Taking a cue from Mugabe, Zuma holds the ANC to ransom

Former Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (L) gestures as South Africa's President Jacob Zuma looks on
Spread the love

It appears that President Jacob Zuma’s imminent departure from office is the most anticipated development of 2018.

For some, Zuma’s departure is nine years overdue. For me, it’s simple: What’s the worst that could happen?

I think Zuma should be allowed to deliver the State of the Nation Address so that he can properly bid goodbye to this nation that just loves to hate him.

South Africans have a deep fascination with Zuma. Ask anyone around how they feel about their president, and no one is disinterested. Emotions usually run high when it comes to Msholozi.

Well, we are going to miss him because he gave us ample material to appear clever, even though he always bemoaned those ‘clever blacks’ who are never short of opinions about him.

Zuma is an interesting politician and continues to astonish most. Who would have thought that a president who is so compromised – with a cloud of corruption hanging over his head – would still be in a position to negotiate his exit, instead of being summarily removed from his position following the end of his tenure as the president of the ANC?

Contrary to popular belief, Zuma is negotiating his departure and is probably asking for a few sweeteners to ensure that he does not leave the Union Buildings with nothing in hand.

I don’t think he will stay beyond the first quarter of 2018. He is certainly clearing his desk at the Union Buildings. Unlike most leaders who have become unpopular towards the end of their hold on power, it is clear that he will be allowed to collect his coffee mug and that big family portrait that we all like to keep on our employer’s desk.

Why is it that Zuma is able to negotiate his exit if he’s so unpopular in the country? The answer is simple: He still knows a lot and understands the game very well, despite the reality that he has to get going very soon.

His situation is, in fact, very similar to Robert Mugabe’s after Emmerson Mnangagwa’s army pals declared the military overthrow of the Zimbabwean president, only to negotiate an exit with him.

As was the case with Mugabe, Zuma knows that the ANC needs his cooperation till the end to make sure that his departure remains an internal matter with no external ramifications for the party. Simply put, the ANC needs Zuma’s voluntary resignation in the same way that the army in Zimbabwe needed Mugabe’s resignation – in a manner that requires the country to refresh the political mandate in the form of snap elections.

The power balance within the ANC is shifting away from Zuma, and Ramaphosa is the de factopresident of the country. But Ramaphosa has to negotiate with Zuma to ensure that he nicely writes down a resignation letter, instead of being hauled out of office through a parliamentary process such as impeachment.

As was the case with Mugabe – who knew that if the military went all the way with the coup they would have to call for early elections after his removal – Zuma is aware that if the ANC removes him through a parliamentary process the opposition parties would immediately demand early elections to refresh the mandate. Zanu-PF could not stomach the idea of early elections in a similar manner that the ANC cannot afford to go into early elections. The ANC needs some form of consolidation before the elections.

Therefore, Zuma is taking a leaf out of Mugabe’s book by holding the party to ransom and trying by all means to secure the best political exit package possible under the circumstances.

When power is winding down, you know that your days are numbered. But that does not mean you cannot negotiate the best terms of release.

The main problem with Zuma’s exit negotiations is that if he does not concede and finalise the terms soon, it will make it difficult for Ramaphosa to pardon him if he is convicted of corruption!

After all, the DA will not have a case to make against Ramaphosa’s decision to pardon Zuma if it comes to that, will they?

– Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and author of When Zuma Goes.