South African politics continues to realign after President Zuma’s convincing victory at the ANC’s December 2012, Mangaung conference. Those that did not support him are now in the firing line, most recently and notably COSATU stalwart Zwelinzima Vavi. This partly reflects COSATU’s ongoing internal problems, afflicting the National Union of Mineworkers in particular. But many suspect it is centered on Vavi’s outspokenness on corruption and maladministration.
The ructions in COSATU have caused newly elected ANC Deputy President and hope of the business community, Cyril Ramaphosa, to express ‘deep concern’. Not least because if the Zuma-ites are successful this would strengthen their position whilst weakening his.
Indeed a recent Mail and Guardian article confirmed what some suspected after Ramaphosa’s elevation into the top ranks of the party, namely that he is a useful foil for the increasingly dominant Zulu-insider faction in the ANC. It seems the regionalization of the ANC is gathering pace; a development of concern to those that worry about destructive ethnic politics in Africa.
This, and the likelihood that Zuma will look to retain the policy status quo prior to the 2014 elections should also give pause to those, particularly in the business community, that retain optimism the ‘Zuma 2’ administration will move quickly to implement the National Development Plan which Ramaphosa, and former finance minister Trevor Manuel, were closely involved in formulating. Consequently it is likely that economic policy will continue to ‘muddle along’ until after the 2014 elections, a scenario akin to Roman emperor Nero’s infamous fiddling whilst Rome burned.
Partly in response to these developments, but largely owing to growing dissatisfaction with the Zuma-led ANC, longstanding civil society critic and erstwhile co-founder of the black consciousness movement, Mampela Ramphela, recently announced her intention to establish a ‘political party platform‘ around which she hopes opposition politics can coalesce under her leadership.
Much subsequent media commentary focused on the significant organizational challenges she will face in building a meaningful grassroots political presence in the country, with a view to securing sufficient votes in next year’s elections to enable her to force the pace of change in opposition politics.
Mzukisi Qobo considered this development in a recent column for Business Day. He argues cogently why Ramphele’s initiative is needed, and identifies two key challenges she will face: internal leadership, or whether her ‘platform’ will be able to transcend her powerful personality; and growing cynicism in the South African voting population about democratic politics in general.
Overall, South African politics continue to remain vibrant, contested, and occasionally depressing. Still, things could be worse – our politics could be ‘interesting’ like in Greece, or Italy, or….