Zuma on back foot in courts and party

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Marrian is po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor.

SA could soon have a crim­i­nal sus­pect as pres­i­dent. This fol­lows Ja­cob Zuma’s as­tound­ing con­ces­sion in the Supreme Court of Ap­peal on Thurs­day that the de­ci­sion to drop the 783 charges of cor­rup­tion, fraud and rack­e­teer­ing against him was, in­deed, ir­ra­tional.

As Zuma’s sec­ond term draws to a close, there is push-back against him and his fac­tion in the ANC — in the le­gal and po­lit­i­cal are­nas. His re­sponse and that of the party could break both.

On the le­gal front, Zuma will prob­a­bly be on the re­ceiv­ing end of a scathing ap­peal court judg­ment in the wake of his con­ces­sion — af­ter eight-and-a-half years, seven courts and mil­lions of tax­payer rand on le­gal fees.

The pres­i­dent has clearly de­cided that if he must face charges, he would pre­fer syco­phan­tic na­tional prose­cu­tions head Shaun Abra­hams to deal with them, even if his cho­sen saviour has proved to be trans­par­ently cap­tured given his con­duct in the Pravin Gord­han mat­ter. Zuma is also es­sen­tially Abra­hams’s boss.

Zuma also faces an im­peach­ment case be­fore the Con­sti­tu­tional Court fol­low­ing an­other be­lated con­ces­sion, this time by Na­tional As­sem­bly Speaker Baleka Mbete, which could lead to a full par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into the pres­i­dent’s han­dling of the Nkandla case. In that mat­ter, Mbete con­ceded in an af­fi­davit the day be­fore the Con­sti­tu­tional Court heard the case that it was within Par­lia­ment’s pow­ers and rules to set up an ad hoc com­mit­tee to in­quire into Zuma’s con­duct.

An­other em­bar­rass­ment for Zuma this week was the star­tling dis­clo­sure that Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Bu­sisiwe Mkhwe­bane met Zuma’s le­gal ad­vis­ers and the State Se­cu­rity Agency be­fore hand­ing down her re­port, in which she rec­om­mended chang­ing the man­date of the Re­serve Bank, a find­ing that has since been set aside by the courts.

Zuma ’s de­ci­sion to reshuf­fle the Cab­i­net based on a bo­gus in­tel­li­gence re­port in March is be­ing chal­lenged, and he is fight­ing for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela’s rec­om­men­da­tion that a ju­di­cial com­mis­sion of in­quiry into state cap­ture be ap­pointed by the chief jus­tice.

In all cases, the po­lit­i­cal ter­rain is vastly dif­fer­ent from what it was when the DA ini­ti­ated the spy tapes re­view eight-and-a-half years ago.

This week, the po­lit­i­cal ground slipped be­neath the Zuma fac­tion in the ANC when the KwaZulu-Na­tal provin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, led by Zuma ally Sihle Zikalala, was in ef­fect dis­solved by a court judg­ment that deemed their elec­tion in 2015 un­law­ful and void.

While Zikalala and com­pany rushed to say they would ap­peal, ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe said the party must be con­sulted at na­tional level first. An ap­peal would just de­lay the in­evitable and could com­pro­mise the ANC’s na­tional con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber if al­lowed to pro­ceed. The ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee is meet­ing on Mon­day to sketch a way for­ward.

Zuma and his al­lies in the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee are re­spon­si­ble for the provin­cial elec­tive con­fer­ence go­ing ahead pre­ma­turely, de­spite protes­ta­tions from Man­tashe, and now that body will have to deal with the con­se­quences of its ac­tions.

In the East­ern Cape, it is Zuma’s forces who are us­ing the courts to bat­tle for con­trol. A provin­cial con­fer­ence is set for the end of Septem­ber and the camp loyal to Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa seems to be in the lead.

Zuma’s loyal lieu­tenant in the Free State, Ace Ma­gashule, is on the de­fence against his Ramaphosa-aligned deputy, Thabo Many­oni. The prov­ince re­ceived its fi­nal au­dit re­port last Fri­day but is putting off an ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing to de­cide on a con­fer­ence date be­cause Ma­gashule is no longer as con­fi­dent as he was.

A big­ger headache for Zuma is the weak­ness of his pre­ferred suc­ces­sor. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s cam­paign has been lack­lus­tre, hence her en­try into Par­lia­ment and likely en­try into the Cab­i­net.

It is all in­ter­re­lated, the le­gal and the po­lit­i­cal.

The fact that 34 ANC MPs voted for the mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in Zuma in Au­gust de­spite the party’s cul­ture of loy­alty above all in­di­cated that the par­lia­men­tary cau­cus is no longer a safe space for him. An ad hoc com­mit­tee into his han­dling of Nkandla now would have a vastly dif­fer­ent flavour to the one that ex­on­er­ated him in 2015.

As the noose tight­ens, ex­pect more sur­prise con­ces­sions and last-minute deals on of­fer from Zuma. Re­mem­ber, it was he who sug­gested that the los­ing can­di­date in De­cem­ber should be deputy pres­i­dent.

It re­mains to be seen whether the ANC will do what it has done for the past decade and fall in line with Zuma’s wishes or fi­nally draw a line in the sand to end the mad­ness that has gripped party and coun­try since Polok­wane in 2007.



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