Mugabe of the Free State digs in while Daddy goes to Durbs

Wednesday. December’s almost upon us. It’s that one-foot-in-front-of-the-other time of year. Time to put one’s head down and plod, one leaden step at a time, towards closedown and the end of another vicious 12-month news cycle.

I’m wondering if I’m going to make it. Right now, all eyes are on the ANC’s elective conference. It’s the final — and rather significant — hurdle between media industry wage slaves and their brief year-end respite. Then President Jacob Zuma’s successor will, hopefully, read the party’s January 8 statement in East London and the whole business will start all over again.

It’s a sign of our times that everybody talks about the elective conference. Nobody talks about the national conference any more. I guess it’s because there is no longer any real ideological difference between the contending forces in the ANC.
It’s where things are at.

The conference is due to kick off on December 16 — if nobody goes to court to stop it. This is something that can’t be ruled out, now that the nominations process is almost done and both sides will have a clear idea about what the balance of forces is.

It’s easy to envision an aggrieved provincial executive going to court to halt the process. Or trying to collapse it, depending on the outcome of the haggling that is about to start in earnest, along with the “reaching out” to delegates from the other side.

Right now, that seems light years away. What’s arguably the most important gathering the governing party has held since 1990 might as well be on Mars and not at Nasrec.

The branch general meetings (BGMs) process has unfolded at a snail’s pace, which was to be expected, given the levels of mistrust and skulduggery all around. They’re still not done, with KwaZulu-Natal facing between 30 and 50 reruns, depending on which faction you speak to. Accommodating these BGM reruns means KwaZulu-Natal will only be able to hold its provincial general council on Monday and Tuesday.

Maybe it’s because our circumstances are so dire and the extent of our descent into an orgy of plunder has become so clear that every 24 hours seems like a lifetime. That, and the fact that things are so fluid.

On Tuesday night, the Robert Mugabe of the Free State, ANC chairperson and Premier Ace Magashule, had worked his somewhat dodgy magic again. Swung the provincial general council of the structure he’s headed since liberation in favour of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma by a ridiculously large margin. Set the scene for securing yet another term as provincial chair at the Free State conference on Friday and created a lovely platform from which to run as ANC secretary general on the Dlamini-Zuma ticket in December. Aceeeeeeeeeeeee, as the comrades in the Free State say.

Wednesday lunchtime and Aceeeeeeeeeeeee appears to have lost some of his mystical powers. The high court in Bloemfontein has ruled that some of the BGMs have to be rerun because the fix was in during the process ahead of the Free State regional general council.

There are no tanks outside Ace’s pozi and he’s still large and in charge, but the provincial general council declaration in favour of Dlamini-Zuma is no longer the emphatic endorsement it was. The conference can’t go ahead either, until the BGMs are rerun. This is a blow for the Dlamini-Zuma camp, which has taken other legal batterings in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere.

Zuma will be in Durban for the weekend. Daddy is scheduled to “open” Dumisani Makhaye Drive, linking north and west Durban, on Saturday.

Makhaye was a former ANC propagandist and a serious force in the party in KwaZulu-Natal. He was one of former president Thabo Mbeki’s key enforcers in the province. There’s a school of thought that KwaZulu-Natal’s support for Zuma would not have been so emphatic had Makhaye still been alive.

It’s rather sweet for Daddy to deliver the keynote address at the opening of an arterial road named after a comrade who was never much of a fan of his. Forgiving and all that. Downright comradely.

Then again, the road has been open for four years, maybe even longer. The “opening” is a safe platform in a safe area for the head of state to show his face in public ahead of the 16th.

Perhaps Daddy’s visit has more to it. It may be that Daddy’s really in Durban to give the KwaZulu-Natal delegates a quiet pep talk ahead of Monday’s provincial general council. Just to make sure that they don’t forget their mandates. Keep them onside. Make sure nobody strays.

Then again, maybe I’m just paranoid.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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