The eve of Polokwane… and we’re still in the dark

IN THE PAST few days the ANC succession battle has been analysed to near-death and we’ve been drowning in column inches of largely irrelevant titbits – claims and counterclaims from the rival camps.

What most people don’t seem to realise is that analysis is largely futile and the “news” splashed across the front pages is meaningless. Why? Because most of the activities surrounding the campaigns are occurring in secret. We have no idea who’s blackmailing whom, which blocs have been bullied or bribed, what threats are hanging over whose heads…. No one can seem to even figure out where the money’s coming from to bankroll a virtually bankrupt Zuma on his campaign trail which has taken him far as London (it seems he’s caught the travel bug from his erstwhile superior).

Harold Macmillan, the former Brit PM, once said that a week is a long time in politics. This is something important to remember in the days – or rather the hours – ahead.

Quite frankly anything could happen. Mbeki could suddenly come to his senses and decide not to stand for re-election, as he is – according to the scraps of evidence us mere mortals have before us –almost certain to lose this election and bruisingly too (if the provincial and league nominations are anything to go by). Chances are, though, the prez will continue regardless – his stance on crime, Zimbabwe and Aids as well as surfeit of sycophantic yes-men imply that reality checks aren’t a strong point of his while delusion is.

It would be silly, however, to regard a dignified pullout by Mbeki as impossible. Unlikely, yes, but not impossible. Because we have another “if” hanging in the ether – that of my much hoped-for compromise candidate who could still potentially launch himself on to the scene. This will only happen if he has the guaranteed support, of course (it would be suicidal otherwise). Apparently there is a sizeable bunch of delegates who are only voting for Zuma because they are sick of Mbeki. If these guys could be mobilised it could make a huge difference.

But I mentioned at the beginning that analysis is futile. So is conjecture. Who knows what deals (if any) have been brokered. Who knows what will happen.

I’ve sensed a nonchalant, “so-what” attitude seep into the air as the conference approaches. If Zuma wins it could be potentially – but not necessarily – disastrous for South Africa. If Mbeki wins a third term it will be catastrophic. Don’t be under any illusions – the posh suit and grandfatherly air hides a ruthless autocrat hellbent on pursuing his objectives, regardless of the cost or consequences.

Who amongst those that argue he’s a “known quantity”, predicted at the start of his presidency in 1999 that he would transform the SABC into a state mouthpiece, deny the link between HIV/Aids, attempt to muzzle the free press with a supposedly anti-porn bill, support a criminal Police Commissioner and an alcholic health minister? Who would believe he would abuse the state apparatus to neuter his opponents or that his weekly diatribes would be used to savage his opponents, be they whistleblowers or journalists? With a track record like this, another term could result in his Machiavellian tendencies spiralling out of control (if they haven’t already).

The ANC conference is out of my hands – and yours. To be honest I’m rather sick of the whole thing – and the accompanying hysteria, acrimony and confusion. It will be rather nice when the media turns its attentions to something else.

Whatever happens, life will go on and South Africa will survive. That’s the one thing I’m sure of.

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