Zuma might yet turn out to be a hero

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Tito Mboweni is stepping down as chairman of AngloGold Ashanti.

The mining company said this week that Mboweni would not stand for re-election as non-executive director at the company’s annual general meeting in May, “owing to his increasing portfolio and professional commitments”.

The former Labour Minister turned Reserve Bank Governor is a highly competent business mind in the ANC’s formidable stable of intellectuals. Mboweni's contract at the SARB was not renewed when the Zuma administration assumed power in 2009.

I assumed at the time that this was part of the purge of those believed to be loyal to the Mbeki mindset.

Mboweni moved to the private sector in a number of high profile business positions, one of which was chairing the board of AngloGold.

In June 2010, he was appointed an International Adviser of Goldman Sachs International, where he provided strategic advice to the firm on business development opportunities, with a particular focus on South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Now he appears to be turning his back on a whole range of things he has excelled at.

It's one of those things that make one go “hmmm”.

Could he be preparing himself for a re-entry to politics?

I believe the answer is yes. And I also believe that would be a good thing.

The political landscape in our country has been transmogrifying at a fairly dizzy rate in the recent past.

We've had the formation of AgangSA and its rapid marriage and divorce from the Democratic Alliance.

We’ve seen the march on Luthuli House by the DA, which, if nothing else, showed that the DA has the ability to muster several thousand black supporters on a dangerous quest.

We’ve seen the emergence of the EFF disruptor with a leader who will certainly be elected to Parliament but might well not end up being able to assume his position.

But the biggest changes have been occurring with the ranks of the ANC’s broad church – the tripartite alliance.

Cosatu, the biggest obstacle to the ANC’s much-vaunted National Development Plan, has been quietly imploding.

The inappropriate dalliance between secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi and a subordinate provided a perfect opportunity for president Sdumo Dlamini to sideline his vexatious colleague.

In turn, with his political survival on the line, Vavi has fractured the federation. Cosatu’s largest affiliate, metal workers’ union Numsa, has withdrawn support for the ANC and is siding with Vavi.

Meanwhile, the once-powerful National Union of Mineworkers is under siege by upstart rival Amcu.

Amcu in turn, has forced platinum miners into a strike that is crippling that industry. The industry in turn is suing the union for R591 million in damages over an ongoing wildcat strike.

Numsa is backing Amcu instead of fellow Cosatu affliliate NUM.

The platinum industry has also given signs that it is willing to sit out the strike this time and take massive losses. This would normally have prompted a drastic intervention on the part of cabinet because the loss of revenue has a devastating impact upon our balance of payments. Cabinet has been strangely silent which leads me to assume that there is tacit support for the mining companies against Amcu.

I'm not saying all this to make your head spin. What I am trying to do is show that the time has never been better for Jacob Zuma to take decisive action in finally implementing a vision for the country.

Make no mistake: the National Development Plan is Jacob Zuma's vision. Zuma has, however, been stymied at every opportunity by the labour sector.

If labour becomes completely sidelined in the buildup to the elections in May, Zuma will be set free to finally implement the NDP.

Back to Tito Mboweni: he was elected to the ANC’s national executive committee at the 2012 Mangaung conference. He has now been placed high on the Gauteng ANC’s list of candidates to take up cabinet positions in the new administration.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan looked exhausted during the State of the Nation address last week. He might well be ready to stand down. If so, Mboweni would be a formidable replacement. I hope this is the case.

In a strange way, the best hope for a better South Africa lies with Julius Malema.

If he takes away enough votes from the ANC to let the ANC drop below 50%, the rest of the opposition will be forced to side with Zuma and the NDP to keep Malema’s irrational economic theories at bay.