I came across a long research note that I wrote in early 2007 exploring the impending succession process in the ANC to culminate at the Polokwane conference 7 months later.

So I was writing before the June 2007  National General Council during which Jacob Zuma’s resignation/suspension as ANC deputy president was overturned from the floor and it became clear that change was inevitable.

I thought I should upload the document onto this web log so that one day when some student decides to examine the accuracy or otherwise of the predictions of political analysts they’ve got some publicly available data to work with.

Also, it’s an interesting read – both because of how wrong and how right it was, but also because how defensive I was about Mbeki and how suspicious I was of Zuma. I regret the former but not the latter.

Click here for the whole document, but below are some highlights and lowlights:

Why I thought markets were nervous about a change in ANC leadership

All change is unsettling, but a South Africa without these  illustrious, high-minded leaders of global eminence and distinction (Mandela and Mbeki) might feel less of a sure thing and the fears that waned from 1994 may wax again with their departure and replacement by people’s whose names cannot be pronounced in London and New York.

My learned views on why the global context made the transition even scarier for investors

New and untested leadership of the ruling party and the country will enter the stage of history in a context of unexpected and growing global uncertainty. The inherently unsettling nature of the domestic political succession is amplified as an apparently natural and stable global order has revealed itself to be increasingly tricky, unstable and unpredictable.

The ending of the Cold War did not end history and the US did not come to represent a unipolarity around which democracy and stability could spread. Instead, the Washington Consensus has crumbled and the rise of China, Russia and India is in the process of rewriting the rules of global trade, economic governance and the structure of capital markets. The world’s major economic and military power extends itself and commits ever more of its myriad apparatuses, fashioned to achieve its national goals, to perplexing military campaigns. And while the cat’s away: the emerging world is experimenting with different forms of governance, including economic governance, that would have been unthinkable only ten years ago.

Leadership exceptionalism

… this country has developed a habit, possibly a mythology, of what I term “leadership exceptionalism”. In short this refers to the belief, erroneous or otherwise, that South Africa has achieved an unlikely stability primarily through the exceptional quality of leaders throughout the society – including on both sides of the Apartheid fence and in the churches, trade unions and business.

(It helps that I already thought this idea was rubbish.)

Getting it wrong about Polokwane (and one might ask: who’s the “our” in “our first case scenario”?)

Throughout the early stages of the transition contest it appeared that Zuma was the main contender and the person most likely to get the job – an outcome we will dispute below … It’s foolish to predict such a close run race so long in advance, but our first case scenario is one in which Zuma fails to become president of the ANC in 2007. If this is the case, the 2009 successor to Mbeki will not be known until the ANC goes through a specific nomination and election process for this position – probably starting in 2008.”

Why corruption was making the process so much worse (and, goodness, look how uncomfortable I was about criticising Mbeki)

‘True or false and for better or for worse;

  • the allegations of corruption against Jacob Zuma
  • the multiple and uncontested economic transactions and favours that passed between the ANC Deputy President and Shabir Shaik – now convicted of two counts of corruption and one of fraud
  • the widespread, but entirely untested, charge that President Mbeki has allowed the courts and prosecution authority to be used less to stop Zuma’s alleged corruption and more to prevent him ascending to the presidency in 2009

has stamped the succession process with the twin burdens of being a proxy for the fight against corruption and being tainted by the alleged misuse of state resources by the highest power in the land.

and I could’t hide what I thought of the challenger

Aside from the actual corruption allegations mentioned in 4.2, to put the icing on the  anxiety cookie, Zuma’s various statements and legal tribulations have portrayed a man who is:

  • a polygamist;
  • poorly educated,
  • apparently ready to play into ethnic divisions for political advantage,
  • undisciplined in his sexual behaviour,
  • homophobic
  • under the guise of “ Zulu traditionalism” unsettlingly cavalier towards women.
There’s lots about the left backing Zuma, but his own position was clear

This is not to suggest that Zuma is a leftist, worker friendly or naturally close to the SACP and Cosatu – in fact the very opposite might be true. The left backing of Zuma, which has caused bitter internal debates in the trade union movement and amongst the communists, must be understood as primarily an attempt to wield any likely candidate against those who represents the rightward drift of policy, namely Thabo Mbeki and his anointed successor.

The left was already taking a clear stand against corruption

Organisations of the left, but particularly the South African Communist Party, have been the most consistent moral watchdog in the Ruling Alliance. They have held government to account for tendencies of “cronyism” and the “compradorist and parasitic” nature of much of the emerging “bourgeois” elite which they argue is characterised by “primitive consumption”; they have insisted government focus on HIV/AIDS and expunge any denialism in its ranks, they have fought for a principled approach to the Zimbabwe situation, and, most importantly, they have presented themselves as the bastion against corruption within the state, government and business.

which made their backing of Zuma so difficult for me to swallow …

The decision (implicit or explicit) to back Zuma’s candidacy has deeply divided the left and soundly removed them from the moral high ground they had come to occupy. Those who won the debate to back Zuma – with the uncontested facts of his unhealthy relationship with the corrupt and fraudulent Shabir Shaik and his distasteful statements about HIV/AIDS, women and Zulu traditionalism already out there in the world – have cast the individuals and organisations of the left as opportunistic and willing to back any candidate from whom they can expect improved political access and influence. Given the idealism of much of the membership of the SACP and like minded groups, the opportunism of some of the left’s current leadership’s will probably prove to be their undoing.

Hmm, the sweet idealism of my youth …

That’s enough … there is lots more revealing stuff in there, including comments on every possible candidate. I will just add the comments I made then about Tokyo (because I believe they are true today) and then leave it up to you to read or dip into when it suits you.

On Tokyo Sexwale

Popular, ex-Robben Islander and exile; flamboyant – soldier adventurer type, trained in USSR for the ANC before his capture. After 1994 turned to business with a lot of flair (Mvelaphanda Holdings) and undoubtedly made the system work for him in a very successful way. He is probably the most charismatic character with the broadest appeal amongst this lot. He also has the ability to build a strong and loyal group around himself – hints of “cult of the personality”.. He is rich and flash enough for this to count against him. He has constantly denied that he may run but there are constant rumours that he is assembling a team to make a run for the top job.

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