The ANC is in trouble and South Africans are beginning to come to terms with the reality that the solution to their problems might have to exclude the ruling party.
Friday’s marches calling for President Zuma to resign was the strongest indication yet that a consensus is gathering about the fact that the ANC and President Zuma are inflicting damage to the country.
Scores of people came together calling for Zuma to go. This is something that hasn’t been before in recent times in South Africa. People are beginning to bury their racial and even ideological differences in the interest of uniting against a leadership that is found wanting and continues to improvise on a daily basis.
Be that as it may, it is important to carefully consider what would actually happen if Zuma was successfully pushed out.
In the highly unlikely event that Zuma is pushed out, possibly through a motion of no confidence in Parliament, there seems to be no clear plan in place to deal with the fallout to ensure stability on the ground.
As a democracy, it should not be catastrophic if a president is booted out of power. If Zuma suffers under a motion of no confidence, expectations are that he would pack his bags and head to Nkandla. This is a straightforward situation where an unwanted president ought to go if members of Parliament say so.
There is however a scary scenario that is beginning to rear its head, showing that if Zuma is voted out of power through a motion of no confidence, South Africa might experience open violence and unprecedented chaos that might be worse than what we averted in the 1990s when the National Party relinquished power.
The language and the tone of the ANC Youth League and other forces that support Zuma indicate that there would be willingness by Zuma’s supporters to refuse the result of a democratic process that seeks to remove the president.
The ANC Youth League has already demonstrated their willingness to disrupt democracy when they ignored a court order and disrupted Ahmed Kathrada’s memorial in Durban over the weekend. The message sent by the league is that they are willing to do whatever it takes to defend Zuma, even if that means trampling on our democracy.
The ANC is to blame for this impasse, having failed to deal with the league internally within the party. Now the league has become not only a national embarrassment, but a threat to the values of our democracy, including freedom of expression. The ANC should take full responsibility for this development, including the culture of intolerance among the league members.
While it is not impossible that disgruntled ANC MPs could vote with opposition parties in removing Zuma from Parliament, as long as that decision is not agreed upon within the ANC it would amount to a coup against Zuma. It would have to be something hatched away from the ANC, because the ANC would not accede to such a plan given Zuma’s continued hold within the party.
If the conspirators within the ANC resolve to stage a coup and ultimately swallow their pride and hold hands with the opposition, the ANC structures would then be used to purge the conspirators. Assuming that the conspirators would have planned this outside the ANC, we can expect to see blood on the walls as retaliation would be met against those who staged the Parliament coup.
What worries me about this is the fact that there is no immediate post-Zuma plan in case he is successfully pushed out. The ANC is divided and therefore incapable of devising a coherent plan that would unite all in the party.
Zuma’s supporters within the party would not accept any post-Zuma scenario that does not include his allies. This poses a serious problem because the country would be held to ransom by a few who stand to benefit from continuing disastrous leadership being experienced.
It is naive to think that it would be easy to get rid of President Zuma without a plan to deal with the backlash. If anyone had doubts about this, look at what happened in Egypt after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. The country fell into chaos, which proved that there was no clear post-Mubarak plan.
South Africa needs to tread carefully.
– Ralph Mathekga is an independent political analyst and author of the book When Zuma Goes. He writes a weekly column for News24.
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