Come December 2017, we expect hundreds of delegates to the African National Congress (ANC) elective conference to converge at a venue in South Africa to elect a new leadership.
The delegates will also bid farewell to their party president, Jacob Zuma, a man whose political life since the Polokwane Conference in 2009 was replete with political scandals. There is no need to refer to the nature of these scandals, because they are well documented in the newspapers, court records and Hansard.
The contest for the position of the ANC will be between the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and the African Union Commission Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. One needs not to wait until such time that these possible contenders make public pronouncements before one makes inferences. There are facts from which one may draw a reasonable inference.
For Ramaphosa, by virtue of his positions as the current deputy president of ANC and deputy president of South Africa, it is highly unlikely that he will forego the contest. For Dlamini- Zuma, her decision not to stand for the second-term as chairperson of the AU Commission, at a time when people encourage women to take up leadership positions, explains everything.
The underground campaign for the high office in the government of the Rainbow Nation has started already. At this stage, there is no indication that a third contender will emerge, but time will tell.
Both Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma have good liberation struggle credentials dating back to the early 1970’s. Ramaphosa was trained as a lawyer. He commands respect among his colleagues in the ANC and in government. The former secretary general of the Congress of South Africa Trade Union (COSATU) is an orator and a negotiator par excellence, who demonstrated unparalleled negotiation skills during both rounds of CODESA multi-party negotiation between the apartheid South African government and other political parties in the early 1990’s.
His sound business acumen endears him to both the local and international business community. COSATU, one of the influential allies of the ANC, has already expressed full support for Ramaphosa. In the event that the SACP – the second important ally of the ANC – throws their weight behind him, then ‘the contest deal’ will be sealed before the official campaign starts.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the ex-wife of President Zuma trained as a medical doctor. She is a seasoned politician who held several ministerial portfolios. After 1994, she served as a minister of health, minister of foreign affairs and later as a minister of home affairs. She is the current chairperson of the African Union Commission.
She is a very intelligent and an articulate politician. I had an opportunity to interact with her at many meetings of SADC and the African Union while she was a minister of foreign affairs. One of the memorable meetings, which I attended chaired by her was the negotiation between the government of Namibia and the government of South Africa on the Orange River boundary in Cape Town during February 2004.
It is interesting to note that the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), led by Collen Maine, had made pronouncement that the ANCYL supports neither Ramaphosa nor Nkhosazana-Zuma. In a democracy, this is permissible, if a section of the population decides to punish politicians for poor or non- delivery of services.
One thing we must understand is that the youth face a multitude of socio-economic challenges, inter alia, unemployment, poverty and exorbitant university fees.
Therefore, Ramaphosa is regarded by some people as part of the top ANC quartet (comprising Zuma, Ramaphosa, Baleka Mbete and Gwende Manashe) that failed to provide effective leadership to the people of South Africa.
The converse is that a vote for Nkosazana will not liberate millions of the South African youth from the shackles of socio-economic bondage. Therefore, a victory for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is perceived as a victory for Zuma himself and the Gupta family. It is incumbent on the delegates to the elective conference to (a) choose wisely for a unifying leader and not someone who will be imposed on the people and (b) reject the politics of the incumbency.
Therefore, the ANC must manage the succession meticulously to avoid factionalism and nepotism within its ranks. In order to regain the confidence that the party lost before the August 3 local and municipal elections, the ANC leadership must take bold decisions by jettisoning corrupt politicians from its ranks.
By so doing, it may create political chances for visionary leaders, with impeccable track records, such as comrades Mathews Phosa, Joel Netshitenzhe and Trevor Manuel to lead the ANC. In the final analysis, it will be President Jacob Zuma who holds the gavel that sways. This is Afrika.
The ANC leadership, however, must preserve the legacy of its fallen heroes and heroines, such as Albert Luthuli, John Langalibalele Dube, Steve Biko, Moses Kotane, Joe Slovo, Lilian Ngoyi, Ellen Kuzwayo, Chris Hani, Govan Mbeki, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela.