The RESOUNDING victories by President Jacob Zuma and his allies in yesterday’s vote for the top six positions in the ANC should leave no room for argument – the party stands firmly behind Zuma.
Allegations of intimidation, violence and bribery in some provinces by supporters of both Zuma and his challenger, Kgalema Motlanthe, notwithstanding, it is clear that the Zuma team is the choice of the vast majority of ANC voters.
Zuma beat off Motlanthe by 2 983 votes to 991. In the poll for deputy president of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa romped home with 3 018 votes to 470 for Mathews Phosa and 463 for Tokyo Sexwale. The winning margins for the other top positions were equally convincing.
With a victory of that scale, Zuma’s second term as president of the country after the general elections of 2014 can be very different from his first. There is an opportunity for the “Lula moment” dear to the ANC’s allies in Cosatu, who argue that the Brazilian president took audacious and successful steps in his second term to tackle inequality in his country and to accelerate social transformation.
Zuma’s presidency so far has been characterised by weak leadership. The absence of a big project has allowed the greedy and the ambitious to step in, power has become something to be bought and sold, corruption has flourished and incompetence has been forgiven or even rewarded.
Now the president has an opportunity to do things differently.
A confident president has no need to surround himself with loyalists. He can choose the best there are. If he chooses to do so, Zuma can shake up the education system, fix the worst of the state hospitals, introduce a basic income grant, launch a food security programme. He can kick out incompetent ministers or corrupt public servants without fear of losing his support base. Yes, he will have to manage the very different constituencies which make up the ANC – Cyril Ramaphosa and Zwelinzima Vavi are not likely to agree on very much – but he has a chance now to take a few decisive steps for which his presidency can be remembered.
Come on, Mr President. With a mandate like that from your party, you have no excuse not to be bold.