I want to discuss this business of commentators predicting that Zuma will be recalled before he has finished his initial term – but first a brief advertisement.

This blog was set up, in part, to generate paid work for myself. One of the things that I do for a living is talk to (or write for) employees, customers, agents, managers, governments and/or boards of directors about various aspects of politics and political risk. If you want me to address your conference, talk to your book-club or write in your newsletter, please feel free to contact me at nic.borain@gmail.com.

There … that wasn’t too difficult.

So back to the recalling of Jacob Zuma.

(I write the following with a degree of trepidation; I have just heard that there is a big emergency get-together at Luthuli house – ANC headquarters – and there are swirling rumours about newer and worse sexual indiscretions – all of which might make what I say below look silly and wrong.)

But anyway, onwards:

I am sometimes astonished at the levels of confidence with which “some among us” pronounce on the details of the future. It’s as if they are already living there, but have popped back to share a few choice bits of certainty with us.

I am referring specifically to the swath of commentary that seems to be predicting the recall of Jacob Zuma ahead of the 2012 elective conference and 100th anniversary.

I fully accept there may be major plays on the go of which I am blissfully unaware; but I just cannot see any of the disaffected alliance factions dare to put the ANC through what it went through with the recall of Thabo Mbeki.

That little episode broke the hearts of  many of the staunchest ANC cadres who had stood firm through storms so fierce and bitter they are impossible to describe.

The manner of the recall of Mbeki created Cope, for goodness sake, and has laid seeds of conflict and factionalism that will still be plaguing the ANC in 50 years time.

Recalling Mbeki ripped the ANC’s intellectual capacity to shreds and it has lost the coherent involvement of the standard bearers of its intellectual traditions – you only need to look at the quality of the NGC discussion document to know this is true.

The best of those involved in the Polokwane Putsch – and the later recall of Mbeki –  understood the seriousness of what they were doing. But these individuals (who were always the minority within the Alliance of the Disaffected – thank you Stephen Friedman) believed that radical invasive surgery was required to save the ANC and the country from the various predations of Thabo Mbeki.

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I tend to think that those few ‘good people’ profoundly miscalculated and that they have unleashed something decisively more disastrous than (the moderately awful) Mbeki presidency.

But this is not the time to have that argument out in full.  What I wanted to do here is remind readers that the upcoming ANC NGC is unlikely to be about recalling Zuma. The NGC is a policy and review conference. It’s important because it is likely to reveal the hands of many of those who are contending behind the scenes for leadership in 2012 (in the party) and 2014 (in the country).

Further, all of the jostling for 2012 is actually about the position of Deputy President of the ANC. The precedent for appointing the Deputy as the president is powerfully entrenched post-Polokwane. So if they don’t go for Zuma for a second term – which is an increasingly strong likelihood – it is almost certain that Kgalema Motlanthe would be the candidate.

Much can go wrong with that view – and I hate sticking my neck out this early and leaving myself open to having to eat my hat or humble pie as the case may be. But this must be the first case scenario. Unless I am missing a trick or two.

If we hear tonight that Zuma is stepping down because of another sex scandal – well, I’ll just have to face that humiliation when it comes.

On Zuma’s own future, I have discussed it before (here) and I hereby reproduce a slimmed down version below:

Who can say what the future holds for Zuma?

Will Zuma serve a second term?

Will he serve out his first term?

Who dares give an answer to these questions? Oh, alight I will.

I have burned myself before by being a little too sure and a lot too wrong about what the future holds.

Analysts like myself are constantly encouraged to take a firm view of what is going to be going down down the road. The client – usually a fund manager – is the person who has to take a bet on a number of future trends and it usually helps him or her to hear strongly stated predictions with the various arguments that support these from various analysts. If these analysts disagree, all the better. Hence outlier positions are often useful.

With those qualifiers, my ‘professional expectation’ is that Zuma will survive the first term of his presidency.

Both the ANC itself and the interplay of the Alliance partners are a real mess, but it took a Polokwane to throw out Mbeki and anyone involved in that process is probably still counting the costs of that exercise. In other words, doing it again, and this time without the kind of unanimity that surrounded the Mbeki ousting, would have to be overwhelmingly urgent as the costs in division and discontinuity would be overwhelming. And I don’t think there is any consensus in the alliance of forces (clearly no longer an alliance) that backed Zuma against Mbeki that there is the requisite urgency around the person and performance of the President.

I am less confident (although strictly speaking I am not confident – in the sense of being certain – about any ordering or outcome of events in the future) about the second term. Up until a few weeks ago I would have said: it is always easier to allow the sitting president to stay in his job when the big contending forces are still involved in the war of position; that no side’s victory is yet in sight. But even if the big power plays are not yet completed by the ANC centenary conference in 2012 there might be a consensus that a safer pair of hands (Motlanthe?) may be in order.

Zuma’s term as president is, unfortunately, proving itself to be that bad.

Advertisements