NDZ against the ropes?

Here are some reasons why the NDZ campaign is faltering, writes CAIPHUS KGOSANA 

As the ANC prepares to elect its new leader, and possibly the President of the country in 2019, indications are that the faction favoured by outgoing party President Jacob Zuma is in serious crisis.

Zuma had personally anointed his ex wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the next leader of the party, but ANC branches have overwhelmingly vetoed that move, preferring Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa instead. Add to that a number of court challenges that have gone against ANC provinces and regions that favour Dlamini-Zuma. This evening, more than 5 000 delegates will line up to vote for the new ANC leader, with the announcement expected tomorrow evening.

As ANC Eastern Cape delegates sang victory songs and booed the faction backing Dlamini-Zuma, the signs are becoming clearer that despite the fact that she enjoys support from ANC’s women’s league and the youth league, she is against the ropes.

While her sympathisers continue to put on brave faces and remain hopeful that they will emerge as victors on Sunday, it is becoming increasingly difficult for anyone to believe that Dlamini-Zuma still stands a chance and here are three reasons why.

  1. Against the ropes

A few months ago, a Sunday paper reported that President Zuma would use a cabinet reshuffle to appoint the former African Union Commission chair into his Cabinet. The speculation was that she would be made Minister of Higher Education, allowing her to announce free higher education for students from poor backgrounds, a seriously contentious issue in the country. However in a surprising move on Saturday morning – day one of the ANC’s 54 National Conference – President Zuma took it upon himself to announce free higher education, a move that is viewed by many as a bid to buy support from voting delegates. The big question is ‘why make the announcement now’? Could this be a sign that they are against the ropes and trying to buy support through a populist stance?

  1. Death by association

Dlamini-Zuma is arguably the ideal candidate that should become South Africa’s first woman. She is a struggle stalwart with a proven track record in the public service under several portfolios – and notably engineered a successful turnaround at the Department of Home Affairs, which was beset with corruption and inefficiency. Her star even rose some more when she was elected to chair the African Union Commission. South Africa had lobbied hard for her, outmaneuvering Western Africa’s preferred candidate for the position, Jean Ping. This deployment has significantly raised her stature on the continent, even though many are still divided about whether it was a success or not.

Her name featured on many media platforms whenever South Africa used the month of August to celebrate women whose profiles signified female excellence and progress to achieve gender parity. But why is a woman of her stature not getting the support she should be getting given her track record? It’s because she was endorsed by the wrong faction. She cannot shake off her association to Zuma and his cronies, most notably the hold Gupta family has over him. This Indian immigrant family has become synonymous with corruption involving state funds, and even have one of President Zuma’s sons as a business associate. Public opinion has worked against Dlamini-Zuma and the fact that opinion makers who are vouching for her to win are those with ties to the Guptas does makes her ascend to the Union Buildings (South Africa’s Presidential office) increasingly difficult.

  1. ANC NEC delivers the death blow

Before the ANC kicked off its 54th elective conference on Saturday morning – where a new President will be elected and policy would be agreed upon for the next five years – outgoing ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe told journalists that provincial and regional delegates that were affected by recent court judgements would not vote. Several courts in the country have declared that a number of gatherings that chose voting delegates were inappropriately arranged and therefore illegal. These are delegates from provinces that overwhelmingly voted for Dlamini-Zuma to become President.

Mantashe told journalists on Saturday morning: “The decision taken there is that the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Bojanala region [in the North West], all the structures that are nullified will not be voting delegates at conference”. The implication of this announcement to Dlamini-Zuma campaign is significant. This means that out of about 5 000 voting delegates, around 500 or so have been reduced to mere “observers” and stripped of their voting power. And while Ramaphosa fared well in the overall provincial nominations, President Zuma was not completely satisfied with the KwaZulu-Natal nominations outcome despite winning the majority of the nominations. The announcement by the ANC’s national executive committee puts a further dent on Dlamini-Zuma bid.

By Sunday the ANC will have a new President and it doesn’t look likely that it will be her.

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