Top six discord shows cracks in Cyril's unity project as 2019 looms
It is important for the ANC to portray unity in the lead up to the 2019 elections. In order to convince its supporters of stability, the party's leaders need to convey a coherent message and vision.
But unity requires agreement and consensus. And, depending on what that consensus is, unity will be good for some and bad for others.
The top six of the ANC should take the lead in this show of unity. The rest of the party will take their cue from them.
Utterances from the top six members of the party have laid bare the prevailing contradictions among the top office bearers of the ANC.
In different addresses and interviews at the weekend, secretary-general Ace Magashule and his deputy, Jesse Duarte, expressed displeasure at the suggestion that President Jacob Zuma would not complete his term.
Magashule labelled those calling for an early exit of Zuma factional and populist.
This is a swipe at Cyril Ramaphosa and his supporters in the national executive committee who would like to see Zuma leave office "in a dignified manner".
ANC deputy president David Mabuza, speaking in Limpopo, said ANC members should rally behind Ramaphosa. He went as far as saying, "He's very safe with me next to him". He repeated Ramaphosa's promise to fight state capture.
These contradictions cannot be understood outside the battle over state capture.
Whether Ramaphosa is complicit in aiding and abetting state capture by serving with Zuma for nine years and if this diminishes his credibility, is not critical at this stage.
Ramaphosa has appropriated the narrative on state capture to draw a line between himself and Zuma. While Zuma was willing to destroy party and state to enrich his family and associates, Ramaphosa is willing to wrestle the party and state out of the hands of unscrupulous narrow interests.
This is his political strategy, both to establish his hegemony within the ANC and to counter opposition party rhetoric. And his strategy is gaining traction.
Ramaphosa has not wasted time to set his agenda as ANC president. Orchestrating the appointment of a new Eskom board early on in his tenure was a clear sign that he is not bluffing about clearing the rot in state-owned enterprises.
Eskom has become symbolic of the endemic corruption, the flagrant disregard for good corporate governance and an abuse of taxpayers' money.
Eskom is also a model case demonstrating the logic and inner workings of state capture, which the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom is currently uncovering.
There is no better way that Ramaphosa could have signalled his seriousness about combating corruption.
Zuma's appointment of the commission into state capture so soon after the elective conference, demonstrates Ramaphosa's influence.
Zuma had been delaying the appointment of the commission through court action.
So far, Ramaphosa has given substance to his commitment that those implicated in state capture will be brought to book.
In the past few weeks, numerous reports of progress in investigations involving the Guptas and other key figures in the state capture saga have surfaced.
Although no indictments have been issued, both the Hawks and NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) have been bold in asserting that investigations are at an advanced stage with charges to be filed in the near future.
The independence of these law enforcement bodies is guaranteed in the constitution. However, it is no secret that they operate with a modicum of consideration for the political atmosphere of the day.
It is little wonder that Zuma supporters such as Magashule and Duarte should come out guns blazing. They know that their fate is intertwined with Zuma's.
It is public knowledge that they are implicated in the Gupta shenanigans, therefore, defending Zuma is more about protecting themselves. Postponing Zuma's departure buys them time and political insurance. But not for long.
This proxy battle will distract from the governing party's efforts to muster a coherent message towards 2019. Even so, Ramaphosa still has the upper hand.