The recent decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to uphold a series of search and seizure warrants against ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma raises a question about whether he should continue with his manoeuvres to become the next president of the country.
Immediately after the SCA judgment last week, commentators and some neIwspaper editorials spoke about a cloud hanging over Zuma's head.
They said while Zuma remained innocent until found guilty, the court ruling cast his political future in doubt. Questions would also inevitably again arise about his suitability to contest the ANC presidential elections next month.
Unfortunately, these commentaries tend to overlook that Zuma's stance is reinforced by the fact that the ANC does not discourage its members facing criminal charges from operating within the party. Nor does it compel them to stand down from their positions. Tony Yengeni's case is one such example.
Even a temporary form of censure, like suspending a suspected offender, is not in the ANC's vocabulary. The ANC's rigid belief in the notion of "innocent until proven guilty" tends to ignore the implications of any future outcome of a court process, something that may come back to haunt the party.
If Zuma's current public and media campaign brings him victory in Limpopo and later the National Prosecuting Authority charges him with corruption, he will be the first ANC president to appear in court as a crime suspect.
Further, if the court processes drag on, as often happens with our courts, until after the 2009 general elections or after Zuma has realised his ultimate dream of becoming South Africa's president, he will go down in history as South Africa's first head of state to be criminally charged while in office.
The international consequences of this and the prospect of being jailed in the process, are too ghastly to contemplate.
Shadrack Gutto, director of the Centre for African Renaissance Studies at Unisa, says given the prospects that Zuma may be re-charged, the ANC will be in a dilemma should he be elected as the party's president and subsequently that of the country.
"He will be spending a lot of time in court rather than in the ANC or running the country. It will immediately have a negative effect. It will mean that we will have a president of the country who is not able to focus on matters of the state.
"Therefore, he (Zuma) should consider seriously whether he would like to drag the name of the party in the mud. He has to ask himself whether it will be in the best interests of the party to contest or not," Gutto said.
He said if Zuma was loyal or committed to the party, he would understand that charges of corruption would not do the ANC any good and would seriously damage the country's image.
However, Gutto stressed that it was not 100 percent certain that the NPA would re-charge Zuma.
"The ANC delegates must look at these possibilities in Limpopo," said Gutto.
A hidden but clear aspect in the succession race is the scramble for state resources and hunger for political power.
Somadoda Fikeni, an independent political analyst, says that the current battle for leadership is about proximity to power and influence, not about ideology, hence personality issues dominate the debate.
"Once you have an absence of an ideology debate, the discourse tends to become more driven by personalities, especially in the absence of ideological differences. This is the case in the current ANC leadership race," said Fikeni.
He said Mbeki was seen by the left as being not a "people's person" and "not consultative". This was a smokescreen to cover underlying issues about fighting back against Mbeki for depriving them of access to resources and positions of influence, he said.
Deducing from Fikeni's argument, those outside want to get in to access resources and those inside do not want to relinquish their stranglehold. This makes this race not about the interests of the poor or about leading the ANC, but about self-interest.
Could Mbeki have dug his own political grave by suspecting that Tokyo Sexwale, Mathews Phosa and Cyril Ramaphosa were plotting to oust him a few years ago? Except for Ramaphosa, today there is so much anti-Mbeki sentiment coming from Phosa and Sexwale as the leadership contest heats up.
Some in the trade union movement say Mbeki similarly antagonised the Left when he offered government posts to former Cosatu general-secretary Mbhazima Shilowa and former ANC Youth League president Malusi Gigaba while sidelining their successors, Zwelinzima Vavi and Fikile Mbalula.
"Vavi and Mbalula have been waiting for too long without anything coming, now they are fighting back," said a trade unionist.
In the same vein, added the unionist, everybody saw SACP general-secretary Blade Nzimande, then parliamentary education portfolio committee head, as an obvious choice to replace then education minister Sibusiso Bhengu. Instead the post was given to Kader Asmal. Asmal now promotes Ramaphosa for the ANC presidency.
"Is it a surprise then that Mbalula has become Zuma's campaigner-in-chief and Vavi and Nzimande are touting for Zuma? Zuma has become their last hope to government offices, especially for Mbalula, who has outlived his time as youth leader," said the Cosatu unionist.
The anger of MK veterans against Mbeki stems from their belief that he failed to address their needs. Instead, he "abused state resources" by allowing the NPA to pursue criminal charges against some of them.
In most revolutions, war vets have become easy fodder to boost the egos of political leaders. To ensure his political survival, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe hiked the veterans' pensions and when he could do it no more, he let them invade white farms.
Gutto said whether disgruntlement is a factor in the current opposition to Mbeki was difficult to prove, though it may be there.