Johannesburg - A win for President Jacob Zuma in Mangaung will be a win for the DA and expedite the demise of the ruling party, a political analyst said.
Professor Lesiba Teffo told The Star on Thursday that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe would disappoint many party members and some South Africans who are non-ANC members should he not avail himself to challenge Zuma.
This comes as Zuma looks set to be re-elected for a second term at the party’s national elective conference next month after the majority of ANC branches apparently nominated him.
But Motlanthe’s aides have repeatedly said he would stand if nominated by the branches, because he respected their right to elect leaders and would not be party to “leadership by arrangement”.
While Teffo believed Motlanthe would challenge Zuma and possibly win, two other analysts - Professor Steven Friedman and Ralph Mathekga - said that was highly unlikely.
This was because branch nomination figures did not favour Motlanthe.
Friedman said Motlanthe was unlikely to avail himself because the majority of branches seemed to favour Zuma.
Mathekga said Motlanthe faced a dilemma because if he withdrew from the race, he would have betrayed and sacrificed the political careers of many of his backers.
On the other side, if he went ahead and challenged Zuma, the president’s supporters would accuse him of being a detractor who sowed the seeds of divisions in the party.
Speculation that Motlanthe might not challenge Zuma comes a few weeks after some of his backers privately expressed concerns about his failure to show his hand.
They said his fence-sitting harmed their campaign.
The ANC Youth League even went as far as to publicly call on him to throw his hat into the ring.
Mathekga and Teffo said the level of politically motivated violence, intolerance, intimidation and threats in the run-up to Mangaung was relatively high compared to the same period before the last conference in Polokwane in 2007.
According to Teffo, victory for Zuma will be a boost for opposition parties ahead of the 2014 general elections.
“If Jacob Zuma wins, right, it is also a plus most probably for a party like the DA, because that would expedite the demise of the ruling party.
“And that is why some members of the ruling party are so anxious that Zuma shouldn’t win, or if possible, he should withdraw, because his victory would definitely ensure the collapse of the ANC,” said Teffo.
He said even the ANC’s rank-and-file agreed that Zuma was not doing a good job.
But, “a few influential souls”, which would benefit from his return to office, were the ones pushing for his re-election.
The determination and spirited campaign of Motlanthe’s lobbyists showed he was already in the race, added Teffo.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe dismissed as “rubbish” Teffo’s assertion that a win for Zuma would amount to a victory for the DA.
“Zuma contests no elections. The reality is that we are not America. Not running an election of a president. We are running an organisation and not Zuma. The ANC is not Zuma. The ANC contests the elections, not Zuma. Your obsession [with] Zuma is unfair. You [media] wrote so many articles about Mangaung that didn’t materialise, “ Mantashe said.
Friedman said: “It is highly unlikely that Motlanthe will confirm his candidacy as a president because the information I have suggests that the majority of these branches are supporting the president. And if the majority of the branches are supporting the president, what is the logic of him saying, well, I will oppose the president despite the fact that I know I am going to lose?” Friedman said.
He added that there was a “significant” chance of Motlanthe remaining Zuma’s deputy, post-Mangaung.
Mathekga agreed that Motlanthe was likely to withdraw from the race and “talk unity”, but said that would have serious political implications for him more than his supporters.
“If he withdraws, he will go down in history as someone who betrayed many people. Someone who is calculating and someone who did the cost benefit analysis where he is [saving] his own skin and he does not have integrity,” Mathekga warned.
Mathekga said the level of intolerance ahead of Mangaung had increased compared to the same period in 2007 as the ANC was more “polarised because of this desperation to try to guarantee the results of Mangaung by different factions”.
He added that the level of intolerance was also a sign that discipline has been eroded, and that the current leadership enjoyed less credibility and respect than their counter-parts in the run-up to Polokwane. Teffo said the intolerance was an indication that the ANC, like other liberation movements, “has failed to learn from the causes and reasons that brought their downfall”.
Mantashe denied that the level of intolerance and political violence has increased since Polokwane.
“The organisation is much more stable than before Polokwane, and the incidents of violence are not as widespread as you want to believe. There will be isolated incidents… but this does not define the process. But it would be a disservice to the readers, as if the organisation is infiltrated by hooligans. You are creating a crisis that does not exist… Tensions will be there, but to say that these acts of violence and intimidation are widespread is exaggerated,” said Mantashe.
The Star has reported this week about ANC members assaulting, intimidating and threatening each other during the branch nomination meetings. Among others, a house of an anti-Zuma lobbyist was petrol-bombed in Mpumalanga days after he vigorously campaigned for Motlanthe, while an armed gang stormed a meeting in Gauteng and threatened to shoot members unless they nominated Zuma. In Limpopo, a man was released on R1 000 bail for allegedly assaulting a fellow comrade in Malamulele.