BACK-SEAT DRIVER

Zuma is ele­phant in room at NEC meet­ings

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By APHIWE DEKLERK and SIBONGAKONKE SHOBA

● For­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s con­tin­ued pres­ence in ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ings is caus­ing ruc­tions in the ANC, with se­nior party lead­ers ac­cus­ing him of try­ing to in­tim­i­date them.

Sev­eral ANC NEC mem­bers, who spoke to the Sun­day Times on con­di­tion of anonymity, said there was wide­spread un­hap­pi­ness about Zuma at­tend­ing meet­ings of the party’s high­est de­ci­sion-mak­ing body.

Zuma even at­tended the spe­cial NEC last Mon­day. They ac­cused the for­mer pres­i­dent of try­ing to muz­zle NEC mem­bers who seek to dis­cuss the mess cre­ated by his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“He does not [con­trib­ute dur­ing dis­cus­sions]. That’s what wor­ries us. He just sits there and doesn’t open his mouth. I have never seen a man who at­tends a meet­ing where he does not con­trib­ute to the de­bate, but re­mains punc­tual and sits there un­til it ends. He sits there in the back and watches,” said an NEC mem­ber.

“It be­comes awk­ward . . . you end up ques­tion­ing, what is this guy re­ally do­ing? Some peo­ple see it as some kind of in­tim­i­da­tion of some sort.

“[It’s like he is mon­i­tor­ing] who is speak­ing, who is not speak­ing. Who is sell­ing me out, who is not? The rea­son is that there are still is­sues that af­fect him, like the in­tegrity com­mis­sion, is­sues about cor­rup­tion and SARS . . . that [get dis­cussed at the NEC].”

Zuma is an ex of­fi­cio mem­ber of the NEC by virtue of be­ing a for­mer ANC pres­i­dent and is al­lowed to at­tend its meet­ings, as are all for­mer pres­i­dents. How­ever, Zuma is the first for­mer pres­i­dent to be­come a reg­u­lar at NEC meet­ings af­ter leav­ing of­fice.

For­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki has not at­tended a sin­gle NEC meet­ing since los­ing at the Polok­wane con­fer­ence in 2007.

Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s back­ers, who were hop­ing to go to next year’s elec­tions with a Zuma-free ANC, are peeved by his pres­ence as it sends a mes­sage to vot­ers that Zuma is still part of the top lead­er­ship.

“None of the ex-pres­i­dents at­tend the NEC on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. He is the only one that has been con­sis­tent. Ever since Nas­rec, he has not missed a sin­gle meet­ing,” said the NEC mem­ber.

“If a meet­ing sits for two days, he at­tends the full two days.”

Another NEC mem­ber said he had been ap­proached by sev­eral of his col­leagues who were un­easy about

Zuma’s silent, watch­ful pres­ence in NEC meet­ings feels like ‘in­tim­i­da­tion’

What kind of hog­wash is that? A dis­ci­plined mem­ber of the ANC should be grate­ful to say: ‘At least I am sit­ting in an NEC meet­ing with some­one who once at­tended an NEC meet­ing with OR Tambo, with Man­dela’

Vuk­ile Matha­bela

Zuma’s spokesman

Zuma’s pres­ence. “It is a source of protes­ta­tion. He thinks that when he is there peo­ple will not raise matters about him.”

Zuma’s spokesman, Vuk­ile Matha­bela, rub­bished claims that the for­mer pres­i­dent’s pres­ence in­tim­i­dated NEC mem­bers.

“The sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the ANC sent an in­vite to all the for­mer pres­i­dents of the ANC to at­tend the NEC meet­ings and ANC pro­grammes . . . I doubt all the 80 mem­bers of the NEC speak in ev­ery meet­ing,” said Matha­bela.

He said there was some­thing wrong with lead­ers who were in­tim­i­dated by Zuma’s pres­ence.

“It’s just hog­wash. What kind of hog­wash is that? If he at­tends NEC meet­ings, he in­tim­i­dates peo­ple? No one can in­tim­i­date some­one by their pres­ence,” he said.

He said Zuma brought ex­pe­ri­ence to the NEC as he was the long­est-serv­ing mem­ber of the struc­ture and ANC lead­ers should thank their lucky stars to be rub­bing shoul­ders with him.

“A dis­ci­plined mem­ber of the ANC should be grate­ful to say: ‘At least I am sit­ting in an NEC meet­ing with some­one who once at­tended an NEC meet­ing with OR Tambo, with Man­dela, with so many other ANC lead­ers.’ ”

An NEC mem­ber sym­pa­thetic to Zuma ac­cused his col­leagues of be­ing cow­ards. He said Ramaphosa’s back­ers were al­ways at­tack­ing Zuma’s sup­port­ers in meet­ings.

“They are al­ways ar­gu­ing for structures to be dis­banded,” he said.

At Mon­day’s meet­ing, he said, Cosatu deputy pres­i­dent Zingiswa Losi and Eastern Cape MEC Pemmy Ma­jo­d­ina ar­gued for the Free State pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee to be dis­banded. This, ac­cord­ing to the NEC mem­ber, was avoided be­cause a de­tailed re­port was pre­sented, show­ing that due process had been fol­lowed in prepa­ra­tion for the con­fer­ence.

Losi de­nied call­ing for the dis­band­ment of the Free State ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

“That’s not true, I didn’t. I only stood up to ask a clar­ity ques­tion but I never spoke on the dis­band­ment . . . it was a ques­tion re­lat­ing to the Free State,” said Losi.

She de­clined to say what she had asked, say­ing that would be tan­ta­mount to re­veal­ing dis­cus­sions of the NEC.

“By say­ing ‘This is what I said’, I am now re­lat­ing who said what [at the meet­ing],” said Losi.

Ma­jo­d­ina de­clined to com­ment.

Pic­ture: El­iz­a­beth Se­jake

For­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma

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