So what happens after Mangaung? What happens to the main role-players whose names are being bandied about in the media and their supporters? How will the results affect the contesting leaders, the ANC itself and most importantly how will it affect SA?
There are only two results that can emerge out of Mangaung if the widely reported contest does indeed materialise. Kgalema Motlanthe as the new ANC president or Jacob Zuma remains president. But for good measure let us also look at what happens if there is no contest as seen at the Cosatu congress taking place in Johannesburg.
Let us say Motlanthe emerges victorious. My prediction is Zuma will retreat back to his Inkandla home to enjoy his retirement in comfort — courtesy of the salary for life that former presidents enjoy. He will ingratiate himself with his community, which will be grateful to him for the fast-tracked development he brought while president. I see him also getting involved with the Zulu monarchy and its affairs, attending traditional ceremonies, advising etc. All in all, a good retirement. I don’t see corruption charges being reinstated by a Motlanthe government.
Those who stand to lose the most in a Motlanthe victory is not Zuma himself but those around him. Do you think Motlanthe supporters will allow him to retain Nathi Mthethwa, Blade Nzimande, Free State premier Ace Magashule, Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza, Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane and many others. I think not. There will be a purge of Zuma supporters based on the fear that they will destabilise the Motlanthe administration from the inside, in the same way the Zuma administration is being destabilised from the inside.
If the Motlanthe camp carries the day at Mangaung there’s a chance that Julius Malema could make a comeback to the ANC via a motion from the floor but I doubt it. Not all who want to see Zuma gone necessarily want Malema back. He is too much of a liability and is unpredictable.
The ANC itself will emerge in tatters. Divided by successive brutal leadership contests at Polokwane and Mangaung. The ANC has surprised us with its resilience and Motlanthe will need to woo and charm (if he has any) all factions to unite and save the organisation. But for the ANC’s benefit we might see the return of some Mbeki-ites from self-exile and Cope. We might possibly see the likes of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Penuell Maduna, Sydney Mufamadi, Jabu Moleketi and others make a political comeback.
No good news for the general public though. I don’t think much will change in vision, governance and accountability. Corruption will continue at its rampant pace. Fighting for positions and tenders in the ANC will continue under Motlanthe as it did when Zuma took over from Mbeki.
So what if the Zuma camp carries the day? I must say this is a tricky one since Zuma can be unpredictable at times. But in my view this will prematurely end the political careers of many promising leaders in the ANC.
The biggest casualty will be Motlanthe himself. If he contests and loses, his political career is finished. Totally. His only chance is to succeed Zuma from the deputy presidency whether it’s at Mangaung or at the next conference but he can only catapult himself from that position. Two factors unofficially dictate that. One, it’s been a tradition of sorts that the deputy president rises up to the throne. Secondly, Motlanthe, though a bit younger, is regarded as coming from the same generation as Zuma and Mbeki. This means there’s a growing list of younger leaders eager to move to the next level of leadership. The Paul Mashatiles, Zweli Mkhizes and many others.
Other casualties will include the very young and vibrant Fikile Mbalula, Mashatile, Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale, North West premier Thandi Modise and Malema’s fate will finally be sealed.
The ANC itself will emerge no better than it would have in a Motlanthe victory. Deeply divided and in tatters. And for the general public, things will continue as they are but at least without the leadership paralysis we’re faced with now en route to Mangaung.
Two curious survivors of both scenarios will be Tokyo Sexwale and Cyril Ramaphosa, we don’t have to ask why.
But what if there is a no-contest? Well, both Zuma and Motlanthe will benefit immensely from a no-contest. Zuma will get a chance to retire with some dignity at the end of the second term and Motlanthe will be assured (as far as those go in politics) of his ascendancy to the throne in 2017.
The ANC itself will benefit to a certain degree because it will be saved a brutal battle, worse than Polokwane. Will there be a benefit for broader South Africa? Surely there will be a much stronger and united ANC going to the 2014 elections. The question is, will that be good for South Africa?
I honestly don’t think Motlanthe will challenge Zuma unless he is absolutely sure of winning, he has far too much to lose. He also doesn’t seem too comfortable to be elected on a perceived Malema/youth league ticket. On the other hand Zuma also doesn’t have an appetite for a contest, it will be too embarrassing if he loses.