Three recalls that haunt Mantashe The ANC has received much criticism for its reluctance to recall President Zuma, but the party has made prominent recalls in the past and the consequences of these moves are still fresh in the minds of many.
theANC has been lambasted recently for failing to recall President Jacob Zuma after the damning Constitutional Court judgment on Nkandla, in which it ruled that Zuma was in breach of his oath of office. Opposition parties, among a range of other critics, called it an act of selfishness on the part of the ruling party, and accused the ANC of putting the party before the country.
The ruling party has of course always been selfish and self-centred in matters affecting the country. Take, for example, how the ANC passed into law the recent retirement reforms, and then later withdrew them on the insistence of Cosatu. The main reason for this was of course that it is an election year and the ANC therefore had to keep a key constituency happy. The decision was made with the intention of amassing political gains for the party, at the expense of the long-term interest of the country.
But on the Zuma recall, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe appears to have had the benefit of experience.
he must’ve been reflecting on the time in 1999 when he, as general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), sanctioned and expelled Joseph Mathunjwa, then the union’s hugely popular branch leader at Douglas Colliery in Witbank. Mathunjwa went on to establish the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
Mathunjwa’s union has grown aggressively in recent years, and is now the largest in the platinum sector. In fact, the platinum belt is now a no-go area for NUM, the ANC and its allies. (And the once-powerful NUM that influenced politics and economics alike is now barely hanging on to the top position in the gold sector.) The rise of Mathunjwa and Amcu did not only alter the fortunes of NUM, and by extension its political ally the ANC, but some would argue that its aggressive demands – in 2014, the union led mineworkers in the longest strike in SA’s history in the platinum belt – have altered the economics and attractiveness of mining in SA fundamentally too.
Mantashe had just become secretary general of the ANC when the party’s top brass decided to recall former president from office, leading to an exodus of senior ANC members from the party and the establishment of the Congress of the People (Cope).
Cope may barely exist today, but the party won close to 1.5m votes, or 7.42% of the vote, in the general election in 2009, and became the official opposition in five provincial legislatures. After the ANC received 69.7% of votes in 2004 (a two-thirds majority), support for the ruling party fell to 65.9% in 2009. Thus, Mbeki’s recall from office had a negative effect on the party’s fortunes as many members defected to Cope.
from the ANC was that of Julius Malema, now the nemesis of the ruling party and commander-in-chief of the EFF. Malema’s expulsion from the ANC contributed to a drop in support in the 2014 elections, where it received 62.15% of the vote. The arrival of the EFF has dramatically altered the workings of Parliament, and youth activism has been invigorated. Many within the ruling party regret and blame their leaders for Malema’s expulsion and its accompanying misfortunes.
Mantashe and his supporters’ reluctance to act against Zuma is therefore perhaps understandable. The consequences of such a move may prove to be devastating not only for the ANC, but for the country as a whole. Given Zuma’s power grip on KwaZuluNatal, Mpumalanga, the North West, Free State and the Eastern Cape, as well as the ANC Youth League, the Women’s League and the Military Veterans League, who would want to take the risk of recalling him?
Let’s not forget the consequences of Mathunjwa, Mbeki and Malema’s expulsions. Mbeki’s exit brought us a Zumocrocy, which is far removed from Mbeki’s focus on sound economics and good governance. With Malema’s exit, the youth have been mobilised and are running amok, as illustrated by the turmoil on university campuses. With Mathunjwa, the mining economy faces a different genre of music and is still reeling from the 2014 platinum strike.
Zuma’s recall would in all likelihood lead to chaos both politically and economically, unless he offers to voluntarily step aside, a move he is unlikely to make. It appears the ruling party may recall him at our peril.
Let’s not forget the consequences of Mathunjwa, Mbeki and Malema’s expulsions. Mbeki’s exit brought us a Zumocrocy.