Let me start by quoting from the book Dictator, by Robert Harris – a book about Rome and the last 15 years of Cicero: “You have the soldiers but no legitimacy, we have the legitimacy but no soldiers. What we do both have, however, is a common enemy.” Another bit from the same book: “Your speeches and my swords will make an unbeatable alliance.”
I suspect that, in smoke-filled rooms, in secret locations, men and women quaffing single-malt whisky have been meeting to negotiate alliances to the benefit of their preferred candidates in the African National Congress (ANC) leadership contest. As the quotes above illustrate, such negotiations are necessitated by imperfections in the balance of support and the balance of forces. In other words, the more uncertain the outcome of a looming political battle, the greater the chances that some of the protagonists will negotiate with the aim of cutting deals that will compensate for their weaknesses by leveraging the strengths of potential allies. The same applies to the succession battle in the ANC.
The camp that supports Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – President Jacob Zuma, the Premier League, the ANC Youth League and patriarchy in a dress (the ANC Women’s League) – has the soldiers and the numbers, but does not have the legitimacy. Dlamini-Zuma, affectionately known as NDZ, has the legitimacy inside the ANC but needs the numbers and the soldiers of the Zuma camp. Together, they have a common enemy – Cyril Ramaphosa (CR17 to his supporters).
On the other hand, Ramaphosa has the words but no swords – hence, the rumour that some of his supporters have been crisscrossing the country with DD Mabuza, the Mpumalanga Premier and part-time member of the Premier League, in support of Ramaphosa’s candidature. Mabuza lacks the legitimacy, real or imagined, of Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa needs swords and soldiers, and there is plenty of both in Mpumalanga. What we must not forget in all this is the fact that, while the battle lines are drawn, what may matter the most in the end is where they crisscross and meet. In short, the battle lines are not parallel lines.
Then there is the matter of lines in the shape of circles. I still maintain that Zuma exercises power in two ways, namely concentric circles and inner circles located in different sets of concentric circles. The location of what people refer to as his ‘inner circle’ depends on what needs to be achieved. I am not suggesting that all the concentric circles have the same power and influence. Some of the concentric circles are closer to the centre than others, which means the rest are useful but are on the periphery. Under certain circumstances, a concentric circle on the periphery may be moved to the centre. An important element of the operations of these concentric circles is the fact that some of them are located outside the national sphere, in the same way that some external actors have been lending support to some in the anti-Zuma coalition.
One of the reasons I feel the need to alert you to these concentric circles is so to disabuse you of the notion that Dlamini-Zuma is Zuma’s candidate. This is a gross oversimplification, which has given birth to other oversimplifications, such as the view that Dlamini-Zuma will block the reinstatement of charges against Zuma if she is elected head of State in 2019. The picture, as I have come to understand, is a bit more complex than that.
According to my intrepid spies, Sore Throat and Undercover Sister, the inner circle that is closest to the centre is very suspicious of Dlamini-Zuma. If they had things their way, she would not be their preferred candidate, as they believe that she is a matter of practical politics and a function of pragmatism. They take the view that she is too independent and, therefore, unpredictable.
Also, they have not forgotten that she did not support Zuma in Polokwane. More important, however, is their unhappiness about her orientation towards the rule of law. According to Sore Throat and Undercover Sister, NDZ’s response to the Grace Mugabe imbroglio was quite shocking to the inner circle. Apparently, she argued that the law should have been allowed to take its course. The inner circle fears that she may take the same approach with regard to the reinstatement of charges against Zuma.
I am not sure Sore Throat and Undercover Sister are right but they also tell me that there are concerns within all the Zuma inner circles that, on being elected ANC president, Dlamini-Zuma is going to insist that Zuma step down as head of State if he is serious about having another Zuma as the landlord of the Union Buildings. Otherwise, my two spies tell me, the next head of State will not be a Zuma.