ANC unity is a farce

Fac­tions within and out­side the party are pil­ing on pressure to deal de­ci­sively with the pres­i­dent


The baf­fling dis­play of sol­i­dar­ity by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and his top six ANC lead­ers this week was a smoke screen to calm a volatile po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment cre­ated by the Cabi­net reshuf­fle. But away from the public gaze, the bat­tles con­tinue un­abated – a fac­tor raised by the Fitch Rat­ings agency as it down­graded South Africa to “junk” sta­tus on Fri­day, cit­ing “ten­sions within the ANC”.

On Tues­day, Zuma ap­peared to have reined in his op­po­nents, but those out­side of the smaller ANC na­tional work­ing com­mit­tee (NWC) want an­other shot at tak­ing him on.

They are lob­by­ing for a spe­cial sit­ting of the big­ger na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) – the only elected ANC struc­ture that can re­move a sit­ting pres­i­dent.

The plan is to re­sus­ci­tate last Oc­to­ber’s NEC mo­tion of no con­fi­dence de­bate against Zuma.

Al­though Zuma has most NEC mem­bers on his side, the mo­tion is his de­trac­tors’ strat­egy to keep the pressure on.

So di­vided is the ANC that var­i­ous cau­cuses and gath­er­ings were tak­ing place this week as pro- and an­tiZuma group­ings tried to get the up­per hand.

Those sup­port­ing Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa met on Thurs­day night in Nel­spruit, Mpumalanga, dur­ing a memo­rial lec­ture for strug­gle hero Solomon Mahlangu. A heated branch meet­ing in Ward 17 of the Eh­lanzeni re­gion was ad­dressed by Fish Mahlalela, the former Mpumalanga pro­vin­cial chair­per­son.

A branch mem­ber told City Press that when Mahlalela asked mem­bers who was go­ing to ben­e­fit if Zuma went, they re­sponded: “It is the cit­i­zens who will ben­e­fit.” Only a few agreed that op­po­si­tion par­ties would ben­e­fit. At an­other meet­ing held yes­ter­day in Ly­den­burg in Mpumalanga, a group of very se­nior anti-Zuma ANC MPs and NEC mem­bers plot­ted an­other way for­ward.

An in­sider said they dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of get­ting a stronger can­di­date to take Zuma on, cit­ing dis­ap­point­ment with Ramaphosa, ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe and trea­surer-gen­eral Zweli Mkhize’s about-turn on former fi­nance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han’s ax­ing.

The trio last week dis­tanced them­selves from Zuma’s de­ci­sion to re­move Gord­han on the ba­sis of a ques­tion­able in­tel­li­gence re­port.

A lobby for them to pub­licly cor­rect the per­cep­tion that Zuma neu­tralised them has failed – con­firm­ing, the meet­ing re­solved, that they were not up to the task.

An al­ter­na­tive which was dis­cussed, was to look at mo­bil­is­ing other ANC NEC mem­bers and MPs behind the other pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls, in­clud­ing Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency Jeff Radebe, Hu­man Set­tle­ments Min­is­ter Lindiwe Sisulu and former ANC trea­surer-gen­eral Mathews Phosa.

This week, a planned memo­rial ser­vice in Lim­popo for the late public ser­vice min­is­ter Collins Cha­bane also be­came a bat­tle site, with pro- and anti-Zuma group­ings vy­ing to have the guest speaker be one of their own.

Yes­ter­day, Zuma ad­dressed Cha­bane’s tomb­stone un­veil­ing cer­e­mony in Xikundu in Mala­mulele. The ANC stal­warts and vet­er­ans are also set to pile pressure on the party to re­move Zuma. Hav­ing failed to con­vince it to agree to a na­tional con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence, the el­ders are con­sid­er­ing ar­rang­ing a sim­i­lar con­fer­ence to the 1955 Congress of the Peo­ple, to be at­tended by or­di­nary South Africans and al­liance part­ners.

The el­ders also want the ANC lead­er­ship con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber post­poned to clean up the “con­tam­i­nated” party mem­ber­ship sys­tem.

“You can put that on the ta­ble, but the cur­rent peo­ple at Luthuli House are go­ing to defy that,” a stal­wart told City Press. “They are do­ing things by force most of the time and there is noth­ing we can do be­cause we are not a con­sti­tu­tional struc­ture.”

Se­nior anti-Zuma ANC mem­bers are also fu­ri­ous about a fac­tional cau­cus meet­ing that they claim was held at the Union Build­ings a day be­fore this week’s NWC meet­ing, call­ing it an abuse of state resources.

City Press learnt that the leaked notes from the NWC meet­ing, sent “ac­ci­den­tally” via the ANC’s me­dia list, were drawn up at the fac­tional cau­cus meet­ing.

How­ever, pres­i­dency spokesper­son Bongani Ngqu­lunga said: “No cau­cus was held at the Union Build­ings. All meet­ings are held at Luthuli House.”

At the NWC, Zuma apol­o­gised for his role in the mis­man­age­ment of the Cabi­net reshuf­fle. His back­ers say he was en­raged by me­dia leaks from the ANC’s top six.

“He called a meet­ing with the top six on Thurs­day [March 30] at about 6.30pm. Within 15 min­utes, his re­quest was made known to the me­dia. This is de­spite the fact that per­sonal texts were sent to the of­fi­cials. This was also the case with Mon­day’s meet­ing,” said a source close to Zuma.

“He can­not be ex­pected to work with such peo­ple, who be­tray his trust.”

Al­though other min­is­ters were axed, the fo­cus had been on Gord­han, Zuma’s al­lies lamented.

“Since De­cem­ber, Pravin has been busy on an of­fen­sive, mo­bil­is­ing peo­ple ... It is not some­thing that started this week,” said a pro-Zuma NWC mem­ber about Gord­han’s ap­pear­ances at memo­rial ser­vices for Ahmed Kathrada.

But Gord­han con­fi­dantes say these al­le­ga­tions were “rub­bish” and “the main gripe be­tween the two [Gord­han and Zuma] was around South Africa’s nu­clear en­ergy as­pi­ra­tions and the mis­man­age­ment of SAA”.

Gord­han said the al­le­ga­tions were “mis­chievous dis­in­for­ma­tion” be­cause he had “al­ways re­spected the of­fice of the pres­i­dent”. He said there were var­i­ous ef­forts afoot to dis­credit him or mis­lead the public.

“Many South Africans are very aware of a grow­ing in­tol­er­ance for a di­ver­sity or dif­fer­ence of views. More im­por­tantly, South Africans want good gov­er­nance, an ef­fec­tive com­bat­ing of cor­rup­tion and sound fis­cal man­age­ment,” he said via SMS.

Sdumo Dlamini, pres­i­dent of labour fed­er­a­tion Cosatu, told City Press this week there was a “third force el­e­ment” at play in the coun­try’s regime change agenda, which had been in­fil­trated by op­po­si­tion par­ties and el­e­ments in the tri­par­tite al­liance.

He in­sisted public anger was not against Zuma, but the ANC gov­ern­ment. “This is about the ANC; Zuma is the en­try point. The main thing is to find any­thing that can cause anx­i­ety and re­volt, lead­ing to calls for the ANC to be re­moved.

“Even if you re­move Zuma to­day, the ANC will re­main and it will still be un­der at­tack, and the same ap­plies to the next pres­i­dent,” Dlamini said.

This week, Cosatu called on Zuma to re­sign. Last year, it threw its weight behind Ramaphosa’s pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions.

Man­tashe said re­mov­ing Zuma would be im­pos­si­ble be­cause an ANC con­fer­ence res­o­lu­tion stip­u­lated that the party’s pres­i­dent would be the head of state. An ANC in­sider in Gaut­eng said this meant Zuma would re­main pres­i­dent un­til the party’s lead­er­ship con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber.

Un­less Zuma seeks a third term as ANC pres­i­dent, the party need not keep him as pres­i­dent of the coun­try un­til 2019.

The in­sider said: “His res­ig­na­tion is the only op­tion. The res­o­lu­tion used to say that the ANC pres­i­dent is the ‘prefer­able’ pres­i­dent of the coun­try. In Man­gaung that word was taken out. We are go­ing to feel it now.”

Mean­while, the United Demo­cratic Move­ment (UDM) plans to go to the Western Cape High Court and the Con­sti­tu­tional Court to­mor­row, seek­ing an or­der to al­low a se­cret bal­lot at next Tues­day’s mo­tion of no con­fi­dence vote in Par­lia­ment.

It is ask­ing for this bal­lot on the grounds that threats have been made by some ANC lead­ers against MPs who may not toe the party line.

Na­tional As­sem­bly Speaker and ANC chair­per­son Baleka Mbete re­jected the UDM’s de­mand, say­ing it had “no ba­sis in law”. But the UDM will ar­gue that Rule 103 of the Na­tional As­sem­bly opens the door for a se­cret bal­lot, said UDM leader Bantu Holomisa and other MPs this week.

An ANC MP told City Press this week that no mem­ber of the party’s cau­cus would vote against the party line openly, “but give us a se­cret bal­lot, and Zuma will not be the pres­i­dent on the 19th”.

The MP said more than half of the ANC cau­cus wanted Zuma out, but were not pre­pared to pub­licly vote against him for fear of vic­tim­i­sa­tion.

Alex Mashilo, spokesper­son for the SA Com­mu­nist Party, said its mem­bers who were ANC MPs were re­quired to abide by ANC de­ci­sions, un­less the ANC it­self brought the mo­tion.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties – in­clud­ing the UDM, the Inkatha Free­dom Party, the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers, the DA, the African Peo­ple’s Con­ven­tion, the Congress of the Peo­ple and the African Chris­tian Demo­cratic Party – will look to up­set Zuma’s 75th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions on Wed­nes­day by de­flect­ing at­ten­tion to a na­tional day of ac­tion against him.

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