Zuma has demonstrated an incredible skill at defeating his opponents: five years ago at Polokwane and now, at Mangaung.
ANC president Jacob Zuma goes home to Nkandla for Christmas buoyed on a wave of success, but also with the knowledge that those who voted for him in huge numbers at Mangaung this week expect him to deliver in his second term.
Although he has increased ANC membership, boosted access to HIV/Aids treatment and taken a tougher stance on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in his first term, the core problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality have deepened.
Trade union federation Cosatu first came up with a Brazilian-style “Lula moment” slogan to motivate Zuma’s election for a second term and to give him the opportunity to exercise his authority to decrease poverty and create jobs and a functional social welfare system that looks after the needs of the poor.
Zuma has demonstrated an incredible skill at defeating his opponents: five years ago in Polokwane it was Thabo Mbeki and now, at Mangaung, it was Kgalema Motlanthe – both of whom were regarded as better than him. Although surveys show that he is less popular with broader South African society, that is clearly not what most ANC members think.
South Africans will have to live with him as president of the country for another five years. Speculation continues that the ANC will suffer at the polls in 2014 if he is still in office, but the party is convinced that members – including dejected Motlanthe supporters – will rally around him.
Creating a legacy
Zuma will once again have to defy the doomsayers who predict that the party could experience its worst ever showing at the polls in 2014.
Unencumbered now by being made to pay for any bold or controversial decisions, Zuma’s worry is about creating a legacy – something he did not achieve in his first term.
He has been mired in controversy over the R240-million splurge on his home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. The Mangaung conference reinforced the need for stricter conduct from party members as it grapples with internal anarchy and corruption. The ANC now has an integrity committee, but we will have to wait to see whether it has the courage to probe Zuma over allegations of financial impropriety and corruption.
The president’s legacy will depend on the tasks the ANC sets itself for the next few years. Zuma’s acceptance will be enhanced by the elevation of Cyril Ramaphosa as his deputy – but it will be the latter who will have to sell the government to local and international business.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has already said that Ramaphosa will be a de facto prime minister. Zuma will still be in charge of the big picture, but Ramaphosa will be expected to act in much the same way as Mbeki did when he was deputy to former president Nelson Mandela after 1994.
But for now Zuma savours his victory, showing – like a cat – that with his mshini wam [machine gun], he always manages to land on his feet.