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In­stead of con­ven­ing a spe­cial na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) meet­ing to de­bate Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s re­cent Cab­i­net reshuf­fle, the party should “close ranks” and stand firm.

This is the view of Zuma’s sup­port­ers in the ANC as pres­sure mounts on the lead­er­ship to con­vene an ur­gent NEC meet­ing.

Among oth­ers, Deputy Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Jessie Duarte and North West chair­per­son Premier Supra Mahumapelo this week dis­missed calls for the meet­ing, say­ing the ANC should stick to its nor­mal meet­ing, sched­uled to take place in May.

This is de­spite re­newed calls from for­mer Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) commanders and NEC mem­bers to treat the un­fold­ing sit­u­a­tion as ur­gent, in the wake of two rat­ings agen­cies hav­ing down­graded South Africa to junk sta­tus, the rip­ple ef­fects of the reshuf­fle on the coun­try’s econ­omy and the re­sul­tant mas­sive na­tion­wide protests call­ing for Zuma to re­sign.

NEC mem­ber and se­nior MP Philly Ma­pu­lane be­came the lat­est to join the call for an ur­gent meet­ing this week, say­ing a pe­ti­tion to ANC of­fi­cials would be “un­de­sir­able, but it was the last op­tion”.

“The ANC is the leader of so­ci­ety and once so­ci­ety is go­ing through such a phase, the ANC, as a leader, must be able to con­vene and pro­vide direc­tion for so­ci­ety,” he said.

Zuma’s chief back­ers – based mainly in the North West, Free State and Mpumalanga – are op­posed to any ac­tiv­ity that may im­ply that there is a cri­sis in the coun­try and within the ANC.

They also fear such a meet­ing may be used to re­in­state last year’s de­feated NEC mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in Zuma and are said to be un­sure of their num­bers this time around. In­stead, they have em­barked on a mis­sion to iso­late those ques­tion­ing Zuma’s de­ci­sions.

The ANC in the West­ern Cape, along with party vet­er­ans – in­clud­ing Siphiwe Nyanda and Tha­bang Mak­wetla – and for­mer ANC chief whip Mathole Mot­shekga, who is also an NEC mem­ber and MP, favour the spe­cial NEC meet­ing.

Mot­shekga told City Press it was too early to say whether calls for Zuma to step down had caused se­ri­ous di­vi­sions.

“All or­gan­i­sa­tions con­sist of in­di­vid­u­als, and there are in­di­vid­ual opin­ions. We can only say there are di­vi­sions if a con­sti­tu­tional struc­ture has sat and is di­vided on the mat­ter. That has not hap­pened be­cause the NEC has not sat,” he said.

Ma­pu­lane said a meet­ing was re­quired be­cause since the last NEC meet­ing in March, there had been a Cab­i­net reshuf­fle “that had at­tracted a lot of neg­a­tive com­men­tary within the coun­try and [caused] two credit down­grades. Al­liance part­ners Cosatu and the SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) have called for Zuma to step down, and op­po­si­tion par­ties have called for a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence.”

He said the sit­u­a­tion re­quired the NEC to re­flect and give direc­tion. “We are con­fronted with a cri­sis as the ANC, gov­ern­ment and so­ci­ety. We cannot post­pone this cri­sis. We cannot wait for the or­di­nary meet­ing of the NEC.”

Last week, an ex­tended meet­ing of the ANC na­tional work­ing com­mit­tee (NWC) dis­cussed the Cab­i­net reshuf­fle and sub­se­quent events, con­clud­ing that the ANC must come out united and stop giv­ing con­flict­ing state­ments in pub­lic. The NWC was quiet on the need for an NEC meet­ing to con­firm the dis­cus­sions of the NWC.

Duarte – who last week said there was no need for a spe­cial NEC meet­ing – de­clined to com­ment on whether all ANC mem­bers agreed with the NWC’s po­si­tion.

“All I can say to ANC cadres is that it is time to close ranks. Junk sta­tus is not good for our coun­try, [but] we all knew it was go­ing to come. What we need to do now is to ac­cept that we have to pull to­gether as a na­tion,” Duarte said.

Mahumapelo said there were sched­uled NEC meet­ings and “in the last ex­tended NWC, in which all prov­inces par­tic­i­pated, it was agreed that the next NEC would, as usual, re­ceive a re­port from the NWC. Once re­ceived, the NEC would dis­cuss the re­port, take a de­ci­sion and re­port back to the lower struc­tures.”

Mahumapelo said the prov­ince had al­ready held the Cadres Assem­blies, ti­tled Tset­se­pela (hold firm), in all its four re­gions and that “there was never a call from any par­tic­i­pant for the pres­i­dent to re­lin­quish his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties”.

ANC Free State spokesper­son Thabo Meeko said the prov­ince “reaf­firms the pre­rog­a­tive of the pres­i­dent to ap­point min­is­ters and pre­miers in con­sul­ta­tion with the ANC”, adding that the party would speak to Cosatu and the SACP on their calls for Zuma to go.

Ma­pu­lane said: “The NWC does not have the ca­pac­ity to deal with this cri­sis as it is not au­tho­rised to take fi­nal de­ci­sions.”

Jessie Duarte

Ace Ma­gashule

Philly Ma­pu­lane

Siphiwe Nyanda

Tha­bang Mak­wetla

Supra Mahumapelo

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