Grassroots start to sprout

The party faithful have spoken and Jacob Zuma got their nod.

The party faithful have spoken and Jacob Zuma got their nod.

Thabo Mbeki, statesman and consummate politician, has controlled the machinery of power with an iron hand for the past decade. But he and his cronies clearly failed to collar the affections of their grassroots power base.

The embattled Zuma is no shoo-in at the ruling party's national conference in Polokwane next month and might yet face charges of corruption that will eliminate him from contention.

But the ANC is smarting under Mbeki's quasi-Stalinist grip. Though the rebellious, organised left has long championed Zuma, both candidates assure us there is little substantive difference in their policies, though Zuma is now promising to deliver more.

So what does distinguish these two?

Zuma has Mandela's popular touch; the technocratic Mbeki is as stiff as a board.

But there's more to it than that.

Yesterday's result was as much a vote against Mbeki as one for Zuma.

Too many feel that the material benefits of freedom the party has trumpeted have been diverted to Mbeki's select cabal and no one else.

Maybe they are right, but has the populist Zuma engendered expectations he can never meet?

In his camp you are as likely to find those railing against patronage as those frustrated by a sense they've been unfairly sjambokked by the deadpan Mbeki.