Has Zuma fi­nally wo­ken up?

Pres­i­dent’s cred­i­bil­ity is on the line

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG DODDS

COULD it be Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has – at last – seen the writ­ing on the wall?

For a while after Nenegate and then the Con­sti­tu­tional Court judg­ment on Nkandla, fol­lowed by the rev­e­la­tions about the Gupta fam­ily’s free­dom to of­fer cab­i­net po­si­tions as if they were dish­ing out ice lol­lies, it seemed the signs were flash­ing fu­ri­ous neon.

Surely not even Zuma, the cham­pion sur­vivor, could out­wit, out­play and out­last the cir­cling con­tenders this time?

But, as he had done count­less times be­fore when seem­ingly knocked out cold, Zuma dusted him­self off, strug­gled to his feet and started swing­ing as though he’d never been down.

His lieu­tenants went on the at­tack.

The Hawks went after Pravin Gord­han, Min­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Mosebenzi Zwane went after the banks for dar­ing to drop the Gup­tas, and Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng declared the pub­lic broad­caster a Zuma safe house.

There were whis­pers about an im­mi­nent cab­i­net purge that would scat­ter Zuma’s en­e­mies to the wind.

But then the elec­torate went and showed Zuma the door they had kicked open for him to walk out of, and the pres­i­dent’s aura of in­vin­ci­bil­ity be­gan to crum­ble.

He went into hid­ing, and de­nial, while his party grap­pled with the shock.

The prob­lem for Zuma is that the more ev­i­dent his grip on the ANC be­comes – via his dom­i­na­tion of its na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee – the more ten­u­ous be­comes the party’s grip on the loy­alty of its sup­port­ers.

Its fre­quent en­forced for­ays into the mo­ral wilder­ness on his be­half, and the in­creas­ingly bizarre an­tics of his lieu­tenants – en­ter Mot­soe­neng, stage right – have cost the ANC more po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal than even a nu­clear pa­tron­age moth­er­lode could pos­si­bly re­pay.

Zuma has gone from lead­ing a coali­tion of the wounded to prop­ping up a com­pany of des­per­a­dos, and who would want to go to war with the likes of Kebby Maphat­soe, Zwane, Mot­soe­neng, Batha­bile Dlamini and Collen Maine stand­ing be­hind them, with a high prob­a­bil­ity of be­ing felled by friendly fire.

His other for­mer al­lies have ei­ther fled for cover or are openly sharpening their blades, while his im­pact play­ers in the state, from Nomg­cobo Jiba and Richard Md­luli to Mthandazo Ntle­meza, are un­der le­gal siege.

The Gup­tas are pulling up an­chors with undig­ni­fied haste.

Cosatu has with­ered in his toxic em­brace to an empty shell and the le­git­i­macy of the ANC’s Youth, Women’s and Vet­er­ans leagues has seeped away un­der man­u­fac­tured lead­er­ship.

The pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing de­moted to the op­po­si­tion benches now looms for the ANC in 2019, un­less it can find a way of ex­cis­ing its pres­i­dent with­out los­ing too much blood.

While he main­tains a fa­mil­iar pub­lic in­sou­ciance – deny­ing at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity that the elec­tion re­sults were a re­flec­tion on his lead­er­ship – Zuma’s ac­tions in re­cent weeks tell a dif­fer­ent story.

When Zwane claimed his hare­brained scheme to sub­ject the banks to an in­qui­si­tion had the back­ing of the cab­i­net, he was swiftly put in his place by the Pres­i­dency, even though Zuma was abroad at the time.

And when the Supreme Court of Ap­peal dis­missed Mot­soe­neng’s bid to keep the job he should never have had in the first place, the Pres­i­dency pro­nounced it­self in favour of up­hold­ing the judg­ment.

Cyn­ics would say there would be noth­ing new in Zuma pay­ing lip- ser­vice to the law while giv­ing a nod and a wink to the un­law­ful prac­tices of his cronies.

But the con­se­quences this time may be real.

It’s hard to see Zwane’s bank­ing sec­tor witch-hunt go­ing any­where after the pres­i­dent shot it down in flames, and Mot­soe­neng sud­denly finds he is no longer royal game in Par­lia­ment, with the ANC cau­cus seem­ingly hav­ing read Zuma’s state­ment on the mat­ter as a li­cence to go hunt­ing.

Equally telling was Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Min­is­ter Naledi Pan­dor’s sug­ges­tion this week that the nu­clear pro­cure­ment, which her En­ergy coun­ter­part, Tina Joe­mat- Pet­ters­son, had sig­nalled would get un­der way yes­ter­day, could not pro­ceed be­fore the government’s Rip van Win­kle en­ergy plan had been dragged kick­ing and scream­ing into the present.

It is true Zwane, Mot­soe­neng and Eskom’s nu­clear Pharisees con­tinue to trip the light fan­tas­tic, flaunt­ing their im­mu­nity from rea­son as though bathed in di­vine author­ity.

And ANC chief whip Jack­son Mthembu has railed against the Mot­soe­neng tragi­com­edy be­fore, to no avail.

If the SABC tyrant’s claim to mag­i­cal pow­ers holds any truth, it is in the sense that the ANC MPs on Par­lia­ment’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­mit­tee, not to men­tion Min­is­ter Faith Muthambi, have suc­cumbed to his spell.

It will be fas­ci­nat­ing to watch them on Wed­nes­day, when the SABC board is to at­tempt an ex­pla­na­tion for the lu­natic reap­point­ment of Mot­soe­neng, to see whether Mthembu has suc­ceeded in shak­ing them loose from zom­biehood.

Mean­while, the ANC’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meets this week­end, and Zwane’s in­sis­tence that he spoke with the cab­i­net’s author­ity on the banks – ef­fec­tively call­ing the pres­i­dent, who said oth­er­wise, a liar – is bound to set off a cho­rus call­ing for his head.

It may be that Zuma, hav­ing no­ticed for the first time just how de­ranged his lieu­tenants are be­gin­ning to sound, has cho­sen to lie low for a bit and leave them to face the mu­sic alone, in the hopes of liv­ing to fight another day.

Or he may have cal­cu­lated that the stale­mate in the ANC which has led to the shelv­ing of plans for an early elec­tive con­fer­ence is only a su­per­fi­cial equi­lib­rium, and that un­der­neath the ground is giv­ing way.

He may fi­nally have seen the writ­ing on the wall, and re­alised that co-oper­at­ing with his op­po­si­tion in the ANC is now his best hope for sur­vival, or at least a dig­ni­fied exit.

In which case Zwane, Mot­soe­neng, Jiba and oth­ers are about to find them­selves star­ing help­lessly at the wheels of an on­com­ing bus.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

South Africa’s Pres­i­dent and ANC party pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma may have fi­nally seen the writ­ing on the wall, says the writer.

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