Arise, President X

“IF ZUMA WINS, cut and run,” is the rather silly advice from Ken Owen, the former editor of the Sunday Times. You may not have to. The succession war is by no means a foregone conclusion. While the charismatic buffoon is busy grabbing headlines, the other contenders quietly plot their battleplans in the wings. They are waiting him for him to play himself out. After all, there is very little substance behind the populist rants. His policies – on the economy and Aids for example – are equivocal at best, farcical at worst. Too many people in the ANC have too much too lose were Zuma to win: he is, in other words, a highly polarising figure – something he has in common with Thabo Mbeki, the other titan battling it out in the ring.

It is unlikely, however, that Mbeki will seek a third term – any indication to the contrary is merely the attempt to hold the balance, to prevent a vacuum that would allow Zuma’s assent. Mbeki also wants to create an opening for his loyalists such as Mosiuoa Lekota, our defence minister, so that they can enter the race closer to the congress at the end of year.

One wildcard to be on the lookout for is our jetsetting Deputy-Prez, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka who is currently tasked with the implementation of government’s economic growth plan and is also head of the National Aids Council. Mlambo-Ngucka could easily garner the support of the Women’s League and, indeed, the blessing of our current president. Let’s hope she doesn’t if her appallingly expensive chartered trips to the UK, Dubai and Australia are any indication of her intended presidential lifestyle. It’s not just the opulence either: insiders are concerned that she is creating a tidy little empire with her husband, Bulelani Ngucka who has made waves in BEE business since he left the NPA. If anyone epitomises craven self-enrichment, Mlambo-Ngucka is the one.

Tokyo Sexwale recently indicated that he was entering the presidential race. He was vilified for doing so amongst party ranks (not least by Kgalema Motlanthe, the ANC general-secretary). I say three cheers for Tokyo. Here is a man who cut his teeth in the trade unions, was imprisoned on Robben Island, has intellectual and business savvy while retaining empathy for the poor. Here is the compromise candidate we need – a “disinterested” outsider who can bridge the cracks in the ruling party and head an efficient service delivery-focused government.

Perhaps, though, an even better candidate would be Cyril Ramaphosa who shares many qualities with Sexwale but has the added advantage of having played a central role in the CODESA negoitiations in the early nineties. It is experience like this which is so vital in heading a complex, fractured organisation such as the ANC and, when the time comes, a complex and diverse country.


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