Zuma takes aim at KZN Premiership

VICTOR: Jacob Zuma


……for his own political and financial security

By Hopewell Chin’ono

I have seen many analytical posts detailing why former South African president, Jacob Zuma is doing what he is doing, and what his ultimate goal is if he succeeds in his political and electoral endeavours.

The missing link in these analytical pieces is REAL information from Jacob Zuma himself or his inner circle; what we are being mostly fed are just wild guesses.

Last year I mentioned that Zuma told a delegation of visiting Zimbabweans at Nkandla that he would run as an ANC breakaway candidate. Jacob Zuma wants to be premier of KwaZulu-Natal in a coalition deal if his plan succeeds. He knows that he can’t be president of South Africa again, and he is not stupid to think that he can now be one.

But he keeps pushing that narrative to deceive the media and ordinary citizens into not thinking about what he really wants, KZN Premiership. KwaZulu-Natal is South Africa’s second biggest province by numbers after Gauteng, and it is the second biggest economy again after Gauteng.

Put differently, KZN’s economy is four times bigger than the Zimbabwean economy by Gross Domestic Product. Zuma wants to be in charge of that KZN economy, he will be in charge of an economy which is FOUR times bigger than that of Zimbabwe if he succeeds, so it is a big deal.

He basically wants to create what the DA has in the Western Cape, and be the guy in charge, the big kahuna. To do that, Zuma realized that he needed a political party, and that his political party needs to run for elections, but more importantly, that he also needs to run for elections himself to remain relevant. That is why he challenged the Independent Electoral Commission’s decision to stop him from contesting in the May 29 elections. Zuma’s hope is that his biggest scalp in KZN is the ANC, the party that he hoped in previous elections in KZN because it was his political home.

The Zulu King is also perceived to be in bed with the ANC, so Zuma wants to damage the ANC’s chances in KZN, and probably end up going into a governing coalition with the IFP, what his folks are calling the “local people coalition.”

However he has left room for a very remote chance of a local alliance with a damaged but very desperate ANC to run KZN with Zuma as the Premier.

It all comes down to money, Zuma knows that this is his last chance at anything political. Another five years is a very long period in life for a man who is 81 years old. Another problem for the ANC in KZN came after the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal chairperson, Siboniso Duma’s perceived disrespect towards the Zulu traditional Prime Minister, Thulasizwe Buthelezi, when he took the microphone away from the traditional Prime Minister who is the IFP leader and insulted him.

Politics is local, so says the political science statement of choice when explaining political outcomes. This disrespect to the traditional Prime Minister was seen as an act of undermining the dignity of the Zulu monarchy, something that has put the King in a difficult situation, but to Zuma, he sees it as an opportunity and a campaigning tool.

More importantly, Zuma and his people are whispering a deadly question: how can the IFP want to go into bed with a political party whose provincial chairperson disrespected the Zulu monarch? This is the Machiavellian Zuma at play, and he is good at it regardless of what we might think of him. The ANC understood this very well that is why Siboniso Duma immediately apologised.

Zuma has people in the ANC and in IFP too, he plays the puppet master role to them because politics is local. The DA obtained the second place in four provinces won by the ANC in the 2019 South African elections. In KwaZulu-Natal, the Inkatha Freedom Party beat the DA to second place for the first time since 2014, but there was no MK then.

Voters are weird beings, with all the self-evident damage that Zuma caused to the South African economy and country’s brand name when he was president, he still commands huge unconditional support which can be broken down into three parts:

1. Africans adore a lovable rogue. Anyone who purports to be fighting against a perceived foreign enemy whilst masking their corruptness gets support. Look at Mugabe, Putin, and Trump, they would win continental elections in Africa because generally our people don’t read, and they generally don’t apply critical thinking in their political perspectives. Support is based on emotions and not facts and numbers, like how much did Jacob Zuma’s presidency damage the South African economy?

2. Zuma is seen as a victim of those aligned with the capitalist order. It is a mirage, but that is how he is seen especially after his jailing for contempt of court, something that many cautioned against when it was evident that it would create Jacob Zuma the martyr. He tells his supporters that he is fighting for the blacks of South Africa, yet the biggest winner of his nine year presidency was an Indian family from Eastern Uttar Pradesh in India. Hardly an act of Black Empowerment at all, but why allow facts to get in the way, Zuma is their hero regardless.

3. The final strand is the ethnic element which brings us to national politics when coalitions are being made if it gets to that. Zuma is Zulu, and he will play on that in KZN, that is why he is caricaturing the ANC as “…the ANC of Cyril Ramaphosa“. It means “…he is not one of us, why vote for a stranger when you have Zuma your local warrior, one of your own,” so goes the reasoning when speaking to his inner circle. In the event that the ANC needs to form a national coalition government, Zuma sees himself as a possible Kingmaker too. So he needs to dent the ANC badly in KZN so that he can come to it, or rather it comes to him for a national governing coalition deal.

Politicians appear angry with each other in public, but privately they are talking, they always do. Zuma is talking to ANC heavy eights, and the ANC is talking to Zuma through his chosen proxies, everyone is talking to the other sides for possible post-election deals. These are people who have known each other for decades and ate pap from the same plate together.

What matters more to them is power and the proceeds that it brings, not the purported ideological disagreements or having the people at heart. If Zuma or his ANC comrades with him in government had poor Black people at heart, the Guptas would not have happened, but again such facts get in the way of good propaganda that positions Zuma as a great pro-Black political player.

Zuma is like Emmerson Mnangagwa; you dismiss them at your own peril. They are super political tacticians, and they are ruthless when they need to be, yet they do it with a smirky on the face. Both ran security arms of their ruling parties during the struggle for independence, so they know a lot about everyone in politics!

If their tactical skills were deployed to national interest pursuits, their countries would be flourishing today with nobody going to bed on an empt stomach. But they are just ordinary politicians; ordinary politicians care about themselves first, and on rare occasions, the country comes second if it ill further their personal interests.

So while we are looking at the national issue post-May 29, Zuma’s focus is on KZN, and he will fight to be the real political King there. The first prize is being Premier. This move will give him significant control over a major economic powerhouse within South Africa’s national economic engine room. Zuma aims to weaken the ANC’s hold on KZN, possibly forming a coalition with the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) or even a damaged ANC if need be, but as long as he is in charge of such a coalition.

This plan hinges on heavily denting the ANC’s strength in the province to position himself as a key player in potential national coalition negotiations. Political elites in South Africa have survived on tenders like many African politicians, no wonder why Zuma would want to be premier of KZN, if he succeeds, it will be a new era of politics in South Africa, one that will require seat belts and helmets on.

How will the South African economy respond to all this if it comes to pass? Check the exchange rate when it happens, the exchange rate always gives you the first economic indicator about how the world feels after elections in countries like South Africa with proper economic indicators. South Africans will determine their political and economic fate on May 29, on that day they will determine Zuma’s fate, and in so doing they will be determining their own fate too.

It will be a big day for Africa too because South Africa is the biggest and sophisticated economy in Africa, it successes or failures are tied to the whole economy. So for the sake of the African economy, South Africa must and has to succeed, but it is South Africans who will determine that. And much as you hate him or like him, Zuma will probably be part of that future if they trust his word. Will it be a demotion to become Premier when he has been President, not at all, it is a political move.

The former British Prime Minister David Cameron is now the British Foreign Minister, there’re may presidents too many to mention. For Zuma, it will be about his own personal survival, economic personal survival.

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