[Marxism] [SUSPICIOUS MESSAGE] Jacob Zuma Prepares to Depart a Diminished A.N.C.
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Dec 16 11:32:58 MST 2017
NY Times, Dec. 16 2017
Jacob Zuma Prepares to Depart a Diminished A.N.C.
By NORIMITSU ONISHI
JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress once inspired
hope across Africa. It helped liberate black South Africans from
white-minority rule, promoting reconciliation with former oppressors and
the ideal of a post-racial “Rainbow Nation.” It seemed even poised to
lift up the rest of the continent with its vision of an “African
But as A.N.C. members began gathering on Saturday to elect a new leader,
many analysts described the still-dominant party as a shadow of what it
once represented — bereft of ideals, roiled by insiders fighting over
diminishing spoils, abandoned by a growing list of disillusioned graying
party heroes known as “stalwarts.”
For many at home and across Africa, the once heroic liberation movement
is now synonymous with corruption and cynicism. South Africa has become
a normal nation.
The winner of the party election is expected to become South Africa’s
next president in the 2019 elections unless the A.N.C. loses its
overwhelming strength in Parliament, which selects the nation’s top
Its present leader is President Jacob Zuma, who as South Africa’s head
of state since 2009 has been at the center of a series of personal and
political scandals. He will step down as head of the party after his
successor is chosen, possibly as early as Sunday, at an elective
conference in Johannesburg, the nation’s largest city.
In his final address as party leader, Mr. Zuma acknowledged that the
A.N.C. had been weakened and needed to be renewed. But he blamed outside
forces — which have also been the ones to check his exercise of power —
launching into a broad and bitter attack on the opposition, the judicial
system, the news media and civil society.
He reserved his harshest words for the white-dominated business
community, saying that the party needed to be protected from “corporate
“Theft and corruption in the private sector is as bad as that in
government,” he said.
Two front-runners are locked in a tight race to succeed him, embodying
starkly different strains within a deeply divided party.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a medical doctor and anti-apartheid veteran who
served in several roles in previous governments, is also a former wife
of Mr. Zuma. She has his support and that of many of his allies, and has
adopted his populist rhetoric.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president, has won the support of some of
Mr. Zuma’s fiercest opponents: business groups and middle-class black
voters in cities. His own record in business, however — as a former
trade union leader whose A.N.C. connections helped him become one of the
country’s richest men — has made him a representative of the gulf
between South Africa’s tiny new black elite and its poor.
Critics have focused on Mr. Zuma, 75, to explain the A.N.C.’s
precipitous decline. And Mr. Zuma, who has six wives and as deputy
president was tried and acquitted on a rape accusation, makes an easy
But the problems go beyond just one man. Like other liberation parties
in southern Africa, including those in Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and
Mozambique, the A.N.C. has never lost power since ousting white rulers,
and has come to focus on retaining that power and the access it provides.
In South Africa — where the economy has stagnated under Mr. Zuma —
patronage and corruption have built a system that will be difficult to
dismantle. In many of the A.N.C.’s rural strongholds, the party remains
the main source of business and jobs.
Nationwide, access to state enterprises has been the reward for Mr.
Zuma’s allies, including friends with few professional skills and the
Guptas, a wealthy family who have acquired widespread business interests.
State enterprises, through the awarding of contracts, or tenders, have
created an entire class of A.N.C. loyalists sometimes derided as
“There is nothing exceptional in what has happened to the A.N.C. because
it is the path that all African liberation parties have taken,” said
Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst. “It has failed to modernize from
liberation politics to managing a complex modern society.”
“People personalize it to say it’s all about Zuma, but every
post-liberation African society risks having a Mobutu,” he said,
referring to Mobutu Sese Seko, the notoriously corrupt former ruler of
Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“What makes this different is that people’s expectations of the A.N.C.
were higher because it was a latecomer and because of Mandela.”
Apartheid ended in 1994, well after liberation had swept the rest of the
continent. Mr. Mandela served as South Africa’s first democratic
president from 1994 to 1999. His successor, Thabo Mbeki — whose
Pan-African vision was encapsulated in his phrase “African Renaissance”
— was forced out of power in 2008 before the end of his second term by
Mr. Zuma and his allies.
As the A.N.C. and other liberation parties have remained virtually
unchallenged, the nation’s fiercest political fighting has occurred
inside the governing party. As A.N.C. delegates from across the country
converged in Johannesburg, the closeness of the leadership contest
underscored the deep fissures inside the party.
Should Ms. Dlamini-Zuma win — and she has the support of the party’s
youth and women’s leagues — most experts predict a continuation of the
Zuma era. Analysts point out that Mr. Zuma, who is still dogged by a
multitude of corruption charges, would probably be protected under a
government she led.
Ms. Dlamini-Zuma has adopted some of her ex-husband’s populist language,
railing against “white monopoly capital,” the term used by critics of
the concentration of wealth in the hands of white South Africans.
She has said that, as president, she would focus on “radical economic
transformation” by redistributing the country’s wealth from whites to
blacks and that she did not care about getting the backing of the
country’s business groups.
“I’m not surprised white minority capital is not endorsing me,” she said
Ms. Dlamini-Zuma has defended her public record — “I don’t loot
government coffers,” she said — but she has said little about the
widespread corruption under her former husband.
A victory for Mr. Ramaphosa, in contrast, would be likely to give the
economy a quick boost and prevent a further downgrade of the country’s
national sovereign debt, which has fallen to junk level because of Mr.
Zuma’s efforts to gain direct control over the country’s treasury and
other policies that have driven away investors.
Mr. Ramaphosa could also win back some black middle-class voters who, in
recent years, have begun abandoning the A.N.C.
Last year, in the greatest shock to the party since it gained power with
the end of apartheid in 1994, the A.N.C. lost control over the nation’s
largest cities, including Johannesburg, Pretoria and Nelson Mandela Bay,
after black middle-class voters disillusioned with Mr. Zuma’s A.N.C.
abstained from voting or jumped to the opposition.
A key negotiator in the talks that led to the end of apartheid, Mr.
Ramaphosa was Mr. Mandela’s chosen successor as president. But after
losing to Mr. Mbeki, Mr. Ramaphosa entered business, where his career
has given him a more troubling legacy.
In 2012, in the worst killing of civilians since the end of apartheid,
the police shot dead 34 wildcat strikers at a platinum mine in Marikana
belonging to Lonmin, a company where Mr. Ramaphosa sat on the board.
An official inquiry into the massacre found that he had tried to
intervene with the authorities on behalf of the company, though it
eventually absolved him of guilt. Nevertheless, to many, Mr. Ramaphosa
became the symbol of an A.N.C. elite that had betrayed the people it
once fought for.
Mr. Ramaphosa, who returned to politics in 2012, has pledged to fight
corruption. But during the more than three years he has served as deputy
president under Mr. Zuma, he remained largely silent on the issue and
stood behind the president, though he has tried to distance himself in
Last month, in a speech on South Africa’s ailing economy, he said, “We
must acknowledge that our ability to overcome these challenges has been
undermined over the last decade by a failure of leadership and misguided
Neither candidate has inspired people the way past leaders have done
over the A.N.C.’s 105-year history. Africa’s oldest liberation party, it
once captured minds and hearts across the continent.
“For people in my generation, we grew up in the anti-apartheid
struggle,” said Owei Lakemfa, a veteran labor activist in Nigeria, where
many A.N.C. leaders sought refuge before the end of apartheid. “The
A.N.C. held a lot of promise for us then. Now, it does not.”
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