It’s a given that suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule could not alone defeat Cyril Ramaphosa in elections, but a combination of him and former president Jacob Zuma had the potential to give the ANC a run for its money should they decide to break away.
A separation from the ANC could be the best option for Magashule if he would like to survive politically. A combination of him, Zuma and former North West ANC strongman Supra Mahumapelo could post a real challenge.
Zuma still enjoyed massive support in various parts of the country, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal.
His ally, Magashule, had himself built his own constituencies in the nine years he had been premier of the Free State and during his terms as the longest service provincial chair. But it did not absolve him from being labelled a manipulator who gained his political strength that way, including marginalising opponents towards elective provincial conferences.
The appearance of Magashule, Mahumapelo and ANC national executive committee member Tony Yengeni at Zuma’s trial for alleged corruption in Pietermaritzburg this week gave an idea of the future radical economic transformation (RET) group leadership, should they break away.
This “coalition of the wounded”, as the group was known, could open the way for political realignment as they had good chance of surviving or taking on the Ramaphosa-led ANC.
With Ramaphosa’s political strength rising, the RET’s definite competition were the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters to fight for the second or third best positions in parliament.
The trouble is, Zuma and Magashule, the main protagonists in the camp, are in courts facing corruption charges, among others, which had put a blemish on their reputations as leaders to be trusted with votes.
Then there was also the “cold outside the ANC” phenomenon – where ANC breakaway parties die due to diminishing votes. The RET could easily follow the Cope and Pan African Congress in becoming irrelevant.
They are at pains to explain the difference between their self-styled RET policy and the ANC’s radical socio-economic transformation, which is the same thing, save for semantics.
Besides, the group is yet to come up with what they could offer the voters that the ANC had not already done.
Political analyst Professor Barry Hanyane from North West University believed instead of breaking away, the RET grouping would prefer to “slog it out hoping to win the grand prize of taking full control of the ANC”.
But if Magashule was convicted of corruption, it would put a huge dent in his political career, as with Zuma.
“If Zuma is found guilty, it would throw the RET leadership into the doldrums. But with the ANC as the big prize, the RET would like to slog it to the last lap for total power,” Hanyane said.
But even on acquittal, the images of being corrupt leaders would haunt them for life.
The RET were likely to reduce the ANC majority down from 57%, forcing it to enter into a coalition with other parties to govern.