ANC knives out as Zuma’s Damoclean sword sways. Succession story hots up.

Although he doesn’t make the comparison between Zimbabwe’s retirement-leaning old fox President Robert Mugabe and his possible successor wife, Grace, seasoned political writer Donwald Pressly, punts Zuma’s former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as a top contender for local succession. Perhaps more importantly he posits the theory that should Msholozi win his current internecine cabinet battle, it will further destabilise the party as the knives really come out for the losing ‘rebel’ ministers, with a probable cabinet reshuffle. Staying with sharp political weapons, even if the Damoclean sword above Msholozi’s head does fall before the ANC December 2017 elective conference, Nkosazana could still get in. If she does, we’ll see more of the same ‘snouting’ at the public trough, with eventual disastrous consequences for the ANC in the 2019 national elections, argues Pressly, in jolly fashion. However, Cyril Ramaphosa, the Constitution-co-writer and veteran trade unionist, is probably the biggest beneficiary of the current in-fighting. He’s carefully titrating his public statements to back a move from deputising to running the country. He needn’t stick his neck out too far. Just let the wolves rip each other to shreds – and leap for the prize when they’re done. Not sure if he’d enjoy patching it all together again though… – Chris Bateman

By Donwald Pressly*

Donwald Pressly, Cape Messenger editor.
Donwald Pressly

President Jacob Zuma has, once again, evaded the Damoclean sword which is still hanging perilously over him. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on national television – eNCA and ANN7 – reported that there was “no motion of no confidence” in President Zuma.

But a motion which called for President Zuma “to step down” was, indeed, discussed. There had been no vote because matters of import were debated and consensus was sought. “Members of the ANC persuade one another to … a point of consensus… however difficult it can be,” he charged.

“Following robust, honest and candid … and difficult … discussions, the NEC DID NOT SUPPORT THE CALL for the president to step down,” reported Mantashe.

Pressed at the media conference on whether people – referred to as ‘senior’ ministers – who had called for the president’s neck would now resign, Duarte said: “We are not aware of anyone who says (they) are going to resign.”  She had seen a newspaper – apparently Business Day –  which indicated that jobs of ministers could now be in danger – which had reported “corridor talk”. She said whether or not what had been reported was true “or not”, she said: “In the talks of the NEC that did not arise.” Mantashe was less clear. He said he did not understand the reference to “senior ministers”. What was this thing “senior?” he asked. He said an MP or a minister was just a member of the NEC – and their was no seniority – within that body.

What is clear now is that the tenderpreneur faction – the Zuma faction – has won the day at the NEC meeting. President Zuma continues to fight another political day. Mantashe did not indicate how Zuma had reacted to the debate. He apparently responded to the debate at the end of the three-day session, but was not present for the debate.

One can’t but notice that there is an ethnic element to the support for President Jacob Zuma but also a multi-ethnic element against him. The war has now reached a new frontier, the national executive committee of the governing African National Congress.

Less than two weeks ago a motion of no-confidence was defeated in the National Assembly. As the ANC had adopted a three line whip, it made sense that the ANC would end up defeating the Democratic Alliance-led motion.

Despite yet another victory for Zuma. The battle lines are shifting, the Sword of Damocles is still hanging directly above President Zuma’s head. This time it is within party structures. President Zuma has survived yet another attempt on his political life. He came dangerously close to experiencing  ‘a Damoclean moment’ but the sword did not quite drop.

However, a commentator like Stef Terblanche is right: A definitive turning point has been reached despite the decision by the NEC that Zuma should not step down. Terblanche  in his aic Monday Briefing made the pertinent point that whoever won, the knives will be out for the losers. The losers would include the cabinet ministers who stood up against Zuma. They are believed to include Naledi Pandor, the Science and Technology Minister, Thulas Nxesi, the Public Works Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, the health minister. Although Blade Nzimande, the Higher Education Minister, has been making anti-Zuma sounds lately – as has his SA Communist Party – it is not clear if he is a leading force in the ZumaMustFall movement. Significantly only last week the so-called “Ramaphosa17” initiative was launched. That refers to the presidential election at the elective conference in December 2017. It is not clear how many members of the cabinet fall into Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s political slipstream.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, attends the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta, Malta, November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi MALTA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN MALTA
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

It is all getting terribly messy in the ruling party.  Ramaphosa and his faction haven’t managed to pull Zuma off his perch. It means that the ANC is likely to continue its destructive course. It is likely to end with the election of Zuma’s ex-wife, African Union chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She will then take the presidential mantle. You can be sure that Zuma has created hundreds of ANC branches – concentrated in his Zulu-ethnic heartland of KwaZulu Natal – that will carry a majority at the elective conference.

In February Zuma will face the issue of his corruption charges coming back to court. He will, again, be in a political spot, so to speak. This will happen irrespective of the outcome – or non-outcome – of the NEC’s decision not to depose him. It is most likely that Zuma will brazen his way through this challenge as well.


Read also: Malema: Zuma’s “President-in-Waiting” ex-wife even closer to Gupta than him

The irony of the Zuma win at the NEC meeting – which lasted from Saturday to Monday – is that it could destroy the ANC’s chances of staying in power in the national election in 2019. A Zuma – and, by extension, a Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – victory will mean more of the same. The same patterns of corruptive political and fiscal practice, the same old buddies being provided honey at the political trough. Of course, Zuma, will be pushed more and more into the corner as the corruption charges take centre stage – but he will hang on to power.

It will then be up to forces outside the ANC to sweep the Zuma class aside in a national election. That will be the likely next option now that the internal revolt failed at the extended NEC meeting. The impact of that, of course, is that any possibility of change will be delayed to 2019, about two-and-a-half years from now, assuming that the election is held somewhere in the middle of the year. That scenario could open the door to an opposition coalition taking power at national level.

If the ‘good’ people – the non-Zumarites – are to win, they will have to bring together all the non-Zulu leaders in the party. BUT the political problem is: They should probably have had to garner this ‘collective’ already. It means the Xhosa, Tswana, Venda, Sotho groups will need to work together to re-establish a non-racial future for the ANC. It is not at all certain that they can muster enough support to pull it off. Ramaphosa has a chance to pull this off (at the elective conference) in 2017, but repeated Zuma victories in the face of massive controversies over Nkandla, the fraud and corruption charges and Guptagate, make Ramaphosa’s presidential ambitions look like a long shot.

The president, meanwhile, is jetting off to late Cuban president Fidel Castro’s funeral in Havana which will last a week. His schedule as president of the nation continues. On Monday he left the NEC meeting to meet visiting Ugandan head of state President Yoweri Museveni. The Zuma show goes on.

  • Donwald Pressly is editor of Cape Messenger. 
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