Knives out in the final act of Zuma’s tragi-comedy?

OK, now it’s getting serious. When three members of Zuma’s cabinet demand that he step down and that a secret vote be held to finally settle the matter (at an NEC meeting this last weekend), that’s pretty high on the Richter Scale of earthquakes. The internal machinations and manoeuvring that must be going among the ANC leaders can only be imagined, with inside sources reporting debate around consensus versus secret ballot decision-making. Of course, the former is highly conducive to hauling out the seemingly telling argument of how much organisational and reputational damage was done to the party at the watershed conference in which Zuma so dramatically and humiliatingly ousted Mbeki. But surely that’s small potatoes compared to the damage and humiliation Zuma and his cohort have wreaked on the party with their arrogant, shady and impudent behaviour? Derek Hanekom has led what’s being reported as an ‘ambush’ attack, asking Zuma to step down, backed by two other prominent cabinet ministers and, (no surprise here), ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu. The next few weeks are going to be riveting as we fasten our seatbelts in the front row seats for the final act of this ongoing and absurd tragi-comedy. – Chris Bateman

By Mahlatse Gallens

Johannesburg – At least three members of President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet are said to have led impassioned calls for him to step down or that the ANC national executive committee (NEC) vote to remove him.

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi asked Zuma to resign. They were strongly supported by ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu.

File photo: South Africa's President Jacob Zuma. REUTERS/Mies Hutchings
File photo: South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma. REUTERS/Mies Hutchings

The president’s alleged improper relationship with the Gupta family, the decline in ANC support during local government elections and the Nkandla scandal were used as bases for him to step down.

The ANC NEC meeting, scheduled to end on Sunday, was extended to Monday as a “rough”, “fierce” and “robust” debate over his fate had not been concluded. Zuma’s supporters in the NEC are expected to lead a vocal fightback on Monday.

News24 has learned from inside sources that more than 30 people spoke for and against the “surprise” motion tabled by Hanekom for Zuma to step down on Saturday.

City Press reported on Sunday that those set on removing Zuma were lobbying for a secret ballot to determine the president’s fate.

A Zuma supporter in the NEC told News24 the debate showcased the deepening divisions within cabinet and raised questions about how Zuma could continue working with cabinet members who had no confidence in him, should he survive.

Derek Hanekom
Derek Hanekom

News24 was told at least three Zuma cabinet ministers pushed for his removal: Hanekom, Nxesi and Motsoaledi. But Zuma was defended by three other ministers: International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; State Security Minister David Mahlobo, and Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana. Zokwana is said to have argued that the party had emerged wounded and split after former president Thabo Mbeki was recalled and warned that they should not do it again.

The source said Zokwana’s defence of Zuma was a surprise as he was chairperson of the South African Communist Party – which has made a dramatic U-turn in its support of Zuma. Nxesi and Thenjiwe Mtintso, who also called for Zuma to step down, are also senior SACP members. Mtintso is a former deputy secretary-general of the ANC.

News24 understands that Zuma’s defenders asked his critics in cabinet to themselves resign.

“Why don’t they resign? How do you work with him (Zuma) when you don’t have confidence in him?” asked an NEC member.

Zuma supporters ‘ambushed’

Zuma’s supporters admitted that the Hanekom motion caught them by surprise and they had to fight back on Sunday.

“It was an ambush, all of us were relaxed going to the NEC, expecting to prepare for January 8 and deal with other organisational matters, and they followed each other arguing for the president to step down. It felt like they had caucused and planned it somewhere else and they thought they had the numbers to win,” the NEC member said.

The pro-Zuma faction had to fight back after Saturday’s “ambush”, which they described as “rough”. The NEC was extended by a day and Zuma’s defenders were expected to speak against Hanekom’s motion on Monday.

The NEC, which was previously seen to be dominated by Zuma supporters, has until now taken no action against Zuma.

Aaron Motsoaledi
Aaron Motsoaledi

It accepted his apology following the Constitutional Court ruling in March that he had failed to uphold the Constitution by not implementing former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s remedial action to pay back some of the money spent on upgrades to his Nkandla home.

The structure also decided to take collective responsibility following a decline in electoral support during local government elections that saw the party lose the Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane metros.

Zuma’s defenders argued that the calls for Zuma to go could not resurface now, given the NEC’s previous decisions and that Madonsela’s state capture report was not conclusive and under review. Another NEC member argued that the NEC has never voted, but always decided by consensus and therefore the motion to vote should fail. – News24


Zuma presidency in peril as ANC bosses quarrel over ousting him

by Sam Mkokeli

(Bloomberg) — Jacob Zuma’s future as president of South Africa hangs in the balance as an increasing number of his governing party’s National Executive Committee members are backing calls for him to step down.

The move to oust Zuma has significant support in the African National Congress’s executive committee and it’s difficult to say whether he will survive as the nation’s president, said a senior official who’s in a meeting of the group and spoke on condition of anonymity. The committee, the most powerful party body between national conferences held every five years, has the power to order Zuma to resign as president of the country, not as leader of the ANC.

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, who proposed the motion to the committee’s more than 80 voting members at a meeting on Saturday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi asked Zuma to resign, the Johannesburg-based news agency News24 reported, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the matter. The three cabinet members were supported by the ANC chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, News24 said.

‘No Confidence’

While Zuma, 74, has survived moves against him in the ANC before, that members of his cabinet proposed the motion and that the discussion continues suggest his support may be waning. Zuma is scheduled to step down as the ANC’s leader in December next year and his second term as president ends in 2019. Calls for him to quit have multiplied as political missteps and a feud with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan over the tax collection agency roil markets. Compounding his woes is a top court ruling that he violated his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer funds spent on upgrading his private home.

“It’s a big milestone that they have managed to have on the agenda the discussion on Jacob Zuma’s leadership,” said Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, a Johannesburg-based research group. “What this does is to demonstrate to him is that his colleagues do not have confidence in him. He won’t take heed of that. He won’t voluntarily go.”

Senior ANC leaders unhappy with Zuma’s leadership who polled the committee’s voting members prior to the meeting found that 30 percent were loyal to him, 34 percent would vote against the president and the balance were undecided or non-committal, the Daily Maverick reported. They then decided to press the issue, even though that could prompt Zuma to purge his opponents from his cabinet, according to the Johannesburg-based website. The debate forced the extension of the planned two-day meeting into Monday.

Abuse of Power

“Those who abuse power, abuse our trust shall soon be taught that you are not the boss of the people but their servant,” Tito Mboweni, a former governor of South Africa’s central bank and a member of the ANC’s executive committee, said in a Twitter posting. “Time to go.”

The rand strengthened the most against the dollar among 31 major and emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg. It climbed as much as 2.2 percent against the dollar and was 1.7 percent stronger to 13.8729 by 12 p.m. in Johannesburg.

South Africa moved closer to a junk credit rating after Fitch Ratings Ltd. on Friday changed the outlook on its assessment to negative from stable and said that continued political instability could result in a downgrade. Political risks to the standards of governance and policy making have increased and will remain high at least until the ANC leadership election in December next year, Fitch said in an e-mailed statement. Moody’s Investors Service left the country’s rating at two levels above non-investment grade.

Pressure on the president to resign has mounted since the graft ombudsman released a report on Nov. 2 that implied Zuma may have let members of the Gupta family, who are his friends and in business with Zuma’s son, influence cabinet appointments, and called for a judicial inquiry commission to determine whether there had been any wrongdoing. Zuma and the Guptas deny intentionally violating any laws.

“If Zuma survives his most serious internal revolt, he will face a party even more factionalized and discontent than ever before,” said Daniel Silke, director of the Political Futures Consultancy in Cape Town. “The ANC National Executive Committee is no longer insulated or seemingly impenetrable to pressures from the ANC branches and formations in opposition to Zuma.”

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