NUMBER ONE: It’s comrade versus comrade
Defiant Zuma raises questions about ANC integrity commission’s bias as things heat up between NEC members calling to remove him
President Jacob Zuma, who survived an attempt to recall him last week, was yesterday locked in another meeting to handle concerns about the party’s flailing fortunes and his leadership thereof. Zuma met the ANC’s integrity commission at Liliesleaf Farm in Sandton well into the afternoon yesterday.
A few members of the ANC Youth League went to the venue to support Zuma and protest against members of the commission. Zuma was expected to take a defiant stance. City Press spoke to national executive committee (NEC) members, who said Zuma was combative soon after surviving a motion for him to step down, declaring that he would reject any attempts by the ANC integrity commission to quiz him on Nkandla, the state capture report and his relationship with the Guptas.
According to NEC sources, Zuma also said that he had no confidence in the integrity commission because it was compromised after some of its members spoke out against him, City Press heard.
“He said at the NEC that he was going to tell them that they had commented on the matter and therefore he was not going to get a fair hearing,” City Press heard from the source associated with the anti-Zuma lobby group.
The integrity commission had invited Zuma in his capacity as the president of the ANC to a meeting to discuss the state and the health of the ANC, party spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said earlier this week. Kodwa said there were no charges against Zuma. The duties of the commission, formed after the party’s resolution at the last national conference in Mangaung in 2012, were to protect the reputation of ANC in instances where members were accused of improper conduct.
Despite rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle, Zuma told the meeting last weekend in his closing address that those who challenged him would not be victimised.
But some have dared Zuma to wield the axe, saying that any reshuffle would be “factional” and that the office of the president does not belong to Zuma, but to the ANC.
“It was the ANC that campaigned and the ANC that elected him to that office,” an NEC member who had attended the meeting last weekend said yesterday, amid persistent speculation of a pending shake-up.
City Press heard that unhappiness with Zuma’s leadership had been building over time since the Constitutional Court’s Nkandla judgment in March, which found that he had violated his oath of office.
“But nobody had the courage to speak out. After meetings you would usually have some mumbling that he is costing us. It became worse after the elections,” he said. “The State of Capture report was really just too much. People felt that we should confront the old man and ask him to help us.”
The three-day NEC has been described as a political coup that didn’t work. Those who spoke out against Zuma advanced arguments that it would be best for the ANC.
They include Thenjiwe Mtintso, Philly Mapulane, Joel Netshitenzhe and Thulas Nxesi.
A proposal that Zuma be excused so that members could discuss the matter freely was not entertained.
Bheki Cele went directly to the issues, saying the ANC was an organisation that was unable to act.
He questioned why there was no accountability and why, when certain people were under a cloud of suspicion, they made excuses that they were “reviewing” the Public Protector’s reports.
He said this did not set a good precedent as others would also refuse to be held accountable.
However, they were met with resistance by those seen to be close to Zuma, defending him as they pointed out that those who had no confidence in him should resign from his Cabinet.
Those who supported Zuma’s recall then asked whether the fact that they were Cabinet ministers meant that they should keep quiet about concerns at NEC meetings.
This is cited as the reason ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe corrected journalists’ reference to ministers at the post-NEC press conference, saying they were mere NEC members in the meeting.
City Press has learnt that African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was among those who spoke against Zuma’s removal, saying it would divide the movement. Dlamini-Zuma apparently cautioned against making the recall of the president a trend in the ANC. She mentioned the recall of Mbeki and the divisions that followed, including the founding of the Congress of the People.
She said that the ANC needed to focus on unity; the recall of another president would have the opposite effect and worsen matters. It meant that the next president – after Zuma – could also be easily recalled.
In Zuma’s defence, ANC MP Pule Mabe told the meeting that if Zuma stepped down, Mantashe should follow him because he betrayed the ANC by plotting with Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema to scupper government’s nuclear deal, according to a pro-Zuma NEC member. Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said efforts to get rid of Zuma related to South Africa’s role at Brics. But Mabe’s comments, just like the similar attacks on Jackson Mthembu, were “not entertained,” said the antiZuma MEC member. Cyril Ramaphosa is said not to have contributed much. When the debate was over, he merely said that the matter should now be closed as consensus had been reached. Earlier this week, the names of Derek Hanekom, Aaron Motsoaledi, Thulas Nxesi, Jackson Mthembu, Naledi Pandor and Pravin Gordhan were listed among those who were rumoured to be resigning, but this has been proven untrue. “There was a lot of panic this week; ministers were waiting for the bomb to drop on Friday. We didn’t know what would happen after these developments at the NEC. This is a strategy to fight Zuma to not reshuffle, so that his term expires without touching them,” said an NEC member.