If President Jacob Zuma is refusing to step down because he believes he has done nothing wrong, the joke is on the ruling party – especially national chairperson Gwede Mantashe.
Over the course of endless motions of no confidence in the president, Mantashe was always at pains to point out why it would be suicidal for the ANC to vote with the opposition to remove the president before the end of his term.
The tables have now turned because for the continued survival of the ANC, that is exactly what they need to do.
Newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has stuck to the unity line: we will not do anything to humiliate the president. That line serves the fragile harmony in the ruling party but fails to recognise one thing: when the president handed him the reins of the ruling party, he handed him a poisoned chalice.
Each day that Zuma overstays his welcome in the Union Buildings is a day too many in the battle to save the ANC. The humiliation that they seek to save the president from is the humiliation that he himself is throwing in their faces.
Their choice has always been simple: humiliate the president or face the ultimate humiliation of being voted out of power next year.
The chickens are indeed coming home to roost.
None of the top six of the ANC can claim they didn’t see Zuma’s intransigence coming.
They did – and they even emboldened him by always closing ranks behind him when opposition parties wanted to hold him to account. It is not totally inconceivable that the man has now developed a false sense that he has not done anything wrong because they themselves have always defended him.
Cyril’s choice has always been one of damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.
While he continues to sing the party line about unity and avoiding humiliation for the president, the likes of Zuma acolyte Ace Magashule can go on full attack mode to defend the embattled Zuma. They are not encumbered by the need to appear politically correct, like Cyril has to.
While he preaches the need to present a united front to prevent a costly split ahead of next year’s election, Zuma and his crowd are only concerned about prolonging the inevitable: their looming date with the law.
The longer Zuma stays in power, the closer he is to the likes of the head of the National Prosecuting Authority. In a way, Zuma is calling his party’s bluff.
The power never lay with them as they seemed to believe. It was always with Zuma and his backers outside of the party.
The whole country has been in desperation mode for the past couple of years, agitating for the removal of a president who saw his position as a path to self-enrichment.
Even though it is very late in the game, it is heartening to see that the party that has forced him down the citizens’ throats is now going into desperation mode itself.
They now seem to realise it’s either Zuma goes, or they go. They have been urged to put South Africa first before and refused.
Now, by a twisted turn of fate, their hand is being forced by a man they have protected at all costs.