‘STAND FIRM AND CLOSE RANKS’
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.”