The big question for the political future of the ANC and that of South Africa, although it may appear early or some would say premature, is a post-Jacob Zuma plan. For the ANC, it just elected Cyril Ramaphosa as its deputy president, but given the recent example with Kgalema Motlanthe and, as was argued by Zuma allies (particularly then-ANCYL President Fikile Mbalula) against Mbeki that an ANC deputy president must be President. Especially considering that Ramaphosa was brought forward by the Zuma anti-Motlanthe faction in Mangaung, he is not guaranteed the position of the presidency both for the ANC and that of the Republic. Given the exponential growth of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and its determining force of the balance of power in the ANC, as evidenced recently in the national conference and congress of the ANC, Ramaphosa’s future will be determined in no small measure by what KZN decides.
There has been some talk recently from Mbeki and other commentators nationally about the resurgence of tribalism in South Africa spewing from within the ANC and government with the risk of affecting things nationally. If this is true then the extent of its risk is only at potential phase at this moment. What remains certain is that across the country the general dissatisfaction about the rule of the ANC is growing. On the right you have AGANG and on the left you have EFF and both are certainly taking numbers from the ANC and capturing first-time voters who may not be captured by the ANC’s narratives of the anti-apartheid struggle and can judge the ANC only on its current performance as a ruling party rather than the face of the liberation movement. The strength of these two parties is to be proven in the election months ahead and excitement about new parties is not anything that the ANC is not used to; but the difference here is that its own approval rates with its leader are at some of its lowest in history. This then leads to an essential question that the ANC must honestly ask itself at the different levels of its ranks – a post-Zuma ANC. Will Ramaphosa, with his image over Marikana tainted, resuscitate the image of the ANC, or will the KZN lobby move for Zweli Mkhize (who has been moved to the top 6 in Mangaung) to take over, as is whispered to be the plan in some circles even within the party? Is the ANC going to be forced to move for more radical policies in an attempt to regain its credibility as a working-class champion while Marikana, battles within COSATU and the EFF’s onslaught clearly undermine this historic claim? There is no calm before the storm in the current South African climate. The whirlwind is already in force and the storm is a looming inevitability if business continues as usual. Sober considerations from across the spectrum need to arise.