ANC faithful try to quell the dissent
Following Zuma’s disastrous Cabinet reshuffle that cost the economy billions, the party has moved swiftly to silence critics within its ranks
President Jacob Zuma’s haphazard handling of a Cabinet reshuffle has led to an open feud among ANC leaders, with Free State Premier Ace Magashule accusing unnamed national executive committee (NEC) members of being hostile to the president. In the space of four days last week, Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister, replaced him with little-known MP Des van Rooyen and then replaced Van Rooyen with Pravin Gordhan – in the process wiping billions of rands from the economy as the rand fell to new lows.
Zuma had to backtrack on his decision after even party members attacked the appointment of Van Rooyen.
South African banks also met with ANC heavyweights, including Jeff Radebe and Zweli Mkhize, to raise their concerns.
The internal party criticism and the perception that Zuma is now a weak president has upset Magashule and other Zuma loyalists, who have come out swinging.
Magashule has defended him, saying Zuma must be afforded the same respect former ANC presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki were accorded.
Magashule told City Press in an interview that it was clear there were people in the NEC of the ANC who were unhappy with Zuma’s leadership.
“Those people came out openly, if you read the papers. Some individual leaders who are even members of the NEC came out and said Zuma was wrong,” said Magashule, who earlier in the week repeated similar comments in Zuma’s presence at a Christmas event in Zamdela, Sasolburg. Magashule said: “Business must respect political leadership. “It has a role to play, but it must show respect to the political leadership. And at the top of that leadership is President Jacob Zuma.”
City Press understands that Magashule’s sentiments were echoed at the extended national working committee (NWC) meeting on Tuesday, where it was apparent that there was a coordinated plan to defend Zuma and quash dissenting views.
City Press learnt that, at the meeting, several members of the NEC were not content with the assurance that Zuma had rectified his mistake, insisting on an answer for why he had fired Nene in the first place.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, on the line from France, told City Press he would not speak to the media about the events of last week and the decisions taken because some of the issues were “complex”.
However, Mantashe warned that “it may reflect grave arrogance” for lower structures of the ANC to talk about the issues of upper structures without having direct knowledge of discussions.
ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete said the NWC meeting was “the first occasion in which we all put our heads together and received a briefing and information about how the deputy president [Cyril Ramaphosa] and treasurer-general [Mkhize] interacted with senior members of the corporate world”.
“I am happy because, as a collective, it was the first time we were managing to get together and get an understanding of the issues involved and how we engaged with them,” she said.
Mbete added that “business actually expressed, for the first time, patriotism and an approach that was saying everybody [should put] shoulder to wheel [and] ... support our government, because it is about South Africa and not about the individual interests of groupings”.
“Obviously, it is regrettable we got to that point, but I am happy with how far we have been able to manage and stabilise the situation,” she said.
KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala said the ANC in the province had full confidence in Zuma.
A government official close to Ramaphosa said the notion that Zuma’s prerogative had been undermined by business and people within the ANC was misplaced, because both the consultation and the prerogative were not necessarily mutually exclusive.
ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Collen Maine said: “As a country, we would not want to have a situation whereby the market dictates to us what to do.
“We cannot be turned into a banana republic,” he said, adding that the appointment of ministers was Zuma’s prerogative and he had acted within his rights.
“If there are people in the ANC who want to undermine Zuma, we will want them to come out,” said Maine.
He said the youth league would take those people on because it was its duty to defend the ANC.
Secretary of the ANC in North West Dakota Legoete said: “It is very sad for any member of the ANC to fall into a fool’s paradise by thinking that those who call for Zuma to fall are not actually calling for the ANC to fall.”
Eastern Cape ANC secretary Oscar Mabuyane said Zuma had handled the situation responsibly.
“We are governing the country for the people of South Africa, not for ANC members. It is important that we put the people of South Africa before any other interests,” said Mabuyane.
ANCYL spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize said there was no problem with Cabinet reshuffles.
“It is not about getting rid of ministers, but deploying people in areas of competence,” said Mkhize, adding that the league would lobby for another reshuffle soon after next year’s municipal elections.
“Immediately after the elections, we must get ready to steer the ship in the right direction,” he said.
“We feel there are departments we need to look into to strengthen service delivery.”
VOTER FEVER Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on the municipal election campaign trail for 2016 in Mmakau, North West, this week LOOSE CANNON Israeli water cannons bearing the SAPS logo on Beit Alfa’s website