Although he no longer holds office, Jacob Zuma remains an asset for opposition parties. His self-centred actions weaken the ANC.
Zuma supporters reportedly plan to oust President Cyril Ramaphosa as party leader. The scheme involves calling an early ANC national general council, then converting that to a national elective conference where Ramaphosa is deposed for failing to implement party resolutions.
Ostensibly the motive is to punish Ramaphosa for removing Zuma from office before his term expired. A more likely reason is to keep Zuma out of prison. And prevent further unravelling of a corrupt patronage network.
The plot has been denied, even ridiculed. But Zuma did address multitudes demonstrating outside court in Durban on Friday, where he threatened violence and complained about unfair treatment at the hands of the new leadership. Something is afoot.
Many supporters defied an ANC instruction not to wear party regalia for the occasion. Zuma and company care little for party unity and loyalty. Nelson Mandela’s pride at being a “loyal and disciplined member” is lost in Zuma’s hubristic fog.
It has long been obvious that Zuma does not have the interests of the country at heart. He does not care much about the ANC either. His main focus, as always, is on what’s best for number one. Everything else is secondary.
Remember that because of Zuma, the ANC underwent two significant splits: the formation of the Congress of the People in 2008 and the EFF in 2013. The intra-party divisions in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere can also be traced to him. If the pro-Zuma faction continues on its current course, a further schism cannot be ruled out.
Any weakening of the ANC will help the DA and the EFF in the next elections, which are scheduled for 2019 but could be earlier. In that sense, Zuma is a gift that keeps on giving – to other parties.
Yet it would be unwise for the opposition to continue banking on Zuma or any future ANC split. Indeed, both the DA and the EFF have realised they need to look beyond Zuma, even if there is much unfinished business around his departure from the stage.
For example, who should pay the legal bills that arise from his habit of contesting every decision that goes against him? The R15.3 million which the presidency has admitted to paying so far for Zuma’s legal fees may in fact be an understatement.
You and I as taxpayers should not be expected to carry the financial burden of defending the morally and legally indefensible.
And what about charges arising from his tenure as president, rather than much older counts that saw him appear in court last week? State capture during the Gupta years implies criminal activity on a grand scale. Newer charges must surely come.
Because of such considerations, Zuma will remain in the headlines. The more support he attracts, the more the ANC is weakened. And multi-party democracy is strengthened.
So let his motley crew keep protesting and plotting. They are doing opposition parties a favour, and they shall not win.