COULD Jacob Zuma be offered a deal which would see him exit the ANC presidential race in a “dignified” manner? Political analyst and author William Gumede thinks this could be the best way out for the ANC to circumvent another messy scrap at its national conference in December.
Such a deal would be complex. It could be a compromise scenario to split the ANC and state presidencies, would need to include immunity from prosecution for Zuma and protect his family and allies’ business interests, Gumede said.
Speaking at a business breakfast in Rosebank on Monday, he said an exit deal for Zuma would also have to entail incentives for his KwaZulu-Natal support base, which is determined to secure the president a second term.
While the country is fixated by the pre-Mangaung factional battles, the acclaimed author is projecting that if Zuma is re-elected as ANC president it could lead to a split in the party as the discord between various factions would worsen in the ideological and policy void.
“If Zuma is re-elected on the back of KZN, he could be ousted in the same way as (Thabo) Mbeki,” Gumede said.
A political deal may not be that far-fetched as early in his presidency. Zuma indicated he only wished to serve a single term. He also initially seemed amenable to an arrangement which would see him retain the ANC presidency, while Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe became state president in 2014. However, pushed by his support base and cohorts who have benefitted from his presidency through political patronage, Zuma now appears determined to secure a second term.
But, Gumede said, the fact that Zuma’s camp has approached businessman and ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) Member Cyril Ramaphosa to stand on a joint ticket means his supporters are aware the president may not be able to win the election on his own and would need Ramaphosa to “balance out his weaknesses”.
The incentive being presented to Ramaphosa is that he would take over as state president in 2014 on condition that he gives Zuma a “Berlusconi-like” immunity from prosecution and protect his family’s business interests, Gumede said. He was referring to the legal protection given to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to evade criminal prosecution.
The revival of the criminal case against Zuma, for which he was indicted several times before the National Prosecuting Authority withdrew charges, was a real fear for the president and was another reason he needed to retain the ANC presidency. Gumede said some people in the ANC were determined to “take Zuma down legally” and as long as he remained president, he could fight off such attempts.
He said Zuma’s main strategy now seems to be to prevent a fierce contest at Mangaung. However, the constituency which brought him to power had no ideological or policy commonality other than wanting Mbeki out.