Who can say what the future holds for Zuma?

Will Zuma serve a second term?

Will he serve out his first term?

Who dares give an answer to these questions? Oh, alight I will.

I have burned myself before by being a little too sure and a lot too wrong about what the future holds.

Analysts like myself are constantly encouraged to take a firm view of what is going to be going down down the road. The client – usually a fund manager – is the person who has to take a bet on a number of future trends and it usually helps him or her to hear strongly stated predictions with the various arguments that support them from various analysts. If these analysts disagree, all the better. Hence outlier positions are often useful.

“So what percentage likelihood would you place on Zuma becoming president?” I would be constantly asked in the lead-up to Polokwane.

“Oh, not more than 45% … the Mbeki machine is kicking in …. the Zuma character issues are overwhelming …. the left of the Alliance is betting against history …. the ANC prefers educated leaders …”, blah, blah fish paste; if I could only go back there and shut myself up. But I have to believe (in an existential sense) that it added some value.

I am sure anyone whose job it is to understand the workings of a particular societal process or phenomena is likely to make mistakes when pushed to give specific predictions of outcomes. For political analysts I suspect the dangers are greater than for most. The errors seem to congregate in two broad categories:

Confusing how it feels with how it is:

There seems to be a strong human instinct for story telling and narrative that causes us to think of the ordering and outcome of events as being rooted in the origin of a story. The error is that we tend not to hold randomness as our base case (as I think we should – or rather my experience has taught me I should.)

Confusing the subjective with the objective:

This is about the power of what appears to be the consensus. We tend to believe the views that we collect and hear from others, especially when they are reflected back at us by everyone we speak to and by the media consensus. The future is, objectively, full of surprises. Don’t be confused by certainty and repetition – he said sternly to himself.

With those qualifiers, my ‘professional expectation’ is that Zuma will survive the first term of his presidency.

Both the ANC itself and the interplay of the Alliance partners are a real mess, but it took a Polokwane to throw out Mbeki and anyone involved in that process is probably still counting the costs of that exercise. In other words, doing it again, and this time without the kind of unanimity that surrounded the Mbeki ousting, would have to be overwhelmingly urgent as the costs in division and discontinuity would be overwhelming. And I don’t think there is any consensus in the alliance of forces (clearly no longer an alliance) that backed Zuma against Mbeki that there is the requisite urgency around the person and performance of the President.

I am less confident (although strictly speaking I am not confident – in the sense of being certain – about any ordering or outcome of events in the future) about the second term. Up until a few weeks ago I would have said: it is always easier to allow the sitting president to stay in his job when the big contending forces are still involved in the war of position; that no side’s victory is yet in sight. But even if the big power plays are not yet completed by the ANC centenary conference in 2012 there might be a consensus that a safer pair of hands (Motlanthe?) may be in order.

Zuma’s term as president is, unfortunately, proving itself to be that bad.

6 thoughts on “Who can say what the future holds for Zuma?

  1. But surely your Julius Malema piece strongly predicts that he is going to be a powerfull player. Are you not contradicting yourself ?

  2. There is nothing to worry about . The real power behind the scenes will see to that .

    The Shadow Party
    How George Soros , Hilary Clinton , and Sixties Radicals seized control of the Democratic Party
    by David Horowitz and Richard Poe

    Chapter 12

    Velvet Revolutions

    In the pursuit of his Utopia, Soros makes his own rules. He is not deterred by laws or governments that frustrate his signs. He will not hesitate to seek the forcible overthrow of gov-iments he has decided are oppressive or unjust. He is a manipu-:or of all available means. He will pursue revolution from above, it also revolution from below, by whatever means are necessary.” Working with the government may be more productive, but orking in countries whose government is hostile may be even lore rewarding” explained Soros in The Bubble of American upremacy. In hostile countries, he explained, “it is important to apport civil society to keep the flame of freedom alive. By resist-ig government interference, the foundation may be able to alert tie population that the government is abusing its authority.”1

  3. There was no unanimity surrounded the Mbeki ousting. In fact your prior analyisis of 45% support for Zunma was correct. What you ignored and still ignore like most analysts is the role of COSATU (using Sadtu and nursing unions) in flooding the ranks of the ANC. The ANC in 2007 increased its membership by 20%. The SACP, COSATU, and YCL ensured a mood of unrest to create an impression of general dissatisfaction with Mbeki, remember Khutsong, the “service protests” (which we now know are largely internal ANC mechanizations for power), the longest public sector strike in history, etc, and the concerted media campaign against Mbeki. Have you forgotten the delegations which were informed they could not participate in the conference on the week of the conference and were informed by the arbiter of the process (Kgalema Motlante) to reconstitute the GMs? Interesting thing was that more than 80% of these were from provinces and regions which had overwhelmingly supported Mbeki, and the determinant was none other than Kgalema, number 2 on Zuma’s list! Its certainly fashionable to refer to Polokwane as democracy in action and as a unanimous act by party delegates, but the realityis that it was an orchestrated campaign by the SACP, COSATU, tenderprenuer wannbe youth leaders, and businessmen proprietors of ANC regions, to oust a fellow who was now proving to be a threat to the symbiosis of provincial bigwigs and business in plundering the fiscus.
    To refer to Motlante as a pair of safer hands is extraordinarily opposite to reality. Have you forgotten that it was under Motlante as SG (effective CE of the ANC as opposed to the president as executive chairman, to use a corporate example) that the ANC branches collapsed and discipline all but disappeared? Gwede Mantashe is proving himself a more capable SG and exposes Motlante’s incompetence.
    One thing is certain; no one in the ANC wants the presidency or government power anymore. Being in the state limits one’s ability to plunder the fiscus therefore only those who have plundered the state already and now seek the prestige of power will rise to the occasion, namely, Sexwale and Ramaphosa. Both are correctly disliked for being the hypocrites and stooges of white business and the media (Sexwale, more the so). This leaves Cyril, who has long lost control of the ANC’s money networks, unlike Sexwale. Sexwale will never allow the ascendancy of Ramaphosa, it therefore it suits him to maintain Zuma’s incumbency. He has already done this by being the first ANC (not alliance) leader to support a second term for Zuma. In the interim he will continue building his money networks in preparation for gunning for the presidency in 2017. The sad thing is that he is too dumb to realize that the ANC will only be able to govern through a coalition in 2017 (like with the DA)! Or maybe he does realize that and hence his continued wooing of the white community and media.
    In summation, Zuma will sadly be the first RSA post liberation president to complete two terms!

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