At its conference this weekend, South Africa’s ruling Afro-Marxist party, the ANC, will select a leader from the two top contenders: Cyril Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The former is a trade-unionist-turned-businessman while Dlamini-Zuma or “NDZ” is the ex-wife of the current president who will probably perpetuate his corrupt policies widely decried by the South African media as “state capture”. Tensions are running high at the conference being held at the gargantuan Nasrec exhibition centre in the south of Johannesburg not far from the sprawling black township of Soweto. Referring to those tensions, the left-wing weekly Mail & Guardian dubbed it, “Naswreck”.
Several court cases were fought by party officials and provincial leaders in the run-up to the conference, with some Provincial Executive Committees being declared unlawful by South African courts. Yesterday the High Court in Kwazulu-Natal, stronghold of Mrs. Dlamini-Zuma, all but disbanded that province’s Provincial Executive Committee, which could mean that its 27 members would not be able to vote for their candidate at the conference. This was seen as a major victory for Ramaphosa, but then the same 27 members could also vote as delegates from provincial branches, therefore the effect is more psychological than real.
Whoever wins at Nasrec, will probably become the next president of South Africa in 2019 when the second and final term of incumbent Jacob Zuma, a man with only primary-school education, runs out. Nowhere in Southern Africa over the last forty years has a so-called “liberation movement” ever lost power at the ballot box, so it would be safe to predict that the African National Congress (ANC) and its alliance partner, the South African Communist Party (SACP) would continue to rule nationally for many years to come. Hence the intense power struggle inside the party, which in recent times has also included political assassinations. According to a famous pronouncement by a white communist from the ANC, Raymond Suttner, “assassinations have become a regularised way of deciding on leadership and access to wealth within the ANC and its allies”.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was the chairperson of the African Union from 2012 to 2015, is also supported by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the radical ex-wife of Nelson Mandela who greeted her effusively at the Nasrec conference, with hugs and kisses.
Ramphosa, on the other hand, is the preferred candidate of both the South African Communist Party and Goldman Sachs. He made his money out of affirmative action or BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) deals concocted in the 1990s, shortly after the ANC’s takeover of the country. The head of Goldman Sachs Africa and a partner in Goldman Sachs International, Colin Coleman, considers Ramaphosa a “moderniser and constitutionalist”, comparing him to Nelson Mandela. According to Coleman, “An era of inflows, fixed capital investment and a broad rally in asset prices can be expected to follow a market-friendly outcome.”
However, at the start of the conference on Saturday 16 December, which coincides with Reconciliation Day (formerly the Day of the Vow, commemorating the Voortrekker victory over the Zulus in 1838), president Jacob Zuma announced free tertiary education for all students from households earning less than R350 000 per annum. This would include most poor and middle-class South Africans, effectively saddling the state with a significant financial burden on the eve of his possible departure from the presidency.
Independent political commentator Ralph Mathekga even went so far as to call the decision “sinister”, saying: “It’s sinister, but it will work. Particularly if they push it to 2019. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has been standing in front of supporters saying, ‘we need free education’. It found fertile ground.” If elected, Ramaphosa would find it impossible to change the policy, but would ultimately be blamed for the ensuing financial troubles resulting from it, with South Africa already having suffered several downgrades by international ratings agencies such as Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s.
Both the main candidates are thought to favour further economic and political measures against South Africa’s white population under a policy of so-called “radical economic transformation”. More farmland will be confiscated from whites without compensation and government will make it more difficult for corporations to employ whites.
As is usual with all ANC events, it started an hour and a half late as almost none of the important guests arrived on time. During his opening speech, Jacob Zuma lashed out South Africa’s private sector, accusing them of corruption. He described the ANC as a target of “business interests”:
“We need to find ways of protecting the ANC from corporate greed and ensure the decisions we take are informed by the policies of the ANC, and not dictated to by business interests.
“Already, we have received threats that the ANC will implode and the economy will collapse, if certain outcomes arise from this conference, either policy or leadership elections, if these are not favoured by business.”
He then went on to champion black nationalism, saying:
“The ANC must promote black advancement and success, and fight attempts aimed at undermining black economic empowerment and affirmative action.”
By tomorrow evening, South Africa should know which of the two main candidates had become party leader, as well as who had filled the top six posts in the party hierarchy.