Since nobody else seems to be willing to explain Mangaung, the Creator will have to.
The fundamental task for the ANC is to serve the interests of the ruling class. Within that task, however, the fundamental goal for the leadership of the ANC is to preserve their jobs and access to public funds which they can pocket. These two problems conflict when elections come round, because too much stealing becomes conspicuous and this embarrasses the ruling class, who want to steal public funds without too much discussion of the matter (see the New Growth Path for details of how ’tis done).
This makes for several problems for Jacob Zuma. He is quite aware that his greed and corruption are embarrassments for the big business interests who put him in power. Not all of them, of course, but some of them. Meanwhile, some of the other big business interests who put him in power wish to exploit his greed and corruption in order to bring down the ANC and replace it with a white government (no doubt with a few black people sitting close to the glass front-door).
What Zuma therefore needed was to have absolute control of the ANC. Unfortunately, he had kicked out most of the competent leadership of the party and replaced them with untrustworthy sleazebags because those were the people who supported his coups. Therefore he had to find other untrustworthy sleazebags who could be installed to replace the original untrustworthy sleazebags if they stepped out of line. The constant danger was that the sleazebags might turn on him, and so he had to ratchet up fear and eliminate dissent and generally turn his party into something very like the SACP. In doing that, he had to rely on the SACP itself, which is like trying to ride across a river in an oil-drum full of puff-adders.
It worked up to a point, however, because the SACP is itself so enfeebled that it cannot take charge of the ANC, as it discovered when it tried to take over the Western Cape ANC. Therefore it needs Zuma, and therefore Mantashe and Nzimande and Cronin because Zuma’s closest allies. Provincial parties began fighting among themselves so energetically that it became possible to use the conflict to undermine hostility to Zuma, with judicious interventions by national officers. The actual structure of the provincial ANC parties was so weak and so undermined that, exhausted, they very often allowed Zuma’s agents to control their elections and thus ensure that only pro-Zuma delegates would go to Mangaung. Where this couldn’t be done, the elections were delayed until the last moment while bands of centrally-hired thugs broke up elections which were in danger of going the wrong way. (It’s all rather like a Nigerian election in the 1960s, as reflected in Achebe’s A Man of the People.)
So Zuma could be reasonably sure that he had the party under control. Of course, this didn’t help him with the business community. They might still have undermined him — and since the whole ANC consists of people who desire bribes, the business community could have bought out the delegates and finished Zuma. Except that the business community had no idea of whom to install, since the ANC was in such a dismantled state that kicking Zuma out might lead to a complete collapse of national administration — and in that case the Army would have been the logical force to take power, rather than the DA whom the business community want in control. So Zuma, if he walked on eggs, could be reasonably sure of getting in — but he was painfully aware that he was in an unstable position. One thing which he could do was pander to the business community by purging Julius Malema, thus identifying himself as a reliable man of the extreme political and economic right, and at the same time sucking up to the SACP, who hated Malema because he kept reminding them of the awful lies they were telling.
That, however, led to some problems among Zuma’s top supporters within the ANC. They had always supported Zuma because he was pretending to be left-wing, and they wanted to pretend to be left-wing too, and thus retain popularity. As a result, people like Kgalema Motlanthe and Matthews Phosa decided to pretend to support Malema. They didn’t really support him (except in the most abstract sense) but they also, probably, didn’t want to see Malema thrown out without anyone in the ANC putting up a fight, because then Malema’s huge support-base would be alienated from the ANC (and Malema himself might go elsewhere instead of vainly hoping to restore his membership, and a completely antipathetic Malema would be a huge problem for the ANC’s support in the 2014 elections). Plus, since the media were all anti-Malema, Motlanthe and Phosa could put themselves forward as critics of the white establishment without loss.
But Zuma and his friends didn’t seem to see it like that. Suddenly, senior members of the ANC were saying things which could be interpreted as critical of Zuma’s policies! This could not be tolerated! These enemies of the sacred Zuma must go! And so suddenly Phosa found himself being sidelined, while Motlanthe learned from the corporate newspapers that Zuma was thinking of putting Nzimande in as his Deputy President.
That wasn’t going to happen. The business community would never allow a Communist to run the country. In addition, because Nzimande is universally despised in the Charterist community, he would have found it impossible to handle the Presidency — and Nzimande is not the kind of man who wants extra work. Basically, this was a stalking-horse, and it backfired with a mighty fart; Motlanthe began casting about for allies who would help him get rid of Zuma at Mangaung. Again, this doesn’t mean that Motlanthe wanted to get rid of Zuma; what it meant was, basically, that two could play at that game, Mr. Zuma, and if you don’t want trouble at Mangaung, you get your goddamn Hummer off my lawn.
But that was precisely what Zuma wasn’t prepared to do. It’s possible that he feared that Motlanthe was really campaigning against him, being a paranoid authoritarian as he is. It’s even more likely that he recognised that Motlanthe was liable to unleash forces which he wouldn’t be able to stop — because Zuma is so unpopular within the ANC that a Motlanthe bandwagon would roll on regardless of whether Motlanthe was pushing it or not. Hence, Zuma had to get rid of Motlanthe.
The problem was, of course, that getting rid of Motlanthe would make the Motlanthe bandwagon inevitable. However, that wasn’t really a problem — after all, the Mangaung election would be sewn up by Mantashe, not Motlanthe. But if Motlanthe went under the bus, who would replace him? This was a serious problem, because the alternatives were getting rather desperate; so many of Zuma’s nominees for the Cabinet had turned out to be such egregious failures or crooks or both that they were unsuitable, and the old guard of the Mbeki Cabinet could not be trusted because they hated Zuma so much. What was needed was someone who would look vaguely Presidential, who would not threaten Zuma in any way but rather do exactly as he was told, who would bring some political clout onto the ticket — and, of course, who was approved of by the white businessmen who were really Zuma’s backers.
In the end, there could be only one choice — step forward, Cyril Ramaphosa!
When Jonathan Shapiro began attacking Ramaphosa, it was obvious that he was in the running. There was no reason to undermine Ramaphosa if he was only a trade unionist; manifestly, the corporate forces backing Shapiro did not like the prospect of Ramaphosa in the Presidency, because he would keep the ANC in power and the DA out for longer. This explains the weird smear against Ramaphosa after the Marikana massacre (the claims by Dali Mpofu, failed ANC plutocrat turned worthless lawyer, that Ramaphosa was responsible) and the ensuing rather pathetic battle against the smear waged by the newspapers owned by the white people who back Ramaphosa (such as the Sunday Times).
Of course, none of this has any impact on Ramaphosa’s prospects at Mangaung, because it’s all been fixed beforehand. (Unless the bought delegates don’t stay bought — but given the amount of money Ramaphosa has behind him, this is unlikely.) Essentially, it’s a winning situation for Zuma. Ramaphosa is a shoe-shine boy who has done nothing but obey other people’s orders ever since he countersigned the National Party’s Constitution in 1992-3 and then wrote it into the 1996 Constitution. He has zero support and zero credibility within the ANC. On the other hand, it’s been so long since he was in office that nobody really hates him any more (except for ideological reasons, and almost nobody in power in the ANC has an ideological perspective on anything). So this isn’t a bad thing, it means that he will take years to build up a power-base, and by then Zuma will be gone — one hopes.
Of course, he’s a right-wing neoliberal who’s completely in the pocket of the big business community who have been using him as a front-man for the last two decades, but so what? You say that like that’s a bad thing, Cde. Creator. The media are already stepping forward to assure us that Ramaphosa the Toad is the greatest thing since sliced bread, that after the next seven years of Zuma looting the Toadal One will use his magic superhuman free-market skills to make everything better again for us all (who earn over fifty million bucks a year, that is).
The only other danger is that once the fix is in at Mangaung, things will start to fall apart, because in the conflict-ridden ANC of today, nobody will have any reason to support Zuma after he’s shot his last bolt. And Ramaphosa will not be a friend to Zuma any more than he has been a friend to anyone else in the ANC. It looks like being an interesting seven years. To watch from a safe distance, that is.