Teflon president: Top ANC leaders regret criticising Zuma over Gordhan purge

ANC logo stencilled on a wall in Soweto, Johannesburg.

Top ANC leaders seem paralysed by the choke-hold that President Jacob Zuma is exerting on the party or they’re just plain spineless. Despite three of the ANC’s top six – Gwede Mantashe, Cyril Ramaphosa and Zweli Mkhize – coming out last week to publicly criticise Zuma’s move to fire respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan, the party on Wednesday said that these calls were a ‘mistake’. Last week’s Cabinet reshuffle was just the latest scandal to hit Zuma’s presidency and comes just a year after the Constitutional Court ruled that he violated his oath of office by allowing multi-million rand upgrades to his Nkandla homestead. Meanwhile, the repercussions of Zuma’s actions will impact South Africans negatively for years to come as S&P this week downgraded the country’s credit rating to junk status. This is just the start of a domino effect that will leave South Africans poorer. But with an ANC that can’t rectify itself, the future of the country remains at stake. The only glimmer of hope lies in the 2019 elections, in which pundits forecast that the ANC will risk losing its majority. Until then, though, the economy continues to bleed and Zuma looks likely to become more emboldened in his imperialistic ways. Cry the beloved country. – Gareth van Zyl. 

By Mahlatse Gallens, News24

Johannesburg – Three of the ANC’s top officials – deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, secretary general Gwede Mantashe, and treasurer general Zweli Mkhize – have accepted that they made a “mistake” by publicly criticising President Jacob Zuma following his Cabinet reshuffle.

Zuma has won the day after a special extended ANC National Working Committee meeting rejected calls for him to step down.

“Officials had a candid report on serious issue disagreements, it was a mistake that must not to be committed again,” Mantashe said.

Mantashe was speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday morning, a day after the NWC met.

African National Congress Secretary General Gwede Mantashe. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

‘Lambasted’

Insiders who attended the meeting, which lasted several hours on Tuesday night, said the trio were “lambasted” for speaking out.

“We must find it adult enough to close the door, beat each other up, if you find me with a blue eye, I must develop a narrative that I bumped a pole rather than going public with disagreements,” Mantashe told journalists.

He said the 2007 resolution that premiers and mayors should consult ANC leadership before changing their executive was behind the “shortcoming” in managing the reshuffle.

The party members who attended the NWC meeting had also accepted that Zuma’s broken relationship with former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was enough reason for him to fire him.

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Mantashe said it was unfortunate that some leaders had used an intelligence report as a reason for Gordhan’s dismissal. 

“NWC accepted that the irretrievable breakdown of relationship was sufficient explanation between president and members of Cabinet, issue of intelligence report complicated matter,” Mantashe said

The NWC meeting included provincial chairpersons and secretaries, and was said to be dominated by Zuma supporters.

Unparalleled revolt

The ANC is facing an unparalleled revolt against a party leader in office. Calls for Zuma to step down have come from within the governing party, including from prominent stalwarts, the SACP and Cosatu, who had campaigned for Zuma’s presidency.

Meanwhile, opposition parties, civil society, religious leaders and unions are planning anti-Zuma protests across the country.

However, supporters of Zuma, like the ANC Youth and Women’s Leagues, are planning pushback campaigns, including celebrations to mark Zuma’s birthday next Wednesday.

On Tuesday, NEC member Nomvula Mokonyane said Zuma would remain at the helm until 2019.

From Bloomberg: Zuma said to survive calls to quit in ANC

By Sam Mkokeli

Johannesburg – South African President Jacob Zuma survived calls to resign by members of the ruling party following his decision to fire his finance minister and stack the cabinet with loyalists, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The rand reversed earlier gains.

At a Tuesday meeting in Johannesburg of the ANC’s National Working Committee, Zuma rejected accusations that he hadn’t consulted adequately before a cabinet reshuffle that included the removal of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and received some support from members of the party’s so-called Top 6 officials, the people said, asking not to be identified because a public statement hasn’t been made.

Leaders of the ANC at a gathering.

The decision heightens chances that Zuma will survive an opposition-sponsored vote of no confidence in parliament if the leadership of the National Assembly allows it to go ahead. It came in the face of widespread criticism of Zuma’s cabinet changes that prompted S&P Global Ratings to downgrade the nation’s credit rating to junk and weakened the rand.

Before the meeting, the president drew rare public criticism from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and other senior party members, including ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe and Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize, who publicly questioned the manner in which the cabinet changes were handled. Ramaphosa had called Zuma’s reasons for firing Gordhan “unacceptable.”

Resignation Calls

The meeting also slammed the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the nation’s biggest labor federation, and the South African Communist party, both allies of the ANC that called for Zuma to resign. The ANC is concerned about the breakdown in the relationship with its allies, Mantashe told reporters Wednesday in Johannesburg.

A breakdown in the relationship between Zuma and Gordhan, who had feuded over the affordability of building nuclear power plants and the management of state-owned companies, led to the cabinet reshuffle, Mantashe said.

“Zuma would not carry out a controversial cabinet reshuffle such as this one without lining up his support within the party to push back against the backlash,”  Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, a Johannesburg-based research group, said by phone on Wednesday. “Even if you have those members speaking openly against him, the balance is such that he’s still quite firm within the party.”

The rand weakened 1.1 percent to 13.7707 per dollar as of 11:22 a.m. in Johannesburg after the report, reversing an earlier gain of as much as 1.1 percent. Yields on government’s benchmark rand bond due December 2026 rose 5 basis points to 8.96 percent.

While Zuma has survived a series of corruption scandals and presided over the party’s worst-electoral performance since the end of apartheid in 1994 in municipal elections in August, the majority of ANC officials have stuck by him.

With Zuma scheduled to step down as party leader in December and as the nation’s president in 2019, many ANC officials may believe it’s not the time to remove him, said Daryl Glaser, a political science professor at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

“The ANC is not going to go into the next election under Zuma, and I guess there will be some in the ANC who think that if they can just sit it out until the elective conference or until the next election in 2019, then the ANC can hold on electorally under new leadership,” he said.

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