Zuma set to return to active politics at ANC elective conference

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Analysts say the African National Congress (ANC) has itself to blame for former President Jacob Zuma’s push to become the party’s next Chairperson. This, as Zuma appears steadfast in his drive to return to active politics despite having previously occupied all but one office in the Top 6 of the ANC.

The former President’s branch has defended his quest for the position of Chairperson of the party ahead of the ANC’s 55th Elective Conference in December.

Timeline of Zuma’s rise  

In 1991, Zuma became the Deputy Secretary-General before becoming the Chairperson in 1994. Throughout his active political career, Zuma was deemed one of the most charismatic leaders; this undoubtedly led him to be regarded as the man of the people.

His ascendance to the top seat in the ANC in the 2007 election was on the ticket that he would “reconnect the ANC to the people”.

Zuma remains one of the only ANC leaders to have occupied almost every position in the Top 6 except for the Treasurer.

In 1991, after the unbanning of ANC and the demise of apartheid, Zuma went head-to-head with Cyril Ramaphosa for the position of Secretary-General; he lost and became his deputy.

He went on to become the National Chairperson of the party the following term in 1994.

By 1997, he had assumed the second top position of the ANC.

Amongst the highlight of his career is when he became president of the party in 2007.

Despite his popularity, his term as president came with its own milestones and challenges.

During this time, Zuma lost popularity. He was blamed for state capture which happened under his watch. This caused an outcry for him to step down, and on the eve of a crucial meeting by the party’s National Executive Committee – which was expected to discuss his recall – Zuma announced the establishment of the long-awaited Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

Fast-forward to today’s events. Two weeks ago, Zuma became a free man, after he was slapped with a 15-month jail term for being in contempt of court. The former President had failed to comply with the Constitutional Court’s ruling forcing him to appear before the Zondo Commission.

Following Zuma’s arrest, parts of KwaZulu-Natal erupted into chaos and riots.

At the age of 80, Zuma still has political ambition but some believe this is the last kick of a dying horse.

As the ANC gears up to its 55th elective conference in December, Zuma has again backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the presidency. He supported her five years ago at the 54th ANC conference which adopted a step-aside rule in 2017.

Former ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe explained the step-aside rule saying, “Any member may stand if they have been active for at least 10 years, then you qualify to stand for nomination onto the National Executive Committee unless they have been found guilty of or charged with unethical or immoral conduct, any serious crime or corruption, then those ones are disqualified; and a serious crime is one that could result in a prison sentence of longer than six months, and a charge as defined as being charged in a court of law. The rule applies also to those who have been charged with any criminal offences in cases that are still being heard or where a judgment or sentence is being appealed.”

Meanwhile, with the former president throwing his name in the hat, all eyes are on the race to the party’s elective conference.

Currently, almost 15 candidates are vying for the two top positions in the ANC, seven of which are jostling for the party presidency, including the incumbent, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Political analyst, Ongama Mtimka, says Jabob Zuma’s interest in returning to the top six of the ANC suggests that he may feel he needs political protection.

“He needs to remain in control in order for him to stay out of jail. What makes him think that it is possible to actually succeed in his campaign is the fact that the party is in paralysis in the aftermath of Nasrec as a result of the debilitating split that has been in the party. Despite the fact that it is none of the factions who want to go out and start their own party so the extent of paralysis has attracted many people who would otherwise not qualify for leadership,” says Mtimka.

Another political analyst Thamsanqa Malinga says the ANC only has itself to blame for this issue.

“Its constitution does not come out explicitly as to how many terms of office can a leader serve, and if a leader has served in various portfolios, can he also come back to serve in another portfolio? For example, Jacob Zuma has held about five positions in the top six, so the constitution is not clear as to whether one can come back in another portfolio,” states Malinga.

Meanwhile, on Friday all eyes will be on Zuma as he is expected to hold a media briefing and interact with journalists for the first time since his arrest.