Based on the events of this weekend’s Limpopo regional elective conference, President Jacob Zuma should be quietly confident in his position as ANC president as 2012 dawns.
Cassel Mathale’s victory over Joe Phaahla to become the chairperson of the ANC in Limpopo is a coup for suspended ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and his allies, but it does not necessarily signal the beginning of the end for Zuma.
Although Mathale was re-elected, his victory was not as convincing as has been portrayed.
In 2008, when Mathale defeated Sello Moloto to become chairperson, he did so with a margin of 587 votes to 357.
Mathale’s victory against Phaahla on Sunday came with 601 votes to 519.
This indicates the swing in Mathale’s favour has severely diminished in the latest election to only 82 votes from 230 in 2008.
So while, Malema and company wish to replace Zuma at the ANC’s next national elective conference in Mangaung next December, this weekend in Limpopo is the clearest sign that their battle will be more of a challenge than perhaps they had believed.
“This is by far the strongest province the Zuma detractors had in terms of a support base and the result for them is not encouraging,” agreed Professor Steven Friedman, director at the Centre for the Study of Democracy.
As his enemies will remember from the last ANC elective conference in Polokwane back in 2007, Zuma is not a man to be underestimated. Should the weekend’s events be anything to go by, challenging the organisation’s sitting president will not only be tough but possibly futile.
“If they understand which way the tide is going they are not going to challenge Zuma because they can’t be confident of winning,” Friedman added.
There could be another minor triumph in the offing for Malema and his supporters, as the Limpopo elective conference nominated the young firebrand’s name to serve on the Provincial Elective Committee (PEC).
Though interpreted by some as a political demotion for Malema, securing a spot on the PEC would allow him to further challenge his suspension from the party.
But, being on both the Limpopo PEC and the ANC’s National Executive Committee will mean little if his suspension is upheld. Should the ANC appeals committee decide to uphold the youth leader’s five year ban, Malema will be unable to serve on any structure of the ruling party.
“Malema can muster all the support in the world but his wangling won’t save him if the suspension stands,” noted Ebrahim Fakir, political analyst at the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa.