Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency(ANA) – Former South African President and ANC leader, Thabo Mbeki.
By Sihle Mavuso
It has been yet another eventful week in South African politics, with more of the latest developments linked to the upcoming elective conference of the African National Congress (ANC) in December this year.
Here is what transpired this past week and the expectations for the week ahead.
Thabo Mbeki’s comment on Eskom and politicians
The Eskom’s albatross around the neck of the country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa continues to be a haunting one.
More than any other factors, Ramaphosa’s administration will likely be remembered for making empty promises to resolve the load-shedding crisis facing the country and how it has failed. When Ramaphosa first took office in February 2018, the first action he undertook was to change the Eskom board and made promises that the challenges there would be dealt with.
Four years later, the crisis has worsened, with some frankly admitting that even under his predecessor Jacob Zuma, the lights were kept on.
Weighing in, former President Thabo Mbeki even inferred that there is political interference at the power utility hence challenges are not being resolved. Of course, Mbeki’s comment irked the likes of Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe who while signing agreements with three independent power producers, said Mbeki was trying to project his own space as clean.
Mbeki comments also revived the debate that Ramaphosa is being soft on minister Pravin Gordhan whom many believe that the demise of Eskom is happening right under his watch.
Constitutional Court ruling executive code
It all began with the Constitutional Court when it ruled that the executive code, in its current format, is unlawful and in line with the constitution. The disputed executive ethics code was about whether ministers should declare donations made to their campaigns for party power.
Of course, this was sparked by the war chest Ramaphosa, who is also the leader of the ruling party, accumulated ahead of the Nasrec battle in 2017. That money dragged in the suspended Public Protector, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane who said she had a right to probe it as Ramaphosa was gunning for the top office.
In a ruling which means that the presidency will now have to amend the code, all funds accumulated for party power should be declared. The court said that was important because of the direct interest donors have in the candidates they fund.
This ruling changes the entire game as all candidates will no have to open up about their funds. Equally, it gives a glimmer of hope that one day we would see the unsealing of the CR17 campaign funds and get to know who funded the campaign and what has that funder got since Ramaphosa took power.
KZN ANC divided over nominations
The thorny issue of nominating candidates for the December conference of the ANC has once again proven to be a divisive issue for the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal.
In the main, the province is caught between backing former Health Minister and ANC treasurer-general Dr Zweli Mkhize and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who has been endorsed by Zuma. The latter’s candidacy means that the province will now go to the conference divided as it did in 2017.
On the side of Mkhize, his lobbyists have chosen former Gauteng Premier and current currently ANC treasurer-general and acting secretary-general Paul Mashatile as his running mate (deputy president position). This further complicates Mkhize’s campaign as he now has to battle the Digital Vibes scandal while at the same time trying to reason with branches he chose Mashatile.
Mashatile is an unpopular figure in KwaZulu-Natal as in February he led the charge in ensuring that Zuma is removed from power before he finishes his term. At some point, he was recorded telling a business meeting that the ANC was ready to remove Zuma through a vote of no confidence if he refuse to resign.
Before that, Mashatile was already not in the good books of those who are pro-Zuma as they felt that he was hostile and he was always ready to work with the opposition to remove him from power.
In the end, even if Mkhize and Dlamini-Zuma notch the nominations, it is clear that they won’t be able to unseat Ramaphosa.
Instead, the biggest winner here will be Mashatile who will get the KZN votes by default. Combined with support from Gauteng and Limpopo, it is almost given that Mashatile will now get the position.
Ace Magashule court case and his ANC’s ambitions
It looks likely now that the suspended secretary-general of the ANC, Ace Magashule would not take part in the governing party’s elective conference in December after his corruption trial was postponed to January next year.
Magashule was suspended for refusing to step aside as dictated to by the step aside policy which says all party leaders charged for serious offences.
On Friday Magashule appeared before the Bloemfontein high court for his asbestos project corruption trial, but the case could not go ahead. That left him fuming, saying the case was hampering his political career, even saying the State was never going to be ready to get it off the ground.
Since members cannot even contest in absentia, the latest developments mean that Magashule will not take part. However, that opens an opportunity for Mkhize or Dlamini-Zuma to lobby Magashule’s supporters to back them since he will not contest for the position of party presidency.
The COSATU conference and the week ahead
This week is going to be a watershed one in the country’s politics as COSATU will convene its congress.
Other than electing new leaders, the labour federation which is in an alliance with the ANC would also look at the state of the country’s economy, issues of workers and course analyse the country’s politics.
One of the most expected things is when Ramaphosa in his capacity as the head of the ANC comes to address the congress. It would be remembered that civil servants are angry at Ramaphosa following his administration’s failure to give them increments while lavishing political office bearers with one.
Ramaphosa will likely have it tough and if the current mood of workers is ready well, he may not get an endorsement for a second term from the labour federation. The labour federation may opt not to endorse any of the candidates fighting to unseat Ramaphosa as they feel that the entire ANC is now anti-working class.
Launch of Mmusi Maimane political party
After spending years not giving a clear indication of what he intends to do with his political career, Mmusi Maimane on Saturday launched his political party, Build One SA (BOSA).
To many, the party would not do well at the polls, but Maimane’s timing is perfect. For he knows that the country would after the 2024 elections be governed through a coalition of parties which excludes the ANC.
With five or more seats in the national assembly, Maimane’s party would be a coalition partner and that can even give him a ministerial position, thus reviving his career and boating his political profile.
Mavuso is a journalist at www.iol.co.za and writes on current affairs in South Africa and parts of the SADC region.