Behind the Zuma Victory

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Now that we have the nominations, we can broach this sensitive, but widely predicted outcome of the ANC 53rdConference. The Zuma victory is made possible by several factors, internal and external to the so-called Zuma camp.
Zuma has proven to be the come-back kid of post-Apartheid South African politics. He seems to have worked out the requisite menu of come-back strategies. The first of these strategies is the knack for finding, being found by or even creating crises large and small.From the time of his corruption charges to his loss of the deputy presidency of the country, to the failed rape charges, to the Malema challenge, the spear controversy, to Marikana, to Nkandla to the attempt to pass a vote of no confidence in parliarment… Zuma has never run short crises.Almost without exception, Zuma has never failed to turn each setback into advantage, each calamity into an opportunity to connect with the people. What he seems more able to do than many of his would be opponents is the ability to take personal ownership of the crisis. In this way many of the crises become less about process, issues and principles – they are about Zuma.To those who support him, many of these crises appear like unfair attacks against Zuma so that they feel compelled to protect Zuma. Unfortunately some Zuma backers may see Montlanthe and his backers as being in the position of attacking Zuma merely by virtue of standing against Zuma for the party Presidency. Worse still, Motlanthe’s decision to stand may be read by some Zuma supporters – which will deliberately or inadvertently divide the members of the party.Motlanthe is arguably the best possible challenger to Zuma for the position of President at the moment – measured, tried-and-tested, presidential demeanour, stickler for party discipline and very firm on principles. But his tactical diffidence as shown in his subdued campaigning and very late public acceptance of the nomination may have worked against him. Two other factors may have worked against him, namely his alleged association with Julius Malema as well as his inability/unwillingness to build a campaign team. The fact that Sexwale and Phosa are running against each other for Deputy President demonstrates the absence of a clear and solid Motlanthe team/slate. At the level of principles this stance may be admirable.However, such tactics may prove fatal as they send confusing messages to potential and ardent Motlanthe supporters alike. This speaks to another difference between Zuma and Motlanthe. Zuma appears to have been more focussed on the ANC members and has used every advantage of incumbency to build connect with the greatest number of members as well as building a formidable team. This time Zuma did not only connect with them, he oversaw a period of amazing growth in membership, especially in KZN.Zuma seems to have worked out what matters to the significant people, namely the vast majority of ANC members. He has stayed focussed on ANC members – these being the people who vote in the ANC. There is a baffling love affair between Zuma and the ordinary members of the ANC – baffling in the eyes of observers and rivals alike. The more Zuma seems under attack, the more they love him and the more they feel the need to ‘protect’ him.But does a Zuma victory mean that Motlanthe has lost? And is a Zuma victory only a victory? A Zuma victory is the beginning of a series of national challenges between now and 2014 general elections and between then and the next ANC elective conference. Perhaps the real victor will be Cyril Ramaphosa. Surely, Cyril is only taking the position of Deputy President for the promise it holds for him becoming the next president of the country?Tinyiko Sam Maluleke is a political analyst based at the University of South Africa

– By ANALYSIS: Professor Tinyiko Sam Maluleke