Preserving unity within ANC ranks and defending it against opposition parties were the main reasons the organisation’s national executive committee (NEC) decided not to recall President Jacob Zuma, says the party’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe.
And the debate about Zuma’s recall may not have been the overwhelming victory his supporters have portrayed, because Mantashe revealed the majority of the NEC were undecided during the meeting.
At a media briefing in Johannesburg yesterday, Mantashe said Zuma’s departure was discussed and that “a number of members of the NEC were of the view that the ANC should listen to this call”.
“Various contributions in support of and against the appeal to the president to step down were raised. Many more were neither in favour nor against the appeal but emphasised the need for unity within the organisation.”
He said the NEC understood some calls for Zuma to step down – “especially those made by the opposition” – were not so much about removing Zuma, “but rather about dislodging the ANC from power”.
Political analyst Daniel Silke said the ANC was trying to keep itself united until its December elective conference.
“It makes sense as they do not want to risk a ruction in the party with the conference six month ahead.”
Silke said the party was gambling that Zuma’s successor would be able to restore the organisation’s popularity by 2019.
“They fail to understand the public concern about Zuma and the whole brand of Zuma.
“The damage done is serious to the ANC and it will take someone who does not have specific ties to Zuma to rekindle the flames of the party,” Silke said.
But, he added, the party would find it “very difficult to restore public confidence in itself” at the 2019 polls, because its leaders had opted to put party, rather than state, interests first in not recalling Zuma.
Another analyst, Somadoda Fikeni, said the ANC was no longer united, but a divided organisation.
“Since the Polokwane moment, the ANC has been beset by a personality power game.
“People tend to serve the person, rather than the organisation, with no care for party values or principle.
“They concentrate more on defending the leader than the party,” he said.
Fikeni said Zuma himself went into “survival mode” by creating perceptions that he was a victim of political persecution by some individuals in the party.
With its decision on Zuma, the ruling party figuratively showed a middle finger to the opposition parties, civil society and senior ANC members – including its own stalwarts and veterans who had been calling for Zuma to go.
The NEC did ask Zuma to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture – but gave it much broader terms of reference than the public protector’s report of last year.
Mantashe said the NEC recommitted itself to focus on inequality, poverty and unemployment.
The governing party also instructed Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown to ensure the reinstatement of Eskom CEO Brian Molefe was rescinded.