Opinion piece by TRUST MATSILELE
JOHANNESBURG: WILL Dlamini-Zuma’s paradox affair with Bathabile and Jacob eclipse her ascendency?
In politics 101, and not in law, we learn that perception is reality, this has nothing to do with the reality itself. The perception gathering around the person and agenda of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is worrying and will likely end her illustrious political career that spans decade.
It is more than her double barrel surname, Dlamini-Zuma, that will cost her the Presidency as her top two surrogates, Jacob and Bathabile, have increasingly been falling out of favor with traditional constituencies, even in their traditional political base of KwaZulu Natal.
This is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s herculean task as she fights to ascend the highest position in the ruling party.
Her cozying up to President Jacob and Bathabile Dlamini, two of the most maligned politicians is not helping her situation.
At the centre of her campaign are allegations of her being the pawn of the controversial Gupta family as they plan to keep a grip on South Africa presidency post-2019.
Not long ago the Guptas gave her a dubious award and as the media reports alleges, with laundered money. This puts right at the centre of the Guptas network.
The controversial family has been fingered in the illegal appointments and firing of cabinet ministers together with countless corruption scandals.
Some of the ministers who have accused the Gupta family of their unholy alliance with the President are: Pravin Gordhan, Mcebisi Jonas and Ngoako Ramatlhodi.
Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC’s Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, Treasurer General, Zweli Mkhize, SACP’s Blade Nzimande and COSATU have all but made insinuations to that effect.
Jonas, the axed deputy finance minister, confirmed the allegations citing that he was offered a figure of up to 600 thousand rand. An offer he turned down before exposing the family to the South African populace.
Dlamini-Zuma’s problems are worsened by the fact that she does not have a distinct policy disjuncture from those of her compromised ex-husband, Jacob Zuma. Her policy trajectory is littered with a controversy and a continuation of Zuma’s associated state capture, massive corruption and political decay in both party and state.
She has also made a number of missteps such as misleading African National Congress members attending a cadres meeting in Free State early in the year that schools were teaching children policies that undermined the governing party.
This allegation was dismissed by the basic education minister and Ramaphosa supporter, Angie Motshekga, which left an egg on Dlamini-Zuma’s face.
Her campaign message so far has been void, empty of a pragmatic programme of action to rejuvenate the ANC and a trajectory South Africa should take to rebrand and restore itself as a global powerhouse at least from the Sub Saharan region.
The radical stance of expropriation of land without compensation which she has adopted has not been received well even by mild provinces such as Mpumalanga. Early July Mabuza on land said, “on the question of land we think the Constitution is fine. Whatever is given in the Constitution suffices; we just think that the pace at which land is transferred back to owners is a bit slow.”
This position is in stark contrast with that of KwaZulu Natal, Free State and North West, which are strongly rooting for Dlamini-Zuma. The challenge of course is that the Free State and North West have been fingered in the Gupta scandal web.
Dlamini-Zuma has not spoken about parasitic, familial and patronage associated with President Zuma’s incumbency and that dampens her chances in Africa’s oldest liberation movement, aa party that has a history of producing towering giants who have left an indelible mark in the fight against apartheid and colonialism and that basket contains revered names political icons such as Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu and others.
If ANC branches are to ignore this picture the opposition is guaranteed of capitalising on this ahead of the 2019 polls. Already the Economic Freedom Fighters has started hinting at the possibility of a coalition government.
“The DA must not advantage of the mercy we have given them…..You stand a reasonable chance if the ANC is self-destructing like it is doing now to be part of a national government in 2019”, said EFF’s Floyd Shivambu. This could be foreshadowing what could be coming in under two years.
The complex question she faces is how to tap into Bathabile Dlamini and Jacob Zuma’s political base without being muddied by their tarnished characters.
Whereas some quarters can assume that Dlamini-Zuma cannot be painted with the same brush with Jacob Zuma both morally and intellectually and that she is on her own and doesn’t not need him to fight her way to the presidency. Her challenge is that she needs the two to win and the two’s impeccable records of bad governance could also be her undoing.
Why does she need these two compromised politicians?
Zuma, as the incumbent president still has an influence in the key structures of the ANC , which he has manipulated over the years using patronage as a means of gaining loyalty. President Zuma has remained president of the ANC despite all the controversy because of patronage politics that has cascaded to the branches which are a key voting component at the congress.
Dlamini is the Women’s League President and has been organising meetings across the country which Dlamini-Zuma has been addressing. However, Dlamini just like Zuma, has a fair share of scandals.
A simple google search points Minister Dlamini’s record to corruption ranging as far back as the Travelgate to as recent as the Sassa grants scandal. Reports say she forced out former Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwana so she could employ her daughter’s business partner, Pearl Bhengu.
Again, one would assume, Dlamini-Zuma doesn’t need such political baggage especially when fighting an opponent, who at least for now has not been implicated in any graft case with no iota of corruption such as Cyril Ramaphosa. Both Zuma and Dlamini hasave corruption related cases still pending before the Constitutional Court.
Increasingly these two are costing her both on messaging and symbolic representation. It does not look like she has a way out. While she needs the two to survive she might not need them to break free from their scandals and political baggage and with each minute her fate is being sealed.
The Women’s League in Limpopo (Vhembe), and Gauteng (West Rand) and Qwaqwa in Free State have endorsed Ramaphosa which shows the centre no-longer holds. The ANC Youth League in Limpopo’s Collins Chabane region, Gauteng;s West Rand and Western Cape has also distanced itself from the position issued by national leaders. All this doesn’t augor well for Dlamini-Zuma’s bid
President Zuma’s assumed base is equally dwindling as his home province is failing to unite around Dlamini-Zuma. When she finally loses, she will remember how much Dlamini and Zuma cost Dlamini-Zuma a seat at the Union Buildings.
Trust Matsilele is former journalist and political consultant. He has worked for Forbes Africa, CNBC Africa and African Democratic Institute among others. He is currently completing his PhD with the University of Johannesburg. These are his views and he can be contacted at: