10 March 2008

South Africa: Time for Rewards, Payback in ANC


Johannesburg — AS THE post-Polokwane wounds begin to heal, the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal must begin to smooth the way for another potentially bruising exercise ahead of the general election next year.

At the best of times, compiling candidate lists for seats in Parliament poses major challenges as the party tries to derive maximum benefit in the deployment of its cadres. It is a complicated process , requiring a deep understanding of the nature of an organisation that draws support from such diverse interest groups.

The lists have to mirror, as much as possible, the core constituency of the ANC while at the same time ensuring that particular skills and talents are retained. As the party grows in rural areas, eroding steadily what was once the Inkatha Freedom Party's (IFP's) key support base, it has to reflect that in the line-up for the election.

The party also benefited spectacularly from the now out-of-favour floor-crossing legislation. Common decency would require that those who brought with them seats from other parties should at least be placed favourably on the list to ensure they go back to Parliament.

Then, of course, there is the drive to attain a 50% representation of women, which should mean more than a handful of men will be looking for other jobs next year .

Traditionally, the list process has to ensure that there is decent representation of the interests of the alliance partners -- a particularly important component if we remember the support given to Jacob Zuma ahead of the last elective ANC conference.

It is indeed also time to reward those who worked tirelessly for Zuma's win. Payback time, if ever there was one. The question is whether the ANC will be prepared to sacrifice the experience and talent of the comrades who were anti-Zuma. It is one thing to pronounce publicly that the past is forgotten and everybody is moving forward together to build the ANC -- human nature, at times, does want scores to be settled.

It all adds up: compiling that list will be a challenging process as the ANC prepares to consolidate its support in a province where the IFP still has great potential to regain lost ground, especially if the ANC preoccupies itself with self-destruction . Unlike in other provinces (with the exception of Western Cape) where an ANC victory is almost always certain, in KwaZulu-Natal there will be a fierce contest with the IFP next year.

The election campaign will be as bruising as ever, while there is an increasing likelihood that in the midst of all that, Zuma's fraud and corruption trial will be in full swing in Pietermaritzburg. His court appearances drain a lot from the most energetic of comrades, and it will be interesting to see how the ANC manages to lend him support while at the same time sustaining enough momentum in the election campaign to ward off Inkatha.

The trial itself -- if it proceeds -- presents another, even more potentially damaging scenario. A lot of questions are being raised in certain quarters about why Zuma seems so desperate to do everything possible to ensure that he does not have his day in court to clear his name once and for all.

What seems to escape the attention of those who pose that question is how Zuma intends to defend himself -- namely by demonstrating that he is a victim of a political plot. In doing so, frightening skeletons of how the ANC operates and how some of the money he is being prosecuted for was used for organisational activities will come tumbling out.

Once the trial starts, a point of no-return will have been reached. The state will harness all its resources to demonstrate that Zuma is indeed a crook, while he will have absolutely no reason to withhold any blows in his defence if he is to avoid sitting in prison for at least 15 years. It will be ugly for the ANC as a whole, from top to bottom. Very, very ugly.

For opposition parties, such as the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal, the revelations will be like manna from heaven.

Madlala is editor and publisher of UmAfrika.

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