy base.
1.12 He came late to the Zuma side of the fence in a sense of reluctance, yet compelled because of his personal ambition. He proves an enigma for many constituencies in the ANC. This may make those who has prerogative to decide on leadership, to ask can we trust this man.
1.13 The alliances that he will need to form to secure his seat, may compromise his personal value-system. We all remember how he once chided Sexwale during the Polokwane elections in saying paraphrased sense ‘one is not a leader just because you stand in front and talk’. Equally he may have to agree with people to form united front topple Zuma, and find himself toppled by the same that went into alliance with him. As the lists are being populated the focus cannot be for him ALL BUT ZUMA, for even if Zuma loses Motlanthe will not be guaranteed an easy ride.
1.14 Motlanthe as deputy president of ANC and SA, cannot be absolved from the claims levelled against a Zuma administration, if the organisation is in crises, he is the second in command, the question is what did he do? If the Government is in state of flux, and books are not delivered, and tender systems in Limpopo are abused until the Province is bankrupt, where was he as the second in command? Yes the buck stop with the Zuma, but there is a conjoined responsibility at both Organisational and National Government level that he and those who serve with Zuma share. This brings me to the fundamental question: from what wells of comfort do those drink who believe a Motlanthe candidacy will prove the stark opposite of what we currently share, for he is equally accountable for the organisational factions and for allowing some of this spill into government?
In conclusion, it is a known fact that if Motlanthe has any dream of unseating Zuma at Mangaung he will firstly need to raise his hand and garner all the support. This literally means he will be compelled to form alliances some of utter discomfort with people whom he may not trust, who equally do not regard him as trustworthy.
These alliances may prove poisoned chalices as was visible for a Zuma first term election could prove unholy, controlling and costly when personal ambitions began to dictate and impatience and manifest in him becoming the object of questioning in leadership.
We have seen how quick the tables can turn on an incumbent, so after Mbeki no president is guaranteed a second term regardless what popularity he/she may enjoy at this juncture. Motlanthe it must be said is running a reasonable clean campaign, respecting the elections processes of the ANC. He adopts the saviour mind-set not overtly attacking Zuma yet attempting to make his campaign a policy based one.
Perhaps the biggest challenge with Motlanthe’s preferred candidacy as led, called for and insisted by the Malema led ANCYL is the fact that it taints a strong candidate, and renders his candidacy almost not authentic but one borne from a hate for the current incumbent – Zuma, which if we can learn from the Mbeki experience simply do not hold.
If one nominates a leader one must be convinced in the absence of everything else why one moves for such candidacy, anytime it originates from a bitterness of another, the likelihood is a precedent is created for a repeat of history. As the saying go, ‘history repeats itself the first time in a farce the second in tragedy’
In the end I hold Motlanthe will have no choice but to accept to stand in nomination, he will be forced to enter into alliances that could be in the end his very undoing, he will go to Mangaung and find out that the incumbent Jacob Zuma was well prepared for his onslaught and equally to task to stymie this nomination, possibly marking the end of a strong candidate Motlanthe in leadership contest, for after Jacob G. Zuma’s second term the issue of a Women’s president will gain momentum and be it for sentimental or real reasons, we may see after 2017 the first woman ANC President, arguably Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma.
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
This article courtesy: ‘Tradewinds are Blowing’ – Political Commentary and Musings
(Due October 2012)