Zuma gets new lease but . . .

Despite being acquitted of rape charges three weeks ago and being reinstated to his party post two weeks ago, a local survey has shown the ANC deputy president is still not favourite to take over the state reins from President Thabo Mbeki in 2009. Analysts believe Zuma’s chances of taking over the ANC presidency from Mbeki are also slim, given that Mbeki has indicated his intentions to continue as the party’s president. The survey, commissioned by local weekly the Sunday Times and conducted by research firm Markinor, assessed local sentiment of Zuma’s chances in the presidential race and found that 64 percent of people in a cross section of 12 metropolitan areas were against Zuma becoming the next president. Major candidates put forward by respondents in Zuma’s stead were current deputy president Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, Finance minister Trevor Manuel, Cyril Ramaphosa, and Foreign Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Democratic Alliance party leader Tony Leon also made the list of potential future presidents, but his inclusion was attributed by the researchers more to “an expression on anti-ANC sentiment”. The survey also found that 75 percent of respondents had developed a negative perception of the ANC and the government because of Zuma’s rape trial, while 40 percent ‘ compared to 49 percent for the opposite ‘ did not agree with Judge Willem van der Merwe’s judgment in the trial. While questions have surrounded the accuracy and significance of the survey, analysts believe it was largely reflective of urban sentiment regarding Zuma, and although it reflected this sentiment accurately, “a lot was still left unsaid”. “Apart from bringing in figures, the study basically supports the view that has been widely held for a long time. Zuma has a lot of support in the grassroots of the ANC and outside the urban areas and that is basically what that survey found. “A good thing that it has brought out is the extent to which the support or dislike for him (Zuma) spreads and that was something that was needed with the debate right now,” Wits University politics professor Susan Booysen said. A major question about the research has been its focus on the urban population, which has become gradually divided over issues relating to the country’s political leadership since Zuma’s troubles with the law began. The researchers in the Sunday Times survey believe their study is “an accurate barometer of urban political sentiment” and that “the Zuma saga has left South Africans divided and confused”. The survey, was reportedly conducted via telephone in 12 metropolitan areas and addressed respondents across an “even spread of income groups”. “Soweto was surveyed separately from Johannesburg to show any differences between racially mixed and black sample groups,” the Sunday Times said. While Zuma’s chances at taking over the leadership of the government and the ANC are slim, some observers believe his role has been transformed to that of a “king-maker” within the ANC. Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) analyst Adam Habib said Zuma’s popularity put him in a good position to further the ambitions of other candidates, even though his own ambitions had been severely dented. “If he puts his weight behind a particular candidate he could be very influential in the ANC’s succession debacle,” he said. Zuma has argued that his ambitions have been partly dented by a “conspiracy” by some in the ANC who have a vendetta against him, a sentiment both the ANC and the cabinet have vehemently denied. “Cabinet rejected insinuations that any member of the Executive or employee of the state may have been involved in illegal, underhand activities in the processes leading up to the (rape) trial,” government spokesperson Joel Netshitenzhe said. Zuma himself believes his support is within the people because “they identify” with him. “I have been part of the people and fighting with them. People felt that Zuma’s right was undermined, and that’s what made people stand up.” “That’s how people identify with me, as one of them, and as a person who would fight to the last degree with them,” he said in an interview after his acquittal. The analysts said the ANC’s National Executive Council (NEC) which decided Zuma’s fate within the party had been under “immense pressure” from those sympathetic to Zuma to reinstate him as deputy president. The former deputy president has the support of the ANC Youth League and Women’s League, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and members of the ANC’s Umkhonto weSizwe veterans association. Zuma is also understood to have the backing of ANC leaders such as the party’s secretary-general, Kgalema Motlanthe, KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Finance Zweli Mkhize and several ANC provincial leaders.

May 2006
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