Malema Hearing And Zimbabwe's Politics Of Transition

Malema has three scenarios awaiting him, expulsion, a prolonged suspension from the party and the third and most unlikely, acquittal.

Malema has in the past been accused of undermining the ANC president, Jacob Zuma and also other senior party members. Malema has also called for a regime change in Botswana, a charge that might see him expelled if found guilty.

Two perspectives have emerged from the Malema hearing, one that labels him as the possible ‘messiah’ for the poor and another one that sees him as nothing but an appendage of the political agenda seeking to unseat Zuma in twelve months’ time.

The hearings on Malema charges has helped expose deep underlying divisions within the party that in 2007 coalesced around Zuma to oust former President, Thabo Mbeki.

Barely finishing his first term, Jacob Zuma is facing strong divisions that threaten not only his powerbase but even more, his political survival in the coming Mangaung Conference.

The Mangaung conference has been dubbed the second ‘Polokwane’, a likely replica and repeat of Polokwane 2007 conference that saw Mbeki and his team being rejected by the party’s most voting districts.

Malema played a key role in unseating former President, Thabo Mbeki making him the kingmaker in the eyes of some political critics. According to some media reports, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela blames Zuma for the decision to charge Malema saying the decision was Zuma’s. She was the final witness to testify in Malema’s favour at the disciplinary hearing held in Johannesburg.

The position taken by Mandela and Human Settlements Minister, Tokyo Sexwale demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that indeed the ANC has now two or more camps with one pro and another one anti-Malema or Zuma and probably another camp anti-both. Zuma handpicked Lindiwe Zulu, his political advisor to testify against Malema together with the ANC secretary general, Gwede Mentashe.

There is a debate that the ANC Youth League has a wide support base within the structures of the ANC with more sympathy from the ordinary poor South Africans. Melema, his co-accused within the youth league, and broadly his faction within the ANC are strategically taking advantage of the perceived support to fight Malema’s political wars while at the same time increasing mobilization towards their agenda to unseat Zuma at Mangaung next year.

The recent economic freedom march fronted by the youth league and specifically Malema himself was seen as an effort to demonstrate the extent to which Julius Malema ‘the advocate of empowerment’ in South Africa enjoys widespread support within and outside the ANC.

Given the fact that numbers drawn to the march are contested between the ranges of 2000 to 10000, the question remains, how much support does the Malema movement enjoys within the South African body politic.

The question yet to be answered is whether Malema will be able to build a sustainable and effective movement outside the ANC and ANC Youth League if expelled. Will Malema become the second Bantu Holomisa or a total opposite?

If Malema is acquitted that is going to be viewed as indication of Zuma’s weakened position that might see ANC president battling to retain his position in the coming Mangaung conference. Already there are indications that deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe is being earmarked to contest Zuma in the coming conference.

If Malema is suspended- the most likely scenario, Zuma will get some breathing space and possibly mobilize ANC districts to re-elect him in Mangaung. If suspended, Malema’s political influence will be heavily weakened so is his camp.

If expelled Malema will find himself totally out of the ANC, he will also be out of the gravy train-which had seen him accumulate a lot of wealth allegedly through tenderpreneurship. This evidently would weaken Malema politically and financially. Malema would have to face the prospect of actively mobilizing against Zuma outside the formal ANC structures and functions or total neutralization.

Given the dominance of the ANC as a party/movement in South African politics, the challenge is how many people would want to follow Malema outside the ANC and therefore lose access to the state.

In the meantime Malema awaits Hawks, South Africa’s crime busting unit to formerly charge him on allegations of evading tax. Recent media reports stated that Hawks and South Africa Revenue Services (SARS) are jointly investigating Malema.

In the context of Zimbabwe’s transition politics, current dynamics within the ANC are very interesting.  In his visit to Zimbabwe few months ago, Gwede Mantashe, the ANC SG and close Zuma ally was reported to have told the leadership of Mugabe’s authoritarian regime that Zanu-PF was funding the Malema movement.

There is no doubt that Zanu-PF is uncomfortable with the Zuma-led ANC and its government. President Zuma has taken a tougher position than his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki against the Harare establishment in the mediation process.

While Mbeki was believed to be more closer to Robert Mugabe, whom he claimed to be a symbolic father figure in the context of the politics of the liberation struggle against a contemptuous posture he held for the Movement for Democratic Change in general and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai in particular.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in his recently published memoirs has implicated Mbeki in the 2005 split. If this is true, it bolsters the view that Mbeki played the Zanu-PF hand in his dealings with Zimbabwe politics.

More importantly, Mbeki polarized his relations with MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai inspire of his role as chief mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis. Some critics have linked the dominance of Zanu-PF in the politics of the GPA to the role played by Thabo Mbeki, both in the crafting of the GPA and its implementation before Mbeki was deposed as ANC and South Africa’s President.

Enter Zuma in 2008, he publicly adopted a tough posture, publicly stating that players in Zimbabwe’s IG were only faced with and had to fully implement the GPA to save their country and the region from a potentially endless political contagion triggered by incessant quarrels by the tripartite parties which formed the IG.

Zuma ruffled the Zanu-PF hardliners and Mr. Mugabe himself by insisting at regional forums that the GPA had to be fully implemented. While it could be a coincidence, the MDC has gradually emerged stronger, breaking a trend which had seen Zanu-PF enjoy a dominant position with state and liberation political party actors in the SADC region.

In terms of the political configuration within the SADC region in respect to the Zimbabwe crisis, the Zanu-PF position has been totally weakened. In other words the exclusive legitimacy and therefore the dominance which Zanu-PF solely enjoyed against other politics actors in Zimbabwe have been shuttered. Part of this can be explained by a radical and tough posture which President Zuma took on assuming the Presidency of ANC and South Africa and becoming the chief mediator.

Zanu-PF has explicitly stated its dislike of Zuma and his facilitation team. Zanu-PF’s propagandists Jonathan Moyo and George Charamba have brazenly attacked Zuma’s facilitation team through state controlled media, especially Sunday Mail and Herald, which are officially abused as Zanu-PF mouthpieces.

Zanu-PF also stridently opposed Zuma’s chairmanship of SADC troika. Zanu-PF would clearly be happier with an ANC government led by someone else other than Zuma.

It is not surprising that Zanu-PF has been implicated in the clandestine funding of Malema’s ANC wars. Zanu-PF is desperate to promote regime change in Pretoria. The survival of President Zuma will further complicate and compromise the survival of Zanu-PF side of the IG. It is a given that Zanu-PF would pump money into the Malema campaign since his attitude towards the MDC is no different from Zanu-PF. Zuma’s tough position , however minimal practical impact on the political dynamics in Zimbabwe is definitive in terms of potential solution to the Zimbabwe crisis.

One can argue that with the Mbeki presidency Zanu-PF would have scheduled elections in Zimbabwe by end of 2011. In 2008 , Mugabe did not only impose an election on the country , he went on to embark on a civil war after losing the March harmonized election (run off/ operation mavhotera papi) with the acquiescence of President Mbeki either passively or actively.

It is very unlikely that such a position would be tenable in the context of the regional dynamics where Jacob Zuma is the President of South Africa and given South Africa’s political and economic strength in the SADC and AU region, and Jacob Zuma’s expressed attitude towards Zanu-PF actions and his policies towards the IG in Zimbabwe.

The current political dynamics in the ANC, especially the survival of President Zuma or otherwise will have a great impact to the momentum and sequence of the process of the political transition in Zimbabwe. The survival of Julius Malema, especially if it translates to the new regime in Pretoria might muddy and complicate transition process in Zimbabwe hence making this week one of the most vital periods in both Zimbabwe and South African politics.

Gideon Chitanga PhD Fellow (Politics and International Studies) at Rhodes University and Trust Matsilele is a journalist and an Masters of Philosophy Journalism Candidate at Stellenbosch University.