Jacob Zuma, RET networks mobilise to 'correct' Nasrec outcome
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By Cyril Madlala
The national welcoming prayer event for former president Jacob Zuma in Durban last week following his earlier release on medical parole is a clear indication yet that he and his supporters will bide their time to wrestle back control of the African National Congress.
In recent times, as is also evident regarding the contested candidate lists for the local government elections next month, individuals have jumped ship to stand as independents against the ANC – a practice that Zuma has specifically frowned upon in his message of appreciation to his supporters at the prayer meeting.
He is not yielding an inch, and fellow travellers in the Radical Economic Transformation brigade are canvassing votes for the ANC in their individual capacities as members despite some having had to step aside from official positions as they face criminal charges.
This grouping is made up of leaders who command considerable support in their own right. Some, such as Ace Magashule and Supra Mahumapelo are former premiers and provincial chairpersons in the Free State and North West respectively. Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede was the leader of the biggest ANC region in the country, a critical factor in determining the number of delegates to the organisation’s national conferences.
Much awaited next year is the National General Council where the supporters of these leaders will challenge the implementation of the step-aside rule on the basis of alleged lack of even-handedness.
Like Zuma, these leaders now have a lot of free time on their hands while the slow turning of the wheels of justice in the courts keeps them away from the centre stages of their respective political theatres.
They may have had to shift from their ANC and government portfolios, but their networks, much like Zuma’s, are not only intact, they are mobilising for their support.
The court appearances of Magashule in the Free State, Gumede and Zuma in KwaZulu-Natal, will provide a consistent supply of energy to sustain the narrative of a conspiracy to push them to the political periphery as punishment for their support for Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who lost out to President Cyril Ramaphosa at the last elective conference in Johannesburg in 2017.
Therefore, while Zuma is at its centre, the RET faction does have in its ranks leaders with their own capacity to influence decisively outcomes of any ANC conference. Zuma’s message to his supporters at the prayer rally last week was clear: they should work hard to bring about the changes they desire at the next conference.
They may have been asked to step aside, but they do not need official ANC endorsement to mobilise thousands of people to support them when they appear in court. Nothing prevents even different provinces from organising their own events to pray for Zuma and for him to take advantage of the occasions to drum up support for the type of leadership changes he envisages at the next elective conference.
Precisely because KwaZulu-Natal is such an important province for the ANC, the Zuma factor will continue to make life awkward for the elected provincial leadership which correctly should be steadfast in its support for President Ramaphosa and his executive that now excludes the suspended Magashule.
Some among the provincial leadership may share the feeling that the Nasrec conference in Johannesburg was “bought”, but the leadership is now constituted as it is and convention dictates that all members should support it fully for the duration of its term of office.
The performance of the ANC in the local government elections next month will be important for both Ramaphosa and his detractors for different reasons.
In his message to his supporters last week Zuma was effectively saying they must come out in their numbers to vote for the ANC in order to strengthen it so that when an opportunity comes to “correct” what happened at Nasrec, they should find the organisation strong to mould afresh. In other words: prepare to remove Ramaphosa.
On the other hand, Ramaphosa’s key message to the electorate has been that the ANC has made mistakes in the past and put in power comrades who misappropriated the resources and failed to deliver services. That is now being corrected, and the corrupt ones will not feature in the renewed ANC. In other words: Zuma and his ilk are now history.
What is interesting is the question whether ordinary citizens who are angry at the unsatisfactory rendering of services even care about what happened at Nasrec as they cast their votes on November 1.
After all, these elections do seem to be primarily about people’s basic needs for clean water, refuse collection, electricity supply, potholed roads and such.
Whether Ramaphosa “bought” the last conference or Zuma and his allies are being persecuted unjustly for their stand on radical economic transformation does not really remove the stench of raw sewage across the streets of the poorest communities who Madiba promised “a better life for all”.
*Madlala is an independent political commentator and former editor of the Independent on Saturday
**The views expressed here may not be that of IOL.