'Compromise deal is the answer'
Jacob Zuma must lead ANC, but not South Africa
THE best solution to prevent an implosion in the ANC because of the destabilising succession battle, is to cobble together a compromise political deal.
This deal will see President Jacob Zuma as president of the ANC and either Kgalema Motlanthe, Cyril Ramaphosa or someone else as the president of the country.
The harsh reality is that even if Zuma wins at the ANC's December Mangaung national elective conference, his battles with his opponents within and outside the party will continue, paralysing his presidency.
South Africa may then have the spectre of another five-year Zuma presidential term with the same ANC and government divisions, infighting and paralysis - which it cannot afford.
These political fights will compromise the delivery of public services, job creation and development initiatives to lift economic growth at national, provincial and municipal level.
Civil servants, political and business leaders are likely to be on a go-slow until it is clear that Zuma is going to be re-elected at Mangaung before committing to any major economic development programmes.
Already South Africa has seen double-digit price increases in electricity, fuel and the additional costs brought by the e-tolls - and the related price inflation of almost every service.
There has been little innovative leadership as political leaders are preoccupied with power games.
It is likely that the combination of political and government paralysis, and the impact of the global and Eurozone crises will increase domestic unemployment, poverty and economic difficulties among the middle classes outside the public sector.
Not only will the poor, unemployed and young suffer - but also the middle class, particularly the black middle class.
This was the main reason behind the so-called "Arab Spring" uprisings in North Africa: the poor, unemployed, youth and the middle class joined to protest economic difficulties, and development for only a small ruling elite and endemic corruption.
So far it appears to neutrals that Zuma, in his campaign battle to secure his re-election, is using state institutions such as the intelligence, judiciary and police services to sideline opponents.
Furthermore, neutrals and critics perceive him to be packing key positions in the ANC and state - especially intelligence, police, prosecuting authorities and judiciary - with close allies, who could protect him against prosecution for past wrongdoing, including his alleged involvement in the controversial multi-million arms procurement deal.
Clearly it is unlikely that political opponents of Zuma's bid for a second term will roll over.
They will fight back, using their very own positions in the state, security, intelligence and police services to leak counter information of present and past compromising behaviour of Zuma and his allies.
They will most probably also use the pockets of the security, intelligence and police services to attack him and his allies.
The attacks will not stop when Zuma is re-elected ANC president in December.
Every dismissal perceived to be orchestrated by Zuma of an official seen as an opponent to his re-election and every attack on a constituency seen to be opposed to Zuma will create new enemies and centres of hostility ready to take him on.
A political deal can be cobbled together for Zuma in which he gets immunity from prosecution on condition he relinquishes the presidency of the country.
Such a deal will offer him a dignified exit while he still retains some power.
As ANC president he could, for example, focus on things such as modernising the ANC's clearly outdated structures, internal election procedures and rules.
It appears that many of the president's current actions are mostly aimed at preventing him being prosecuted.
In a democracy, extra-judicial political deals should normally be discouraged. Cobbling together a political amnesty deal for Zuma is of course not only controversial, but it will set a dangerous precedent. Others implicated in wrongdoing may justly ask that they also be given such freedom deals.
But it could save South Africa from certain implosion. Unless the country's leadership, values and priorities are overhauled, such a deal may be absolutely necessary.
This will mean others involved in the arms deal might also have to be given immunity deals. As the most senior ANC leader, Zuma should put his stamp to such a deal.
Most importantly, Zuma appears to have lost the trust of large constituencies within and outside the ANC.
The reality is whatever reform, whatever new appointment made by the president will be viewed with skepticism, seen as yet another partisan move to benefit him either personally, his allies or his faction.
No matter how popular one is, if one's credibility is gone, government will remain in paralysis as opponents fight one's every move.
Ordinary ANC members and citizens will suffer most from the ANC's leadership battles at a time when the country needs credible, trustworthy and forward-looking leadership to deal with rising poverty, joblessness and poor public service delivery.
The country is also facing an uncertain future because of the negative spillovers from global and Eurozone financial crises, which will mean fewer buyers for South Africa's products, which will translate into fewer jobs at home.
Furthermore, new rising emerging powers such as China, who portray themselves as our allies, but are in fact our deadly competitors, will edge us out in Africa. Again, this will mean fewer jobs at home.
Unless we have intelligent leaders who can deal with the rise of the new emerging powers such as China, South Africa may face the prospect of being recolonised.
Unfortunately, the perception has taken root that the Zuma presidency is only looking after its "own" and it is not using the talents of all South Africans, let alone all the talent in the ANC. Using all talents is absolutely necessary to create wealth for all, rather than a few.
- Gumede is honorary associate professor, Graduate School of Public and Development Management, University of the Witwatersrand and author of the bestselling book, 'Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC'.