In 2005, then general secretary of Cosatu, Zwelinzima Vavi likened the overwhelming Zuma support towards the Polokwane Conference to a ‘tsunami’ that no one would be able to contain. Vavi would later, in a bilateral with ANC, apparently describe the Zuma support base as a coalition of the ‘walking wounded’. People with axes to grind because they felt that they too were victims of Mbeki’s machinisation, or perhaps, as some said, because they felt they had been denied access to the patronage, that inevitably trickles down, from high office. (Gevisser 2009
Five years later, on 03 Sep 2010, Mail & Guardian published an article entitled ‘Coalition of the wounded turns on Zuma’ ahead of the ANC NGC on September 20 that year. According to that article, ‘several ANC sources linked to the Youth League, the SACP, Cosatu and the government, and many party leaders who had their eye on government deployment or wanted to punish Zuma for not rewarding them sufficiently for their support in the run-up to the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference had come together in what could only be called ‘a coalition of the wounded’, chief among these being cited as Vavi himself, now turning their overwhelming support against Zuma.
According to the paper, there was also a second group of leaders, calling themselves the “new frontier”, a subgroup of the broad front that questioned Zuma’s leadership. They were talking to one another and their so called constituencies about what they saw as the erosion of traditional ANC values. An ANC insider close to them said that they were discussing a return to such values as a rejection of corruption and a clear division between party and state. It had taken slightly more than two years for Zuma to alienate some of his staunchest supporters, including the ANC Youth League, the article said.
On April 2017, 7 years later, the story of Zuma abandoning ANC values is still a daily tune. Of the most vocal today is Dr Makhosi Khoza, comrades Derek Hanekom and Pravin Gordhan, with the ANC 101 veterans and UMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Council steering committee, South African Communist Party, and Congress of South African Trade Unions, all lamenting the abandonment of ANC values and principles by President Zuma. Former ANC secretary general Cheryl Carolus slammed Zuma for behaving in an “anti ANC way”. Added to this group recently is one Popo Molefe, who has found himself fighting corruption at Prasa and daily losing ground on his hold on his position in the Prasa board.
The question that arose then seems to arise today still, are these genuine voices of ANC comrades concerned about the erosion of ANC values or are these the people who are once again blaming Zuma for not rewarding them with either protection, positions or has taken away some lucrative positions previously held.
Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, buoyed by what has widely been deemed as unfair and irrational dismissal by President ZUma, joined this growing Anti-Zuma chorus which says the current leaders have failed to uphold highest levels of ethical leadership mostly after he lost his position as Finance Minister and has since moved aggressively to call on President Jacob Zuma to step aside.
In her latest reply to ANC KZN, Makhosi Khoza says, ‘There was a time where ANC members were required to truly live the values and principles of our organisation. That was the ANC that valued selfless dedication in the struggle for a democratic South Africa and a genuine concern for the will of the people, as captured in the principles of Batho Pele – People First. Our current leadership is not putting the people first. Our current leadership does not live the values of our organisation yet they choose to selectively apply sections of our organisation’s constitution to quell any voices of discontent”.
As a result Makhosi Khoza has warned that she will vote Zuma out of office in the upcoming vote of no confidence in the National Assembly. There has of course been 7 previous votes based on the same accusations and and Makhosi Khoza has not been this vocal. On 21 February 2017 Daily Maverick reported that Makhosi Khoza, an ANC MP on the finance committee, was moved to the committee on public service and administration committee. This was after rising in fame after her colorfully chairing of the ad hoc committee that interviewed the Public Protector. It was said she had grown ambitions into government ministry and the shift signaled she would be snubbed. So her new crusade of an ANC abandoning ANC values seemed to coincide with her being snubbed although she would have been keen to serve in the same executive she now heavily criticises.
Then there is the SACP, whose general secretary Blade Nzimande says the blame for the alleged state capture by the Guptas should be placed squarely at the doorstep of President Jacob Zuma and his son Duduzane. Awkardly for Nzimande, its seems he is playing a psychological game, one which says, “To continue to keep quiet will make people think I am under patronage”. This make his call one of political gamesmanship.
Then there is the labour movement, which has also added its voice to growing calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down saying it no longer believes in his leadership abilities as head of state. Cosatu’s anti-Zuma campaign started with Vavi and his cohorts who also had been rumoured to be bitter about not being deployed to government. The relationship between Zuma and Cosatu has never been the same. Today, as they did then, Cosatu justifies their reasons for calling on him to step aside by saying he has abandoned democratic constitutionality and transparency.
ANC structures so far have not shared much of this enthusiasm for a Zuma or NEC that has lost its way. The same NEC has warned many of its members who continue to push this narrative in public to stop and has gone further to take others through a disciplinary action. These ANC members however refuse to stop. They continue to lament the abandonment of ANC values by President Zuma and his leadership collective.
Surprisingly though, you can go back to Nelson Mandela, you will find a groups accusing him and his government of abandoning ANC values. One analyst said, There were many ways in which Nelson Mandela was wonderful and was a unifier, and so forth. But he had the same weakness that many of the ANC leaders that we’ve seen [have had], and you know, that weakness has deepened. It is party first.
So Mbeki abandoned ANC values, Zuma has abondoned ANC values, and even Mandela abondoned ANC values. This begs the most important question; Why is the ANC always abandoning its values to those who find themselves outside, whether its outside government, outside SOE’s, or simply just outside the ANC?
* Yonela Diko is a media consultant and strategist.