CYRIL’S TOUGH ZUMA PUZ­ZLE

GIVEN THE STRONG BACK­ING HIS PRE­DE­CES­SOR STILL EN­JOYS, THE PRES­I­DENT IS SAID TO BE FI­NAL­IS­ING PLANS THAT MAY EN­TAIL IN­VOLV­ING ZUMA IN AN EL­DERS COUN­CIL OR DE­PLOY­ING HIM ON DIPLO­MATIC MIS­SIONS

CityPress - - Front Page - SETUMO STONE, S’THEMBILE CELE and NGWAKO MODJADJI [email protected]­press.co.za

We want this thing to be han­dled qui­etly but the man is pro­vok­ing a big con­fronta­tion. He wants a guar­an­tee that he will not go to jail, but he can­not be given that

He is al­ready con­cep­tu­al­is­ing the idea of the El­ders Coun­cil, which is in­tended to help him as an ad­vi­sory coun­cil on very im­por­tant is­sues both in the ANC and the coun­try

Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa is con­tem­plat­ing form­ing an El­ders Coun­cil in which his pre­de­ces­sors, in­clud­ing Ja­cob Zuma and other ANC veter­ans, could play a con­struc­tive role as an ad­vi­sory body to both the ANC and gov­ern­ment.

The likely new role for Zuma is among the op­tions on Ramaphosa’s ta­ble, fol­low­ing his re­marks ear­lier this week that Zuma would be as­signed var­i­ous tasks.

Al­though Ramaphosa has not said so, the de­ci­sion could be in­ter­preted as a move to con­tain Zuma, who has been fin­gered for try­ing to pub­licly un­der­mine Ramaphosa by con­duct­ing him­self as if he was still the head of both the ANC and the coun­try.

Zuma ar­rived to loud cheers at the ANC’s Jan­uary 8 state­ment rally in Inanda this week, as well as at its elec­tion man­i­festo launch, which took place at the Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium in Dur­ban, yes­ter­day.

There was spec­u­la­tion ear­lier in the week that Zuma and Ramaphosa would make a grand en­trance at the 62 000-seater sta­dium in a show of unity.

But Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza, ar­rived shortly af­ter­wards. Al­though the crowd cheered when the ANC’s head of elec­tions, Fik­ile Mbalula, chanted that the pres­i­dent had ar­rived, the re­cep­tion was rel­a­tively muted com­pared to the rous­ing wel­come that Zuma had re­ceived.

El­e­ments in Ramaphosa’s camp are wary of Zuma’s new-found zeal to be back in the pub­lic space, har­bour­ing sus­pi­cions that he is try­ing to force­fully bar­gain with Ramaphosa to en­sure that his court trou­bles dis­ap­pear.

The mush­room­ing of smaller par­ties formed by Zuma al­lies – for ex­am­ple, the African Trans­for­ma­tion Move­ment (ATM) – has also been flagged as part of a co­or­di­nated strat­egy to weaken the ANC in the up­com­ing gen­eral elec­tions later this year and spark a back­lash against Ramaphosa.

Head of the ANC pres­i­dency Zizi Kodwa told City Press that Ramaphosa was se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing a role for Zuma to work to­gether with for­mer pres­i­dents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Mot­lanthe.

Kodwa said the an­nounce­ment could be made in due course, once Ramaphosa had sat down with Zuma and ev­ery­one in­volved to clar­ify their roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

“He is al­ready con­cep­tu­al­is­ing the idea of the El­ders Coun­cil, which is in­tended to help him as an ad­vi­sory coun­cil on very im­por­tant is­sues both in the ANC and in gov­ern­ment,” he said.

“He has not an­nounced it yet, but this is what he is think­ing about. He has not yet spo­ken to Zuma, so he can­not say the coun­cil is es­tab­lished.

“At the end of that meet­ing, he may want to ask who else – in ad­di­tion to the for­mer pres­i­dents – could be a part of the El­ders Coun­cil.”

Added Kodwa: “The con­cept and no­tion would have an el­e­ment of for­mer heads of state and for­mer ANC pres­i­dents, so they could ad­vise both in the party and in gov­ern­ment.”

He said the El­ders Coun­cil would not take away the con­sti­tu­tional rights of any ANC struc­ture, such as the party’s de­ci­sion-mak­ing body, the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC). But as pres­i­dent, Ramaphosa was look­ing at us­ing the re­sources that he had avail­able, said Kodwa.

A mem­ber of the NEC said the party was mulling over a strate­gic de­ploy­ment that would see Zuma moved out of the way as he was prov­ing to be a mas­sive headache.

“We want this thing to be han­dled qui­etly, but the man is pro­vok­ing a big con­fronta­tion. He wants a guar­an­tee that he will not go to jail, but he can­not be given that as we would be in­ter­fer­ing with the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary,” said the NEC mem­ber.

Ide­ally, added the source, “Zuma will be found guilty and be given a sus­pended sen­tence so that we can all move on.

“We can have in­for­mal dis­cus­sions with those that we may have re­la­tion­ships with and put for­ward that view, but we can­not – and would not – make any de­mands to them.”

There had also been fears in the ANC that Zuma’s role in the on­go­ing elec­tion cam­paigns could de­rail the ELEC­TIONS 2019 party’s ef­forts to gar­ner more than 50% of the votes and thus re­tain its clear ma­jor­ity.

Zuma’s crit­ics told City Press that his in­volve­ment would alien­ate vot­ers be­cause of the crim­i­nal charges that he is fac­ing. The ANC Veter­ans League was among those plan­ning to block any at­tempts to de­ploy Zuma to cam­paign for the party.

“The Man­gaung res­o­lu­tion says that peo­ple who are im­pli­cated in any cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties must not be the face of the ANC,” said an of­fi­cial from the veter­ans league.

Last year, the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Au­thor­ity charged Zuma with cor­rup­tion, rack­e­teer­ing and money laun­der­ing, and he has ap­peared in court a few times.

Zuma will be back in court in May, when he will try to push for a per­ma­nent stay of pros­e­cu­tion.

“We are go­ing into the most con­tested elec­tions, and vot­ers are still cyn­i­cal about Zuma. He is tainted. It de­pends where he is de­ployed,” said the vet­eran.

How­ever, in­di­ca­tions are that Zuma re­mains pop­u­lar in KwaZulu-Natal and that ef­forts are be­ing made to rope him into the elec­tion cam­paign.

Zuma’s sup­port­ers in KwaZulu-Natal want him to be de­ployed to a strate­gic po­si­tion, which may in­clude in­volv­ing him in diplo­matic in­ter­ven­tions across the globe.

Kwazi Mshengu, the ANC Youth League chair­per­son in KwaZulu-Natal, told City Press on Fri­day that Zuma was fa­mous across the coun­try and com­manded a lot of re­spect in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“In our view, he can be used for any de­ploy­ment that the ANC may deem fit,” he said.

“You would know about the role he played in re­solv­ing the is­sues in Bu­rundi and other parts of the coun­try when he was still the deputy pres­i­dent, and sub­se­quently the pres­i­dent.

“It is this type of de­ploy­ment, where he thinks he can make a con­tri­bu­tion [that is vi­able],” Mshengu said.

ANC chief whip Jack­son Mthembu said a peace mis­sion some­where could be the best op­tion.

“The thought of de­ploy­ing Nxa­m­alala is wel­comed. It will help the coun­try,” Mthembu said.

Gen­eral sec­re­tary of the SA Com­mu­nist Party Blade Nz­i­mande said he was hope­ful that Zuma could play a con­struc­tive role in the coun­try, on the con­ti­nent and in the world.

“For­mer pres­i­dents carry a par­tic­u­lar stature, and they have got cer­tain ex­pe­ri­ences which may en­able them to play a role in cre­at­ing, hope­fully, a bet­ter world. But I do not know what the pres­i­dent meant. It is up to him what he does,” Nz­i­mande told City Press.

He said Zuma’s de­ploy­ment might be help­ful to the coun­try and else­where.

“We will see what he (Ramaphosa) has in mind about that,” Nz­i­mande said.

Dakota Le­goete, the ANC’s act­ing na­tional spokesper­son, said as­sign­ing Zuma an im­por­tant task would help the ANC and the coun­try.

“As a leader in his own right, and also as a mem­ber of the ANC, it will help be­cause whether we like it or not, there are peo­ple who still feel very strongly that he is a leader. We can­not take that for granted,” he said.

Le­goete added that South Africans were cre­at­ing “a brouhaha” around Zuma.

“The de­ploy­ment of all for­mer pres­i­dents is a prac­tice in the ANC that was started by for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela. The same could not be done by pres­i­dent Mbeki to pres­i­dent Zuma.”

For now, he said, Ramaphosa had in­vited Zuma and all for­mer pres­i­dents to come and join the ANC elec­tion cam­paign.

“I think it is a good prac­tice be­cause if some­body is still pro­duc­tive or not sick, as in the case of for­mer pres­i­dent Zuma, he can still help the ANC in its cam­paign,” he said.

Le­goete said the de­ci­sion to de­ploy for­mer pres­i­dents was taken at the ANC’s na­tional con­fer­ence.

PHOTO: JAB­U­LANI LANGA

STILL SMIL­ING STRONG HAND? Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa de­liv­ers the ANC’s elec­tion man­i­festo at Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium in Dur­ban. He has var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal prob­lems to take in hand, a cru­cial one be­ing what to do with his pre­de­ces­sor, Ja­cob Zuma

PHOTO: LEON SADIKI

For­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma ar­rives ahead of the party’s man­i­festo launch to an en­thu­si­as­tic wel­come yes­ter­day

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