Defiant Zuma crushes dissent at ANC NEC meeting, threatens his detractors

President Jacob Zuma remains the strongman of South African politics as a remarkable majority of NEC members backed him at a key NEC meeting on the weekend, according to reports. Of the just over 70 NEC members, only 18 stood up to challenge Zuma, illustrating the stranglehold he has over his party and South Africa. The vast majority of NEC members reportedly defended Zuma. Like an abusive relationship, just when you think something may happen to break the cycle of hurt, it just continues. What happens to the ANC next will be up to the voters, but it’s increasingly clear that Zuma is intent on pushing out his term to 2019, regardless of the weekend’s bombshell reports around growing Gupta state capture. – Gareth van Zyl 

By Sam Mkokeli, Paul Vecchiatto and Mike Cohen

(Bloomberg) – A defiant South African President Jacob Zuma survived a bid by some members of the African National Congress’s top leadership to order his removal from office, according to three members of the ruling party’s national executive committee.

The committee decided on Sunday not to vote on a no-confidence motion in the president, according to the committee members, who asked not to be named because they aren’t authorised to speak publicly on the matter. Pressure had built on Zuma to quit following his March 31 decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister in a cabinet reshuffle, a move that sparked public protests and cost the country its investment grade credit rating.

President Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Bloomberg)

In his closing address to the three-day meeting, Zuma said he would not step down, according to one of the committee members. He accused foreign agents of being behind the attempt to remove him and said the issue of the NEC ousting him must never be raised again, the person said.

The decision will probably increase the chances that Zuma, 75, will survive a no-confidence motion called by opposition parties in parliament, whether or not the Constitutional Court orders a secret ballot for the vote. ANC lawmakers occupy 62 percent of the 400 seats in the National Assembly.

Power Base

“Despite all the pressures on Zuma and his government, his power base remains firmly intact,” Melanie Verwoerd, an independent political analyst and former ruling party lawmaker, said by phone from Cape Town.

Divisions in the party have widened since the ANC suffered its worst-ever electoral result when it lost control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, and Pretoria, the capital, in a municipal vote in August. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who’s a rival to Zuma’s ex-wife to succeed him as party leader in December, said on May 21 that South Africa is threatened with becoming a “mafia state.” Zuma, who’s presidential term ends in 2019, also survived a bid to remove him at the NEC’s previous meeting in November last year.

A man casts his ballot during South Africa’s local government elections in KwaMashu, north of Durban, South Africa, August 3, 2016. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

The rand pared gains of as much as 1.7 percent against the dollar and was 0.6 percent stronger at 12.8016 per dollar at 00:12 a.m. on Monday in Johannesburg.

A study by eight leading academics from four of the nation’s top universities released last week found that Zuma and his allies, including members of the Gupta family who are in business with his son, had carried out “a silent coup” that had enabled them to raid state assets and reap billions of rand from government contracts. Zuma and the Guptas have previously denied such allegations.

Zuma Support

Zuma supporters argued that the executive committee didn’t have the power to remove a sitting ANC president who’s appointed by its national congress, one of the NEC members said. Fifty-four members of the NEC spoke out in support of Zuma, while 18 said they wanted him to quit, the person said.

“Zuma surviving is not a surprise,” said Peter Attard Montalto, an economist at Nomura International Plc in London. “I still see him staying in his post until the first half of 2018.”

As the committee’s debate on Zuma’s future carried over from late Saturday, the Sunday Times and City Press newspapers reported that they obtained emails showing that Zuma was planning to establish a second home in the United Arab Emirates. The newspapers didn’t say where they got the information or how they verified the documents.

Zuma called the reports “pure fabrication,” according to the Sunday Times. ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa didn’t answer a call to his mobile phone and or immediately respond to questions sent via text message.

The newspapers also said the emails showed the Guptas had aided Zuma’s efforts to acquire residency in the UAE, and proved that they exerted undue influence over cabinet ministers and the management and boards of several state-owned companies.

“The reports rely on undisclosed documents and assumptions of impropriety resulting in a clear intention to influence political perception, which is another example of fake news,” the Guptas’ lawyer, Gert van der Merwe, said in an emailed statement.

Zuma political survival has boomerang effect on rand

By Matthew le Cordeur, with News24’s Mahlatse Gallens and Tshidi Madia

Cape Town – The debate of Jacob Zuma’s fate as South African president in a top African National Congress meeting and subsequent survival had a boomerang effect on the rand, with the currency returning to where it started.

The currency ended trade on Friday at R12.86 to the dollar. As soon as trade opened at 21:00 on Sunday, the volatile emerging market currency made instant gains of nearly 2% to trade at R12.66/$ on news that Zuma’s party was debating his future.

However, shortly afterwards, news emerged from unnamed sources within the ANC that he had survived by a large margin. By 06:05, the rand had returned to R12.86 to the greenback.

The ANC’s top decision-making body – the National Executive Council (NEC) – debated Zuma’s political future after ANC policy guru Joel Netshitenzhe put forward the motion. It was the second motion in six months for Zuma to vacate his office.

The rand tracked weaker against the greenback after Zuma crushed dissent at a key ANC meet. (Bloomberg)

Two NEC members confirmed to News24 that Zuma had survived.

Zuma survives

A source who attended the meeting told News24 that as many as 70 NEC members speakers spoke for and against the motion.

A Zuma supporter claimed that Zuma had the support of most speakers despite earlier confidence expressed by the faction opposing Zuma’s leadership that their NEC support had grown.

Unconfirmed reports were that at least 18 NEC members, including Cabinet ministers, supported Netshitenzhe’s motion, but that considerably more ANC leaders spoke against the motion for Zuma to step down.

Zuma supporters said it was easier to “crush” the motion this time than in November when former tourism minister Derek Hanekom unexpectedly tabled a motion for Zuma to go.

The ANC is expected to hold a press briefing at 14:00 on Monday, at which the decisions of the NEC will be publicly shared.

Following the debate, Zuma threatened his detractors in the ANC not to “push him too far”, sources told News24. “He was very angry. It was the first time I have seen him so angry,” said an NEC source.