I knew all the time spent reading articles about transfer rumours in football would serve me someday.
A good deal is one which allows both negotiating parties to walk away feeling like they both won. A bad deal is usually one in which one party walks away aggrieved. And what about one that renders no apparent advantage to either side?
This was my immediate thought when I read the Reuters story stating two senior party officials believe that President Jacob Zuma is thinking about stepping down next year, 12 months before his term is up, if he's allowed to sack Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan right now.
This story about a deal for Zuma makes *no sense* whatsoever. The deal does not present any advantages for either of the sides!
Here's why I don't think the deal makes sense:
- For those who want Zuma out, WHY would they trust his word? Mr "I'm only going to be President for one term". What promise has he ever made and kept, that didn't advance his own narrow interests?
- It requires blowing Treasury wide open, so that the various Gupta-linked deals can be signed off. Which will inevitably mean immediate junk status, and most likely a bad recession from next year. How is this good for South Africa?
- How do they enforce this deal? What if the wrong person wins the ANC elective conference in December, and he decides he's safer sticking it out till 2019? I assume that nobody has the appetite for another party-splitting presidential recall. The ANC could survive the Cope and EFF splits. I don't think anyone wants to see a third split happening, least of all those who'd want to stay and rebuild the party.
- For Zuma himself, this deal says nothing about the 783 charges. (Which is still a problem for him, even if the Guptas were to vanish tomorrow.) It says nothing about the outcome of the elective conference. It gives him one advantage today, but he has dozens of problems that need solving.
So this is what I think may have happened, and it is something you see all the time in the British football press. A story will emerge, claiming that Player X has expressed great admiration for Arsenal FC, and would love to play for them someday. The rumour mill goes into overdrive, and the story in the public becomes "Player X wants to leave his club for Arsenal." How many times does this come true? Almost never. Six months later, you find out that the player has signed a new contract with his club, and the rumour about wanting to leave was leaked by his agent in order to strengthen his hand at the negotiation table.
I think something similar may have happened here.
Someone is clearly negotiating with Zuma, and they are getting nowhere. That person may have then called up Reuters and said: "Zuma is thinking about stepping down next year."
They can then sit back and watch the reaction from the public, the markets and most importantly, party members. On Monday, they can then go to Number One and say, "This is an option with the least problems for you. See, people will accept it. It's not great, but they can live with it. You must consider it seriously."
See what I mean about all those ridiculous transfer rumour articles?
Of course, this still leaves South Africa with an unguarded Treasury. It's not a good deal for us at all.