Columns 20.1.2018 03:36 pm

Opinion: With a lot to lose, Zuma was never going to go down without a fight

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma

A wounded Jacob Zuma was not going to go down without a fight, once he is out of office ‘JZ783’ headache will pound him.

A press statement issued this morning by the African National Congress (ANC) tells us the center is holding, there is no discord in the party. And there will be cosmetic handover of power between Presidents Zuma and Ramaphosa.

This could not be further from the truth. The recently concluded national executive committee (NEC) is said to have provided enough fodder for a political thriller. Some NEC members wanted Zuma gone, and some rejected this.

What we are potentially looking at now is not if President Jacob Zuma will be relieved of his duties as head of state, but when this will happen. We can expect horse-trading, concessions and alignment of loyalties before he can resign.

The statement mentioned the three resolutions, disbanding of the provincial executive committee (PEC) in both the Free State and KZN, election of the 20-member national working committee and further “engagement” with Zuma.

As the ruling party is not playing open cards with what this “engagement” entails, it may do very well to remember that the horse has bolted and the information is out there. Here is a bit of what we know happened on Friday night.

READ MORE: Zuma: I am ready to hand party reins to the new leader

It is understood Dr David Masondo proposed that the meeting discuss recalling of the Zuma as state president to circumvent “two centers of power” monster that plagued the ANC after ‘Polokwane 2007′. Thabo Mbeki was recalled.

Chairperson Gwede Mantashe rightfully asked the delegates whether the motion was seconded, to which former KZN MEC and police commissioner Bheki “Ndozi” Cele said indeed. Even in his home province, Zuma is losing support.

What then transpired is a vociferous debate on the merits of removing Zuma and the risks inherent in the decision to keep him. Ramaphosa camp prefers Lindizwe Sisulu as interim president of the country, a source of much debate.

We are told what really broke the camels’ back for anti-Ramaphosa members of the NEC was their chronic failure to present a compelling political case for keeping Zuma at the helm, they were reminded he is a liability to the party.

It is crucial for the ruling party to have resolved this matter before the state of the nation address in early February. It is rare, in terms of ANC tradition, to have the president of the party delivering January 8 statement and someone else delivering the opening speech to Parliament. If not managed, this will become a major headache for the party.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa himself has come out in support of a dignified exit for Zuma, stating it is unnecessary to “humiliate” him. His supporters may have heeded this call in the interest of party unity and political cohesion within.

Or, we are facing interesting times ahead. Zuma may very likely be unwilling to go down without a fight. And the odds are not entirely stacked against him. He has leverage and a bargaining tool the ANC is not telling us about.

He has the support of deputy president, secretary general and deputy secretary general of the party. David Mabuza, Jessie Duarte and Ace Magashule are more than capable of influencing processes and debates within the party.

A cursory look at the newly elected national working committee (NWC) members shows that the former ANC head of intelligence has some formidable support. This structure is tasked with implementing decisions of the NEC.

Zuma reiterated when delivering his political report during the elective conference held in Nasrec that he looks forward to being an “ordinary” member of the organisation as well as joining the ranks of the veterans league.

Not entirely convincing, we still have what the DA has cheekily titled JZ783, countless court cases and accusations of subverting justice. This doesn’t sound like a man who will gracefully bow out without a fight, watch the space.

Ramaphosa to walk a tightrope as he leads an NEC of concessions

Gosebo Mathope is a senior online journalist for the Citizen. You can email gosebom@citizen.co.za or follow @Gosebo_Mathope


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