Tread­ing into un­cer­tainty

The ANC’s Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee ap­par­ently man­aged to haul Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma over the coals as well as pro­tect the leader’s rep­u­ta­tion at its re­cent meet­ing.

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There was just suf­fi­cient pub­lic dis­dain in Man­tashe’s de­meanour to both se­verely ad­mon­ish the Gup­tas and also (obliquely) point a fin­ger at any­one deemed close to them (even Zuma).

it was no sur­prise that Pres­i­dent Zuma’s pres­i­dency sur­vived the ANC’s Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (NEC) meet­ing re­cently, as the body is still in­debted to the pres­i­dent and largely sur­vives by rid­ing on his coat-tails.

More sig­nif­i­cantly, the ANC is about to em­bark on its most com­pet­i­tive lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tion ever and it des­per­ately needed to present a rel­a­tively united front to fire up its some­what punch-drunk al­liance part­ners and party work­ers.

But the lan­guage and tone used by sec­re­tary-general Gwede Man­tashe in the post-NEC state­ment and press con­fer­ence per­haps told an­other story. There was enough rhetoric from Man­tashe to sug­gest that the is­sue of the Gup­tas and “state cap­ture” had hit a very raw nerve – at least with sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ments of the 100-strong body.

Man­tashe re­mains diplo­matic

Al­though Man­tashe’s state­ments ex­pressed full sup­port for Zuma, they were hardly a ring­ing en­dorse­ment. The com­men­tary was terse and within the con­text of Man­tashe call­ing into ques­tion the role of the Gup­tas and their proxy me­dia out­lets, The New Age and ANN7. In other words, there was just suf­fi­cient pub­lic dis­dain in Man­tashe’s de­meanour to both se­verely ad­mon­ish the Gup­tas and also (obliquely) point a fin­ger at any­one deemed close to them (even Zuma).

One didn’t have to em­bar­rass Zuma in the process – and Man­tashe man­aged suc­cess­fully to walk the tightrope be­tween pro­vid­ing a ve­neer of po­lit­i­cal unity yet clearly in­di­cat­ing his dis­plea­sure with the cur­rent state of af­fairs. Man­tashe even went as far as to com­mend deputy finance min­is­ter Mce­bisi Jonas on “do­ing the hon­ourable thing” by com­ing for­ward with the rev­e­la­tions about the Gupta in­volve­ment in of­fer­ing min­is­te­rial po­si­tions.

Wrest­ing power away from Zuma

The NEC out­come there­fore in­di­cates that Zuma did not have it all his own way. Re­mem­ber, the pres­i­dent’s wings had al­ready been clipped in the uned­i­fy­ing Nh­lanhla Nene de­ba­cle, when Pravin Gord­han was ap­pointed as finance min­is­ter in place of his pre­ferred can­di­date, Des van Rooyen.

There was there­fore lit­tle in­di­ca­tion from Man­tashe that the pen­du­lum of power had swung

South African pres­i­dent and ANC leader Ja­cob Zuma at­tends the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (NEC) or­di­nary meet­ing in Cen­tu­rion on 18 March.

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