President Jacob Zuma: Where to now?

December 23, 2017
| Report Focus News

THE knives are out for President Jacob Zuma after the election of the new ANC leadership headed by Cyril Ramaphosa.

There is growing sentiment across party factions to have Zuma recalled to avoid the spectre of two centres of power – and boost the ANC’s chances of retaining power in 2019.

The possibility of Zuma’s removal was discussed during the conference, where it was resolved that the ANC national executive committee (NEC) had the power to recall the president, should it decide to.

Independent Media has established that moves are already afoot to oust the embattled president, with Ramaphosa supporters discussing how to remove him.

An ANC leader and former MP who was central to Dlamini Zuma’s campaign said it was almost certain that Zuma was not going to finish his term as the country’s president in 2019.

“We understand that there are moves to remove the president. We are saying it cannot be done here (at the conference). It must be a matter of the NEC,” he said.

“If I were the president, I would resign. He is not the leader of the organisation anymore. He cannot impose himself on the ANC,” said the leader.

It was likely that Zuma would be recalled in the same way former President Thabo Mbeki was ousted. The leader said an exit plan that does not humiliate Zuma had to be put together in the event he refuses to resign.

But this depended on the composition of the NEC, which is the party’s highest decision-making body between conferences.

Ramaphosa’s supporters would have power to oust Zuma should they be in the majority in the body.

By last night, the party was yet to announce the leaders in the 86 leaders who had made it into the powerful structure.

There had been fears that a divided and weak NEC might hamper Ramaphosa’s ability to fulfil his pre-conference promises to root out corruption, probe state capture and fix state-owned enterprises.

One of the main tasks facing the new NEC is ensuring there is synergy between the party and the government to avoid the emergence of a two centres of power.

This assertion was affirmed by NEC member Fikile Mbalula, who said the conference had resolved that the new NEC should “manage” the two centres of power.

But Mbalula, who is the ANC’s chairperson of the organisational renewal sub-committee, said the incoming NEC could recall Zuma if it so wished – in the best interests of the ANC.

He alluded to the “tense” situation following the party’s 2007 Polokwane conference which elected Zuma as ANC president.

Mbalula added that the current situation mirrored 2007 – with Ramaphosa as party president and Zuma the country’s president – saying this situation had to be “managed carefully”.

“So, what conference has said is something that arises from that situation (post-Polokwane); it’s not something that is new to us. But, should there be a recall (of Zuma); the NEC is (empowered) to take that decision,” Mbalula said.

Ramaphosa is the only top six member serving in national government, in his capacity as the deputy president.

Former Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool said the new ANC president would need “a decisive ANC” if he was going to restore the public’s confidence in the ruling party.

“That’s what all the lobbying has been about today (during the conference), said Rasool, adding that Ramaphosa needed “50 solid people on his side (in the NEC) to fulfil the mandate of his campaign”.

There was talk during the conference that Ramaphosa needed to act tough on Zuma, while a heated debate ensued as delegates debated the two centres of power.

Among the resolutions taken was on state capture, with delegates agreeing that the public protector’s recommendations on state capture should be implemented expeditiously.

However, Ramaphosa may still face fierce resistance from Zuma’s allies, who claim the 2008 recall of Thabo Mbeki cost the party dearly.

KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala warned that any move to remove Zuma would be seen as a purge, and may further divide the ANC.

“What is important for the ANC is to ensure unity and not to be seen to be purging anyone. In the ANC, we balance politics and powers,” Zikalala said.

He said Zuma and Ramaphosa should keep their government positions the way they are until 2019 general elections.