If past elections in South Africa could be a yardstick to measure the electoral system, the upcoming April 22 polls would very well turn out to have a carnival-like atmosphere just like in the past.
The difference envisaged however that it will only give an official stamp of approval to someone whom had been known to become the President months before the election is held.
The build up for Jacob Zuma has been electrifying and spectacular, a kind of meteoric rise, dodging both political and judicial humps to finally get to State House. And barring some unexpected development, Zuma has virtually zoomed past his so-called critics. So how did this come about.
Many South Africans are still reeling dazed when the country’s National Prosecutor Office dropped corruption charges against Zuma the other day. One school of thought criticized the move calling it ‘selective justice’ while an apparent majority applauded the decision. “You can’t put a good man down”, the Zuma die hards chanted. But whether the better side won is too early to decipher. For the foreseeable future however, things are unlikely to change and Zuma’s political fortunes would be on the rise. It is a curious wonder whether those clamouring for Zuma to become president are not giving their expectations a multiplier effect. Whether Zuma, like the proverbial fairy would wave a wand and South Africa’s woes would mean everyone living happily-ever after.
Unfortunately the South African political route is still strewn with unfulfilled promises that have left particularly many Black South Africans hewers of wood and drawers of water. As one South African pal during our students days in Iowa, in the United States would put it “its like mistakenly harnessing a lion to a wagon.”
At one time in the political wrangle, it was as if stop-gap interim President Kgalema Motlanthe would be a possible successor if things get upset in the Zuma bandwagon. But Zuma loyalists wanted no compromise as it was either Zuma or nothing. Now that they had seemingly got their way, it is still unconceivable as to where the next step is. But if Zuma is the sure bet for the presidency, the situation is not that clear cut with regards to the parliamentary polls. There, the dominant African National Congress (ANC) is not the sure card it used to be in the days of South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela.
No doubt the ANC is certain of victory in the Parliamentary elections but how wide or narrow its majority would be is difficult to bet on. But the question is whether South Africa’s 23 million voters could be trusted. Despite the fanfare of trumpet blowing and flurry of placards calling for “vote for a better life for all, vote ANC” and “ANC will tackle jobs and crime”, many have quickly dismissed that as “unachievable” and “attempted hoodwink from the reality.”
A major slap for the ANC remains the break away group under the name of Congress of the People (cope). The breakaway group is led by Mosuroa Lekota, a one time defence minister in the Thabo Mbeki government.
There is the dividing line between the two parties with ‘Cope’ featuring some political heavyweights that once fought during the liberation days. Leaders of Cope said they were angered by the way then President Mbeki was removed from office. The underlying gripe however is that it was the anti-Zuma forces that were at play, trying to enter politics by the back door.
Political analysts forecast that if election results turn out as predicted, one big change is that although ‘Cope’ would hardly form the government, it is likely to make impressive gains which in turn would make a two-third ANC legislative majority impossible, forcing the government into a limbo.
In any case, the question is no longer who will lead South Africa but when will Zuma lead South Africa. The run up to it all has been to say the least murky, making the possibility of leaders in waiting insignificant.
Walking the tight rope, Mbeki became the fall guy after, as many say, he wanted to show off Zuma in the alleged corruption case. Zuma’s political militants could not dialogue with any group that seemingly tend to block the adventure of the crusade, so Mbeki was outsmarted. Many say such a calamity should not have happened to the ANC as it is Africa’s oldest political party now in its 95th year.
Others contend that the party needs a massive overhaul to bring it in line with current developments and turn it over to younger crops. They say much has to be done to let mainly black South Africans really get the gains. They speak of better jobs, improved housing accommodation, schools, health clinics and their favourite watering holes a euphemism for better ventilation beer halls and chop houses. To be uninitiated, these are logical demands for millions who had no better life than to join the bus to work in the cities and return home, haggard and unkempt in the evening to smoke filled mud-hut to sleep.
Then there is the crime wave which includes rape. Few people bother to report crimes as they go unresolved for years. The story is told of the distraught South African Secretary who phoned the Police to report that robbers were lurking around her residence. The police promised to check “within 10 minutes.” An hour passed, no police, so she angrily called the police saying, “remember I called telling you about some robbers. Well I have gunned down all four of them and their bodies are with me.” No sooner had she dropped the phone than three police squad cars arrived, together with an ambulance and a police truck and the leader of the group holding four body bags enquiring, where are the corpses.? The irate woman retorted, “When I told you about robbers you did not bother to come. When I talked about shooting them, you came without delay. Well sorry, there are no corpses.” Many South Africans are conversant with this story to unfrock the lethargy of the Police on crime.
On the general front, the ANC still has dozens of unfinished business to transact. One strike which Zuma must undertake as a priority will be to take black South Africans out from poverty and remould them into the middle class. And this is where the popularity bet can stick. In it all, life sometimes gives you the test before you have had time to study the lesson. The Zuma affair has some similarity.