[Image From: African Executive]
It seems as if everyone and their mother has an opinion on the state of South African politics after Mangaung. For better or for worse, the African National Congress has reaffirmed Jacob Zuma’s status as the leader of party and country. It has brought Cyril Ramaphosa back into the political loop in what I still think is the most important and portentous event to emerge from the conference last week. And now recriminations and regrets inevitably kick in alongside the pundits’ analysis.
The winners seem obvious. Zuma, of course (at least in the short run). Ramaphosa almost surely as well (assuming that leaving the private sector that has been so lucrative to him for the down-and-dirty of South African politics represents a victory any of us would want — Ramaphosa may never again be as popular as he is now.) Especially since he appears to be hitting the ground running with regard to ANC policy going forward.
The losers may not be so clear, especially since the aftermath of events like these oftentimes lead to reshuffling. Still, Kgalema Motlanthe took a shot at the king, he missed, and by rejecting the possibility of continuing in the Deputy Presidency or for any position on the National Executive Committee (a decision perhaps tellingly also taken by Zuma’s government spokesperson Mac Maharaj, ANC Northern Cape chairperson John Block, trade unionist Jay Naidoo, and National Planning Commission Minister Trevor Manuel), he left himself without a net. Where this leaves him within the ANC is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile Tokyo Sexwale cleared the decks in pursuit of the Deputy Presidency and he fell short. Sexwale, human settlements minister, declared the other day, “My future is the ANC. The movement is my home and I have nowhere else to go.” These are not the words of someone who leaves Mangaung on top of the world.
Perhaps it is the historian in me who believes that the passage of time will be necessary for us to truly grasp the meaning of Mangaung, especially since there were no events like the humiliation of Thabo Mbeki in 2007 to make this year’s outcomes immediately obvious.