Political verbosity as Mangaung nears

The weekend’s newspapers were littered with political stories dealing with the ruling party’s leadership battle.

All indications are that the incumbent president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, will be challenged by the party’s and country’s deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe. Mr Zuma can currently count the SA Communist Party and the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal as his biggest backers. Mr Motlanthe has the backing of the ANC’s Youth League and the secretary-general of the largest confederation of trade unionists, the Congress of SA Trade Unions.

According to newspaper reports, Cosatu is split down the middle on which of the two contenders it backs. The powerful secretary-general, Zwelinzima Vavi, has not formally announced his preferred candidate – and he is unlikely to do so. But his silence on the matter, as opposed to his vocal support for Mr Zuma as president back in 2007, speaks for itself.

What does this mean for agriculture?

Populist ramblings will be the order of the day, with calls for nationalisation – from banks to land and mines – increasing steadily until December’s ANC national congress in Mangaung. It will create uncertainty among farmers and businessmen alike. This political uncertainty is already playing out, with the ANC’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who is also the SA Communist Party’s chairman, calling for a constitutional amendment relaxing the absolute nature of property rights.

Mr Mantashe claims that the willing-buyer, willing-seller approach to land reform has failed. This is but one example of the rhetoric that will characterise South African politics in the coming months.