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The Possible Trajectories Of SA's Political Life Are Hinged On The Aftermath Of August 8

The parliamentary vote of no confidence in Zuma could be the trigger for a cascade of events whose effects we may still be feeling years down the line.

08/08/2017 03:59 SAST | Updated 08/08/2017 03:59 SAST
Mike Hutchings/ Reuters
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (2nd R) celebrates his re-election as party President alongside newly-elected party Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (2nd L) and re-elected Chairperson Baleka Mbete (R) at the National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Bloemfontein December 18, 2012.

One thing seems quite certain in South Africa's increasingly volatile political landscape, and it is that while the battle-lines have recently been drawn on the issue of White Monopoly Capital (WMC) and Radical Economic Transformation (RET), these issues will fade from the popular imagination sooner than we expect. The factors that could play a role in their disappearance are myriad. They could disappear as a result of the ANC electing a true revolutionary leader who would vanquish monopoly capital (of whatever colour), and radically transform South Africa's socioeconomic life, such that talk of WMC or RET would be moot.

Or, they could disappear as a result of WMC and their Black Monopoly Capital allies employing PR firms to mass hypnotize South Africans away from the idea of RET and the existence of WMC, or even to subliminally suggest to them that WMC is their friend (for the first time in their history), and that RET is bad for South Africa.

That these slogans will disappear is certain. We were not chanting them two years ago. Slogans have a short shelf-life in SA. This, I think, brings us to the question, "what will we be chanting in five years?" The most honest answer is, no one really knows. But this surely does not mean we don't all have our guesses. At the end of this piece, I will share my guess.

For now though, let us consider what some of the myriad possible trajectories of South Africa's political life might be, taking the August 8th parliamentary Vote of No Confidence in President Jacob Zuma as our starting point. To my mind, the parliamentary vote of no confidence in Zuma could be the trigger for a cascade of events whose effects we may still be feeling years down the line.

There are a number of factors at play in that vote. Due to the ConCourt's ruling, all eyes were on Baleka Mbete to inform parliament whether the vote will be open or secret. Now that Mbete has announced that it will be a secret vote, all this noise we've heard recently from the ANC back-benches translates into 50 or more ANC MPs siding with the opposition to oust the president, all out "political" war could break out within the ANC.

But such war and demands for retribution would leave someone smiling all the way to the presidency: Baleka Mbete. She would become president of the Republic for the next 30 days, during which she could consolidate herself at the apex of the ANC. This would probably mean she is put forward by the ANC as its presidential candidate for the snap election she would have to call as the 30 days elapse.

The more interesting fight might be over whether the ANC president elected at that conference should immediately become the president of SA or whether Zuma should be allowed to see out his term until 2019.

Meanwhile, none of this means that the ANC would necessarily fare better if Pres. Zuma survives the vote of no confidence on August the 8th. A weakened Zuma may, in fact, be more susceptible to political machinations than he currently appears to be. None of it also means that the openness or secrecy of that vote will necessarily have the effect most commentators expect it to have on the results. It remains eminently possible that Zuma triumphs even a secret ballot, and that Makhosi Khoza was the ringleader of a tiny band of rebels.

Furthermore, as the ANC remains the largest party in SA, what happens during, and in the immediate aftermath of, their elective conference in December is of manifold significance to SA's future. While the battle royale between Dr Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa (and the fight is really just between them; sorry Lindiwe Sisulu, Zweli Mkhize, Matthews Phosa, and even Speaker Mbete!) is interesting for many reasons, the more interesting fight might be over whether the ANC president elected at that conference should immediately become the president of SA or whether Zuma should be allowed to see out his term until 2019.

Of course, a lot might depend on who wins. I can see Pres. Zuma stepping down for Dr Zuma, without much drama. But it is harder to imagine him doing the same if Ramaphosa wins. As I said before, no one can predict how any of these events ultimately play out. The most likely scenarios, though, are that Ramaphosa, Dr Zuma or Mmusi Maimane (with the support of the EFF, UDM, and the rest) becomes president come 2019. Any of them would have won the election on a program of Radical Economic Transformation, call it what they may. That is, they would have promised to open the doors to South Africa's economy to the millions of Black South Africans that are currently being locked out of it.

This new situation will lend itself to a new set of rallying-cries around which South Africans will be summoned to coalesce, and my prediction is that the media will increasingly come into the firing line. Much of SA print media is owned by two giant profit-making corporations, namely, Naspers and Times Media. Connected or unconnected to this, the media typically seems to toe a clearly neoliberal line. For them, the market is beyond reproach, and investors are gods.

As the fight to radically transform SA comes into its own, regardless of who wins the presidency next, and as the media has fewer obvious bad-guys like the Guptas to rain on, people will begin to notice much more starkly who it is the media is NOT raining on. My sense is that in five years, slogans aimed at the media will be a more prominent part of SA's political landscape than they currently are.