Cape Town - The year 2012 has been an interesting year in South African politics:
* In April, the ANC pulled the plug on motor-mouth Youth League president Julius Malema.
Malema’s membership was suspended with immediate effect by the party’s national disciplinary committee (NDC). This followed Malema’s verbal attack on President Jacob Zuma, a few days earlier, when he called him a dictator and said he was suppressing the league. Malema appealed the decision without success. Two weeks later, his appeal process resulted in his expulsion from the ANC, with immediate effect.
* President Jacob Zuma’s manhood came under the spotlight on May 10, when a painting, The Spear, was exhibited at the Goodman Gallery.
The portrait, by local artist Brett Murray, showed Zuma standing with his genitals exposed. The publication of the image in the City Press provoked an outcry from the ruling party and also fuelled heated debates on social networks. Zuma took the paper and the gallery to court.
* Renovations to Zuma’s private homestead in Nkandla, alleged to have cost more than R200 million of taxpayers’ money, made news in South Africa and around the world.
DA leader Helen Zille made headlines when she demanded that the government disclose the costs involved and the funder of the renovations, or face court action. She later followed with an “inspection” of Nkandla, with six other senior party members. They were forced to abort their mission a kilometre before they reached their destination, after angry Zuma supporters, many of them armed with traditional weapons, blocked the road.
* The Western Cape was a hotspot for service delivery protests this year. Violent protests involving burning tyres and stone-throwing, with some threatening to shut down the Cape Town International Airport, wrought havoc across the city. Several people died, including a Golden Arrow driver Sandile Hoko, 67, of Khayelitsha. His bus crashed into four shacks after being stoned by protesters.
The ANCYL also launched its Economic Freedom march and threatened to make the city ungovernable. Premier Helen Zille slammed this as unconstitutional and criminal intimidation and called for the league to apologise. They refused. Zille and Mayor Patricia de Lille later lodged a complaint with the police about the league’s threats.
* Zuma won a second term as party president at the ANC national conference in Mangaung. He was elected to a second term with 2 983 votes to the 991 cast for his challenger, Kgalema Motlanthe. Cyril Ramaphosa was voted in as the new deputy president; a position from which Motlanthe withdrew his nomination.
Gwede Mantashe was voted in as secretary-general, Jessie Duarte as deputy secretary-general, Baleka Mbete as national chairperson and Zweli Mkhize as treasurer-general.
* There were several casualties to the national executive committee at Mangaung.
Fikile Mbalula, Tokyo Sexwale, Mathews Phosa, Thandi Modise and Paul Mashatile were all punished for challenging the leadership status quo, and failed to attract enough votes to make the cut for the key decision-making body.
* The ANC celebrated 100 years. On January 8, tens of thousands of people, including at least 46 heads of state, descended on Mangaung to celebrate the birth of the ANC.
President Jacob Zuma pledged that the ANC would take “urgent and practical” steps to restore its “core values, stamp out factionalism and promote political discipline”.
* DA leader Helen Zille emerged stronger than ever from the party’s federal congress.
Re-elected unopposed, Zille will lead the party into the 2014 elections with a secondary leadership tier peppered with those close to her. They include Wilmot James, who was re-elected federal chairman and, among his deputies, national spokesman Mmusi Maimane.
Doubtless Zille will lead the 2014 election campaign aggressively and with seemingly boundless energy. Even if the elections do not bring the DA its touted takeover of Gauteng and the Northern Cape, they will produce polling success, say analysts.