As soon as motorcades believed to be ferrying ANC deputy president David Mabuza, chairperson Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general Ace Magashule, deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and treasurer-general Paul Mashatile left the presidential guesthouse just after 10pm last night, there was no official communication on whether Zuma has agreed to step down.
But the clearest sign that there could be drama at Luthuli House this afternoon came in the form a message sent to all 20 national working committee (NWC) members inviting them to an urgent meeting this afternoon.
The NWC is a constitutional structure of the ANC mandated with the day-to-day running of the organisation and implementation of resolutions of the national executive committee (NEC). So far, the ANC has admitted it is keen to eliminate two centres of power by making sure the president of the party is also the head of state.
The NWC is made up of the top six and 14 other members, and their core duties are to “carry out decisions and instructions of the NEC” and to “submit a report to NEC meetings”. Effectively, should the decision to recall Zuma, or to ratify the decision taken by Jacob Zuma to resign, before Sona on Thursday night be taken, the structure will submit a report to that effect.
But if the Mzwanele Manyi-owned The New Age newspaper is to be believed, this will be no ordinary tea and biscuit of the NWC. The publication, known in the past for its 100% accuracy on all things Zuma related, is reporting that he point blank told the five leaders who met him last night he was going “nowhere”.
“Sources” told the publication the high-stakes meeting got off to a rough start when Zuma threatened to cancel it after being kept waiting. “The President is upset that he was kept waiting. How do you arrange a meeting for a particular time and then fail to pitch? This is disrespect to the president. If they do arrive, the president has a clear message for them: ‘I will am going nowhere.’
It also emphasised that Zuma was adamant he would deliver the state of the nation address (Sona) on Thursday evening: “The president is not entertaining any proposal for him to step down because he is concerned about consequences of such an act.”
Staunch Zuma supporter and ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini, who has changed tack and called for unity, has been quoted as saying: “We hope the officials went there to discuss issues, and we hope for the best outcome. Officials have to ensure that the ANC remains intact. It’s time for the leadership to show its stance of unity.”
The publication is also hosting a “conversation” with President Jacob Zuma at the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Hotel the morning after the Sona. It will cost delegates R1 095.00 and a group booking of 1o people R9 999.00. A sales assistant said: “We got a confirmation from him [Zuma] that he will definitely be delivering the address. Sindi Mabe will host it, and it will be shown on ANN7.”
ANC communications manager Khusela Diko confirmed in a text message: “Yes, there is an NWC meeting today.”