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Lessons for Zuma in Mugabe’s misfortunes

It is a fair bet that, whoever wins, an excuse will be made for a delegation from the party leadership to visit the president and to ask him to stand down.

Just ask former President Thabo Mbeki who was fired by his own ANC. If Zuma refuses to cooperate, then the ANC might turn to parliament, where enough ANC MPs might feel emboldened to vote with the opposition to dethrone him.

Like Mugabe, Zuma will be battling for a dignified exit. Even more urgently, he will be fighting for survival.

In previous years, Mugabe may have feared the prospect of retribution for his sins, and would have been determined to secure immunity from prosecution.

Now, at 93, he is confident that once out of office he will be left in peace. He may or may not appreciate the irony that, unlike his country’s last white ruler Ian Smith, he will not be able to stay in Zimbabwe after he has been forced to stand down, but he will know that he has to leave.

Neither the army nor ZANU-PF will want him hanging around, fearing his ability to continue pulling strings. So off he must go, to South Africa, Dubai or Singapore (anywhere with a few decent shops for his shopaholic wife Grace).

His major immediate concern then, we may presume, is safe passage and immunity for his family. We may further presume, that there is lots of money stashed away in foreign bank accounts to keep the crocodile from the door.

Zuma is differently placed. If he loses the Presidency he stands in all sorts of dangers, not least of which is prosecution for past financial crimes and the prospect of his ending his days in prison.

In other words, he has much more to bargain for, and he will be doing so from a considerably weaker position.

Not least of his problems is that he is a lot younger than Mugabe, so could spend quite a few years in jail.

Zuma’s major strength is that, whoever wins the party leadership, the ANC will probably want to grant him immunity and get him out of the way, as otherwise they face the prospect of their former leader facing a corruption trial during the lead up to elections in 2019.

But for a start, there is no provision for presidential immunity in the constitution, and its grant would face a strong challenge in the courts.

Furthermore, if the Gupta or other Zuma allies in the project of “state capture” were to be prosecuted, Zuma could face being dragged into court as a witness.

In short, Zuma will realise that it will make sense to hot-foot it out of the country, preferably to a comfortably authoritarian country which will turn down requests for extradition.

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