Clinging to power
It seems as if it had occurred in South Africa just the other day. The iconic Nelson Mandela walked out of prison a free man, to the cheers of the entire world that believed in the ideals of freedom and justice. The shameful practice of apartheid was relegated to history for good. The whole world embraced a nation that had earlier been scorned. With President Mandela showing the way, there was an abundance of peace, goodwill and prosperity. When he decided to retire from active politics at the right time, many knew that the dreams that he had dreamt would, unfortunately, remain unfulfilled. And, that is exactly what happened. But for the dreams to turn into nightmares was unimaginable. Thereafter, the world witnessed the arrival of leaders like President Thabo Mbeki and President Jacob Zuma. Neither was the former willing to leave after his second term ended nor is the latter willing to call it a day even after corruption charges have mounted to incredible heights. Rumours that President Jacob Zuma has instructed the South African National Defence Force to draw up plans for implementing a state of emergency may or may not be true. Nonetheless, they are evidence of South Africa's febrile political atmosphere. But any assumption that the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as the new leader of the African National Congress (ANC), after winning the race against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, will place South Africa on an even keel are misplaced. Indeed, the drama may only be beginning. The question this raises is whether South Africa should now expect a repeat performance following the election of a new leader of the ANC. Will this lead to a party instruction to Zuma to stand down as president of the country? And if it does, will he do what Mbeki did and meekly resign? Zuma will not. He has numerous reasons to cling on to his power. This is what makes him and the immediate future dangerous for South Africa and suggests that the country faces potential instability. It is not out of the question that Zuma may say to himself and to South Africa that he is not going anywhere. In terms of the South African Constitution, his term of office will be brought to an early end only if the Parliament passes a vote of no confidence in his presidency, or votes that, for one reason or another, he is unfit for office. But today's ANC is so divided that it cannot be assumed that a majority of ANC MPs would back a motion of no confidence, even following the election of Ramaphosa as the party's new leader. In other words, there is a very real prospect that South Africa will see itself ruled for at least another 18 months or so by what is termed as "two centres of power", with the authority and the legitimacy of the party (formally backing Ramaphosa) vying against that of the state (headed by Jacob Zuma). Where would the loyalties lie in the event of a major constitutional crisis? What is certain is that in such a wholly uncertain situation the economy would quickly spiral downwards.