For all the fury and fury that had brought South Africa to the brink of a constitutional crisis, in the end Jacob Zuma went quietly – taken to prison on the dead night after his VIP security guards l ‘were arrested under the order of the highest in the country. court.
But as the former president began a 15-month sentence in the early hours of Thursday for challenging a constitutional court order to appear in an investigation into corruption, it has been a moment of urgency for the African National Congress that dominates the country’s politics.
The South African ruling party ousted Zuma in 2018 and replaced him with Cyril Ramaphosa, who has slowly restored institutions plundered by the “capture of the State” or by systematic looting under his predecessor.
Only now, with his incarceration, does the ANC emerge from Zuma’s shadow, having faced what he described as “counter-revolutionary appeals to violence and even calls for civil war” by Zuma’s supporters in their ranghi.
“This is a defining moment” for Ramaphosa, said Ralph Mathekga, political analyst. “It’s at a point in history where it could put the ANC on a completely different path. It won’t be an easy job… It doesn’t mean the ANC has to deal with hegemony.”
Mythology of a movement
For now Africa’s oldest liberation movement remains the main electoral force in South Africa, 27 years after winning the country’s first democratic elections.
Voters gave him more than 57 percent of the vote in the last national election in 2019 and the party maintains the loyalty of much of the country’s black majority against fractured opposition parties.
At the heart of her mythology is the image she presents of herself as the “head of society,” or vanguard of engaged cadres who are sent to parliament, state companies, and other institutions to implement them. and party resolutions. Decades after the end of apartheid, the party says it has hundreds of thousands of members in local branches.
Shortly after a delay due to a fierce third wave of coronaviruses will prevent it from performing well in local elections later this year, analysts say. This is despite a failing economy and the collapse of the provision of basic services in many municipalities that are on guard.
Returned from factions
But Ramaphosa’s battle to control the party’s fate is far from over. The ANC is backed by factions and “must always be carefully monitored by Zuma policy” that merges party and state, Mathekga said.
The state’s capture investigation – in which Zuma refused to participate – heard that the former president made it easy to manipulate party networks to promote friends and dig up institutions, from revenue service to police and prosecutors, to give release to the grafts. He denies the claims, which have been made by dozens of witnesses.
Ramaphosa acknowledged in his own testimony this year that the ANC’s internal democracy has collapsed and factions have become pegged in a power struggle that has made “fertile ground” for plunder.
Patronage policy remains entrenched in the ANC, analysts say. The party has only recently suspended Ace Magashule, an ally of Zuma, as secretary general after being accused of corruption, in the highest case among several investigations involving ANC members.
“Zuma’s shadow will be with the ANC for some time because he has redone the ANC in his image. It will take a lot to undo that” and reverse the descent of the former liberation party into “the kleptocracy a more blatant, ”said Sithembile Mbete, a political scientist at the University of Pretoria.
Party vs. State
For those coming into the Zuma era, the party has taken precedence over the state, he said. “The ANC has thrived on this confusion of party and state and this idea that what is good for the party is good for the state,” he added.
Ramaphosa’s restoration of independent institutions such as the police, prosecutors and other bodies is going to somehow change that. While Zuma took on “a few lawless judges” and an investigation he said was politically motivated, Ramaphosa allowed independent institutions to pursue their investigations on his predecessor. Recognition of the primacy of the institutions “weakens the ANC as the leader of society.” . . but it opens the way for a functioning ANC to emerge, ”Mbete said.
The culture of impunity under Zuma began even before he took power, when state prosecutors opened their way to the presidency in 2009 by blaming accusations he had put corrupt in a gun deal. the 90s.
More than a decade later, a long-delayed trial on those recovered charges is finally underway – although this time, he will already be a state prisoner when he appears in court later this month.
In the years between, “the largest part of the electorate and the generation that will be politically active have grown up with a dysfunctional ANC” and have never known it as a leader of society, Mbete said.
With Zuma’s prison, he added, “there is an opportunity here for the ANC to recover.”