President Zuma’s world is cracking up all around him

Not only is the African National Congress (ANC)-led alliance plagued by a debilitating succession battle, it is also riven with economic policy fissures.

Allegations of corruption in the ANC, linking senior members to lucrative state tenders and patronage networks, have sparked tender wars in the state, and are often the leitmotif for power struggles in the provinces, for control of key departments to be used as springboards for private accumulation.

These, and the public-relations nightmare caused by the messy private life of SA’s first citizen, now threaten to unravel the brittle coalition that brought President Jacob Zuma to power, setting the scene for a very fluid political landscape.

Zuma, no doubt, realises the value of managing competing factions in the alliance, but so far he has been unable to keep the cracks from showing.

His leadership is being tested, and it remains to be seen if he can hold the centre.

In vintage ANC style, the party said Mantashe “did not need defending”, but its repeated efforts to put the succession genie back in the bottle suggest it has failed to rein in ambitious power brokers with pretensions to the throne.

Unless it regulates and modernises its approach to leadership fights, below-the-belt campaigns aimed at damaging opponents will remain a feature of ANC succession battles.

More important, though, is the backlash from trade union leaders after Zuma’s state of the nation speech and the budget speech by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Their anger and disappointment are the surest indication yet that the honeymoon between Zuma and his leftist allies is truly over.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and its powerful affiliates criticised Zuma for failing to speak directly to their interests .

Numsa was even blunter, claiming the silence of Zuma and Gordhan on issues such as jobs and a new growth path was a “betrayal” of worker support for his candidacy in the presidential election.

The commitment to the creation of decent jobs was carefully negotiated in the alliance and express ed in the ANC’s Polokwane resolutions.

So, too, doing things differently on the economic policy front. This, the left argues, is borne out by the agreements hammered out in engagements in the alliance, the most recent at last year’s summit .

Source: www.businessday.co.za, 20100222

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