Before the elections took place, the Mail & Guardian reported that there was already a plan in place to protect President Jacob Zuma from the fallout of election losses. The paper wrote that some ANC members would want to blame Zuma and use that as an excuse to get rid of him at the elective conference in 2017.
However, the paper also alleged that Zuma’s supporters were planning how they would try to limit the damage to the president. This, it said, would include a PR campaign to ensure there was a perception that the blame should be shared collectively, a Cabinet reshuffle to oust Zuma’s enemies and even the disbandment of the provincial executive committee in Gauteng, which is overwhelmingly anti-Zuma.
The Gauteng premier, David Makhura, on Thursday attempted to deflect blame off provincial leaders for the party’s loss of support in the province.
Ahead of elections, the premier urged voters not to dump provincial and municipal leaders over Zuma, but that plea may have fallen on deaf ears.
He defended the work of his government in the province and said the beating the ANC received in four hung metros in the province, and a loss outright in Midvaal, was not a reflection on the ANC’s provincial leadership.
Business Day reported him as saying that the provincial government remained resolute in its plans: “I’m confident that for this provincial government … these election results are not a verdict on what we are doing. Every aspect of our programme — the transformation and mainstreaming, revitalisation of our township economy — over the next two and a half years of our term, we will be escalating that,” Makhura reportedly said at a media briefing about the election results in his office in Johannesburg.
Now at least one influential Gauteng ANC member has already expressed the need for provincial leaders to step down.
On Thursday night, Mike Maile, whose brother, Lebogang, is the MEC for economic development, wrote on Facebook that he had been reflecting on and discussing the elections results and with his comrades.
Lebogang Maile has long been an ally of Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile, who backed Maile years ago as his choice to replace then ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.
Curiously, Mike Maile denied that the Gauteng ANC was actually to blame and seemed to be critical of Zuma. However, he wanted party leaders in the province to resign as a matter of “principle”.
His final paragraph seems to suggest that he would expect other leaders who should share the blame for the loss of support to also do the right thing and resign. “The time of brushing egos is over,” he said.
He wrote on Facebook: “I think the Gauteng PEC must resign. We lost three Metros under their watch. Most of them are my friends and comrades, my brother also serves in that structure. However, l must remain true to principle and nothing, but principle.
“We knew of issues facing us, issues not of our own doing, but l am not sure if we did enough to mitigate against such. Gauteng has always stood for ‘principle’ and even called on President Zuma to do the right thing, when the conditions so demanded. He did not do it and we should not follow the wrong precedence, that is if we are principled and not factional.
“I will be tabling this motion at my branch on Monday and hope they support it. If l am defeated, that will be democracy at play. Factionalists will be looking at this post and celebrating that ‘they are divided’. I have consistently maintained that l am loyal to the movement and not a faction or individual. Those who support my call for the Gauteng PEC to dissolve itself must also agree that the outcome of these elections are a result of the damage to brand ANC.
“The Gauteng leadership did not damage this brand. Those who did must equally admit responsibility and do the honourable thing. The wellbeing of our people and continent is at stake here. The time of brushing egos is over.”
Analysts have been saying on Friday that the ANC’s NEC meeting that will be continuing through the weekend will be focusing heavily on the topic of introducing younger leaders such as Malusi Gigaba and Fikile Mbalula to rejuvenate the party and allow it to keep up with the younger leaders in the EFF and DA.