Jacob Zuma remains a problem for South Africa

Jacob Zuma remains a problem for South Africa

By Geoff Hill

More than 30 years after the Berlin Wall came down, leaders of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s long-time ruling party, still refer to each other as ‘comrade’. Unless, that is, you’re seen as a problem.

‘Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa will be here,’ ANC secretary general Fikile Mbabula told journalists on Sunday morning as he explained how, around 5 p.m., the President would receive the final election results at the main counting centre between Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria. ‘There’s nothing to celebrate in terms of performance of the ANC,’ he said.

Zuma has come away with 14.6 per cent of the vote but still claims it was rigged against him

It sounds weird referring to the billionaire Ramaphosa as ‘comrade’, as if he were some commissar from Cuba or the former Soviet Union – both of which had backed the ANC when it challenged white minority rule in South Africa. Before taking the presidency, Ramaphosa ran the McDonalds burger chain in South Africa and held shares in some of the country’s largest mining firms. A disciple of Lenin he is not.

For the ANC there was indeed ‘nothing to celebrate’ in the election. From 57 per cent of the vote five years earlier, they had crashed to just over 40 per cent, giving them perhaps 161 seats in a parliament of 400 – well short of the 201 needed to govern.

But Mbabula, a former police minister, stressed that his party had the single largest share of seats. Which is true, although close on three out of five of those who cast a ballot had chosen someone else.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) ran the poll as best it could, short on staff and budget; there have been 539 objections lodged far. No surprise given that more than 40 parties had run at either the national or provincial level or both; most didn’t win a seat and some were sure to be aggrieved no matter how transparent the process.

Much of the ANC’s loss has been picked up by uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), just six months old and led by the former president Comrade Jacob Zuma. Make that ‘former comrade’. The party now refers to him merely as ‘Zuma’ and will occasionally deign to add a Mr. The disgrace!

This is ironic because his MK party is much more Marxist in style, wanting to nationalise all land, mines and banks without compensation and largely scrap the constitution. And, of course, dismiss the dozens of cases Zuma faces in court as a result of an enquiry he set up while president which he said would clear rumours of corruption on his watch. Instead, day by day, more witnesses came forward with testimonies ranging from the odd bribe to allegations of embezzlement.

In no time, the ANC itself appeared to be in the dock. The party removed Zuma as president, replacing him with former union boss turned entrepreneur Ramaphosa.