Foggy outcome to murky race

Few would have thought it would happen this soon, but the twists and turns in the ANC's leadership race seem to have created a possible scenario perhaps not anticipated by the strategists of the two protagonists, President Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

Few would have thought it would happen this soon, but the twists and turns in the ANC's leadership race seem to have created a possible scenario perhaps not anticipated by the strategists of the two protagonists, President Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

This is that the ANC would be grappling with the reality of the concept of two centres of power foisting on the country the possibility of an early election.

This is in the event of Mbeki losing the presidency at the party's conference in Limpopo, and finding himself completing the last two years of his tenure as the country's president under the hawkish eye of his long-time adversary.

Notwithstanding the acrimonious tone of the two-way leadership race to date, a Zuma victory in Polokwane will probably present the party with the practical difficulties of the concept of two centres of power and its ramifications.

The fact that there is already talk of an early election - and perhaps Mbeki retiring as president before 2009 - in the event of him losing the party presidency in Limpopo, offers tacit acknowledgement that this might not be workable after all.

This therefore might pose a credibility problem for the concept and, worse, call into question the basis for its promotion in the first place.

This could lend credence to suspicions that the concept was motivated by efforts to ensure that Mbeki still called the shots from behind the scenes through an allied state president post-2009, when he retires as president.

Mbeki strategists are planning for a triumph in Polokwane that will pave the way for the ascension of his ally - in this case Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma - to the country's presidency.

But, with a Zuma party presidency now a strong possibility, a scenario is gradually emerging that could make the concept carry a sting in the tail for the Mbeki camp.

This presupposes that the Zuma camp would press for an early election in the event of its triumph, forcing an early exit by Mbeki.

Yet the outcome is still not even remotely a foregone conclusion if we are to heed the wisdom in the Shakespearean sage: that there's many a slip betwixt the cup and lip.

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