It looks as though it may happen quicker than I thought. A report in the Citizen newspaper this week suggested that deep, dark, behind-the-scenes moves were underway to lure EFF leader Julius Malema back into the ANC.
Naturally, both parties have strenuously denied that anything like this could possibly be true. The EFF, in fact, described the idea as ‘laughable’. (It reminds me of the ritual statements from English Premier League football clubs, that such-and-such a manager’s job is “100% secure”, moments before he’s sacked!)
Consider the facts.
Fact: As I wrote in this column at the end of November last year, the only way Jacob Zuma avoids over 700 fraud and corruption charges falling on his head when he leaves office is not to leave office. My remarks back then were prompted by another newspaper report – that time in the Mail & Guardian – suggesting that ANC provincial leaders in no less than five provinces were starting a process to persuade Zuma to stay on for an unprecedented third term, not as President of the country, but President of the ANC. Only the most politically naïve would believe that Zuma could lead the ANC and not simultaneously be President of South Africa.
Fact: A third term for any President in Tuynhuys would require a change to the Constitution. The ANC does not have sufficient seats in Parliament to achieve that – it would need an ally.
Fact: The ANC is in trouble electorally in Gauteng and, by extension, in other parts of the country. To retain control of Johannesburg, South Africa’s most important city, after next year’s local government election, it will also likely need an ally.
Fact: That ally will not be the DA. Politics makes strange bedfellows but I would be prepared to bet my pension that such is the dislike and distrust between the ANC and DA at all levels, that an alliance of this nature would be impossible. For one – another fact – the DA is determined to see Zuma prosecuted.
So who is left?
Exactly! Julius Malema and the EFF, many of whom are ex-ANC Youth Leaguers and natural allies of the old party. I might add that Malema’s political ambitions are on naked display and have been ever since he was expelled from the ANC to found the EFF. Don’t think for one moment that he’s going to be content to sit in the political wilderness for the rest of his life, like Bantu Holomisa or Mbhazima Shilowa.
But nothing’s for nothing in politics, either: an EFF alliance to save the ANC in Johannesburg would come at a price. A similar alliance to enable Jacob Zuma to change the Constitution and enjoy a third or even a fourth term as President would cost a great deal more.
Nothing less than the Deputy Presidency would do at that stage, with a clear understanding that Malema would take over as No.1 at a subsequent election. You can be very sure that one of his first acts as President of South Africa would be to issue a pardon to his predecessor.
Another key rule of politics is don’t lose your seat under any circumstances. Read any kind of history of any kind of democracy and you’ll see it time and again. Members of Parliament or National Assemblies do the most extraordinary things to hang onto, or gain, power. Witness the UK’s last election when David Cameron’s Conservatives hopped into bed with their arch foes, the Liberal Democrats. Both Cameron and the Lib-Dem’s leader, Nick Clegg, mouthed endless platitudes about it all being for the good of the nation. Trust me: it was for the good of the men and women of their respective parties and the power gained by the alliance.
It will turn out just the same for the ANC and EFF. Although they shout and scream at each now in Parliament, watch what happens when the prospect appears of them losing those plush parliamentary jobs.
And if Jacob Zuma could be saved from further ignominy or even a jail term, and Julius Malema receive a nice position like Deputy President, why, so much the better!