Max du Preez: Things are more unpredictable than ever

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JULY 01: President Jacob Zuma, his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, Baleka Mbete and Zweli Mkhize during the African National Congress (ANC) 5th national policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre on July 01, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The conference is a gathering of about 3500 delegates from branches across the country to discuss the party’s policies going into the elective conference in December, where changes and new policies will be ratified. (Photo by Gallo Images / City Press / Muntu Vilakazi)

There is a real possibility that President Zuma’s preferred candidate might not win the ANC’s election. But who will be the prevailing candidate? And what does each option mean for South Africa? Max du Preez explains.

The Premier League, formerly the bedrock of President Zuma’s support base, seems to be falling apart. How does this affect his position?

The Premier League has lost Mpumalanga and there are more and more rumours that Ace Magashule of the Free State will also withdraw his support for Zuma. The whole terrain has shifted and it’s much more unpredictable than ever before and it changes virtually every day.

But it’s not public perception, or what’s in the media or what the middle classes think that matter, but what’s happening in the branches. The branch delegates are going to the conference and will nominate and vote.

Most political analysts make the mistake of assessing the situation according to provincial leaderships. We hear Mpumalanga is the second strongest province and David Mabuza may not necessarily support Zuma anymore, and we assume his whole province is behind him. I suppose the premiers have some influence, but it’s about the branches, not about the provincial leaderships anymore.

In the same vein people said the KwaZulu-Natal leadership change was a devastating blow to Dlamini-Zuma and I asked, but why? The branches remain the same. Simply put, we don’t know.

There’s a theory that says that Dlamini-Zuma was never Zuma’s real candidate, but a decoy for Zweli Mkhize. What do you think of this?

I find it very hard to believe. She would not have done it if she knew she was just a Trojan horse. She’s a strong woman with a lot of pride – a medical doctor and former chair of the AU Commission. For her to tell her ex-husband she’ll play this game for him, doesn’t make sense. Unless he didn’t tell her of his plans. But then he would’ve had to tell Mkhize of his intentions and I don’t think that’s the case either.

There is a real possibility that the two sides will go at it so hard that one or the other ends up withdrawing, in which case Mkhize might be the one who walks away with it. But it won’t be because of some Zuma conspiracy.

It looks like David Mabuza is busy with some sort of power play. Mpumalanga is suddenly a very important province and if he gets his branches to vote for Mkhize it could get interesting. While Mkhize is definitely not a Gupta/Zuma lackey, he will probably be softer on Zuma. He is a traditional Zulu man and their ties go way back.

The ANC Youth League and Women’s League support Dlamini-Zuma. Is this meaningful?

The ANC Youth League is a shadow of its former self and its undoing coincided with the departure of Julius Malema.

Its current leader Collen Maine is a highly discredited politician, probably corrupt,t and the league does crazy things. It disrupts meetings of the ANC, sided with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, but then also with Andile Mngxitama and Black Land First, who are in the pocket of the Guptas. Nobody takes them seriously anymore.

The ANC Youth League should be taken seriously in one aspect only and that is that there is potential that they could commit violence. They seem to be a tool in the hands of some to create havoc.

The same goes for the Women’s League. Bathabile Dlamini is a terrible leader and the league has no credibility.

Do you think President Zuma worries about December?

He’s definitely a worried man. There is a real possibility that his preferred candidate might not make it. Then it’ll be either Mkhize or Ramaphosa and they will boot him out as president of the country within a few months of the ANC election. Then he is vulnerable to prosecution of existing charges and there will be a whole lot of new investigations. So he should be very worried.

If he wasn’t such a short-termist president he would also be worried that if he remained president until 2019 the ANC would lose the election, and that his rule has devastated our economy.

What are the chances that the conference is postponed?

There’s a 50/50 chance that the conference won’t take place. I think that must be our biggest concern at the moment as it will lead to further instability and economic uncertainty. We and potential investors all sit with the big date of 16 December. We’re all holding our horses until a decision is made in December and we know whether it’s Ramaphosa, which would imply stability, economic growth and constitutionality, or Dlamini-Zuma, which could imply more state capture. We are all waiting for certainty. Even if it ends up being Dlamini-Zuma, then at least we can adapt accordingly.

And in terms of the ANC’s processes?

They will likely postpone the conference for a year or six months. It’s difficult in terms of the ANC’s constitution, according to which Zuma’s term as ANC president ends in December. They will have to make an exception for him to stay on.

Are you worried about South Africa?

I am very worried about what would happen if the wrong things happen at the end of the year. But not in the long term. I believe in this country. We are like a nuclear power reactor. If those fuel rods get too warm, it automatically sinks into the coolers. And since 1652, the worst never happens, the coolant thing happens. But we lose so much in development and the expectations of the people are high, which could lead to violence in the short term. This worries me a lot.

(Photo credit: Gallo Images / City Press / Muntu Vilakazi)