/ 16 October 2013

Khaya Dlanga: Zille ‘resignation’ would be a godsend for ANC

The ANC was always going to win next year's general election. But now, it is absolutely going to win with a little less to fear than it did two months ago. Helen Zille's decision to step down after the 2014 elections as reported by the Sunday Independent isn't good for the party as it prepares for the general election. What is bad for the Democratic Alliance (DA) isn't necessarily bad for the ANC. The wiser move for Zille would have been to step down in 2015, not 2014 for interests of the party. The DA has never done better since she took over. It has been a pain in the ANC's ass for some time. She has also been a pain for the DA with some of her utterances about the "refugees" and "professional black".

The front runners for her job are said to be the DA's parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko and the man running for Gauteng's premiership, Mmusi Maimane. What is great about the two is that they are both youthful and mirror the demographics of the country. Where the ANC values tradition and age, the DA seems to have gone for vigour and youth. It's something the ANC needs to get some balls on. Where the DA seems to elevate youth, the ANC sidelines it. Where the DA has not just relegated its young people to its "youth league", the ANC. The DA has put its young people in Parliament and in real leadership positions. This is all very good and bodes well for the party's future.

However, if it is true that Zille is stepping down next year, then this is manna from the heavens for the ANC. The general election will be pretty tough for the DA internally as they try to run the election but fighting for positions at the same time. The party will be distracted.

Even though Zille grew the party phenomenally, she seems to have made the Thabo Mbeki mistake of not having an absolutely clear succession plan. If she did, she never shared it, just like Mbeki didn't. Nelson Mandela spoke about who he wanted to be president after him even during the second year of his presidency. We all knew who would be president and we never questioned it and that was also adopted by the ANC. Mbeki was a clear successor. On the other hand, Zille and former DA leader Tony Leon were said to clash. Even though Zille was not a hand-picked successor, she made herself the obvious and automatic choice through her actions.

By the time she took over, she had a proven track record. The ANC can simply ask who these two young guns are and what have they done to prove they can run the country? I suspect that even the DA supporters will be sceptical of whomever takes over as the leader of the party. If Zille is stepping down, will the DA supporters have as much enthusiasm for the party at the election? The ANC needs to exploit that uncertainty and hammer it down.

The ANC, on the other hand, has decided to go with Malusi Gigaba as head of elections for the party. He is young but is a political heavy weight compared to the two young DA contenders. He has appeal and can go more than toe-to-toe against Mazibuko and Maimane – at the same time.

The ANC should let go of the sentiment of tradition and go for what needs to be done for the party because the DA isn't dicking around. It is chasing after the young voters and making no apologies about it either.

The ANC needs to stop saying it cares about the youth when its young people are invisible. Let the sober, talented young people come out of the woodwork and let them show what they can do, and trust me, the ANC will be much better for it. The old folks have done their bit; now they must retire and serve as mentors.