The question was posed to me earlier today: “Do you think Zuma will get a second term?”
Incredible as it may seem, four years have elapsed since the tumultuous events of Polokwane 2007 which saw the most popular president in our history being dramatically ousted from the helm of the party he had steered with rigid determination for close on a decade.
Mbeki fell, and the NGOs, the unions, the unemployable youth, and the media rejoiced.
Now, Mangaung beckons; the NGOs, the unions, and the unemployable youth are once again dissatisfied; and the spin doctors are trying to predict what the outcome is likely to be in 2012.
So here’s my take on it: Mangaung 2012 will be nothing like Polokwane 2007.
Polokwane was fought between two candidates, Zuma and Mbeki. But the fight was clouded from the outset by the fact that Mbeki had already been elected to two terms as the country’s president. Many ANC members argued that it would be inappropriate to elect a leader of the party who would not be serving as leader of the country although others argued that it has been done elsewhere (India for example).
Nevertheless, it was a relatively closely fought battle. Zuma took 60 percent of the vote and Mbeki took 40 percent.
But where did those votes come from?
At the ANC National Conference, 90 percent of the votes cast come from the branches.
(The remaining 10 percent is divided among the Women’s League, Youth League, Veterans League, and the provincial structures, but let’s ignore that for now.)
In 2007, the ANC’s national membership stood at around 623 000. The Eastern Cape made up the largest chunk of this with around 153 000 (22 percent) followed by KZN at 102 000 (15 percent).
That picture has now changed dramatically.
ANC membership between 2007 and 2010 increased by more than 20 percent growing to 751 000.
Where did those extra 127 000 members come from? The biggest chunk was in KZN where membership grew by almost 90 000 followed by Limpopo where membership grew by about 35 000.
The Free State lost close to 20 000 members and Mpumalanga lost about 8 500 members
So Zuma’s stronghold of KZN will now account for almost a quarter of the votes at Mangaung. In order for him to win, he just needs another quarter.
Who can challenge him? Sexwale committed political suicide by backing Malema.
Ramaphosa has been out of it for too long. So that leaves Motlanthe almost by default as the only other contender. But Motlanthe does not have a provincial base.
So if he wants to build a coalition of the disenchanted, that leaves him pretty much at the mercy of the two real kingmakers: Mbalula and Vavi.
Why would Motlanthe consider throwing in his lot with those two? Well, make no mistake, Mbalula is a formidable strategist.
He has however kept an extremely low profile in the wake of the Malema debacle and is probably too gun-shy to go head to head with Zuma right now.
Vavi, too, has tempered his tone of late and has shifted his conversation to wanting to scrap the provinces. (Impossible to do without a two-thirds majority in parliament, so it’s a great marketing ploy.)
And so, here’s my prediction for Mangaung 2012: Zuma will consolidate his position with very little danger of being unseated by a coalition of the disenchanted.
And in fact, having Zuma in a strengthened position will actually be better for the country.
He will be able to look seriously at proposals from Trevor Manuel’s National Planning Commission without worrying too much about whether Malema or Vavi will disapprove.
Happy New Year.