President Jacob Zuma’s state capture inquiry concession has offered only a brief reprieve from his imminent removal, as a fresh onslaught is expected when the ANC national executive committee (NEC) meets this week.
Zuma is coming under increasing pressure. He was booed five times at the ANC’s 106th anniversary celebrations in East London on Saturday. He was booed when he arrived 45 minutes after the programme had started; when his arrival was announced; when ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged him at the beginning of his speech; and twice when Ramaphosa spoke favourably of him during his speech.
Ramaphosa had to step in to urge the crowd to observe the day as one for “celebration” and “unity”.
Zuma was seated next to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and looked on, apparently unmoved.
BRIEF STAY OF EXECUTION
Discussion about Zuma’s continued stay at the Union Buildings is set to return to the agenda at the NEC’s lekgotla, following a late-night caucus on Tuesday, which resolved not to push ahead with his removal before the ANC’s anniversary celebrations.
City Press understands that Zuma’s announcement that Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo will head the highly anticipated commission of inquiry into state capture foiled plans to discuss his removal at the pre-anniversary NEC meeting. Sources said those who wanted to table the issue were disarmed by Zuma’s announcement, which gave his defenders ammunition to argue for him to remain in office.
The overwhelming feeling was that the fight over Zuma ahead of Ramaphosa’s maiden January 8 speech would be counterproductive.
“There was a view that there was no point in upsetting the January 8 events. It would also be seen as opportunistic on Cyril’s part, and there is no guarantee as to how Zuma supporters would respond,” said an NEC insider.
Zuma allies said the announcement of the state capture commission was a bid by Zuma to buy time. The fact that Zuma is still pressing ahead with his Supreme Court of Appeal case relating to his corruption charges while the inquiry proceeds is an indication that he is playing for time and wants to weaken the debate around his removal.
The view among Zuma loyalists is that the longer it takes for Ramaphosa to remove him from the Union Buildings, the weaker the new leader will look politically. This would discourage further floor crossing and intimidate those who had already crossed to Ramaphosa’s camp to return to the Zuma fold.
But some within the NEC say Zuma’s resignation is imminent and the issue will come up at the NEC lekgotla, which starts on Thursday. Those pushing for Ramaphosa to take power immediately have been emboldened by the number of Zuma loyalists who have rallied behind the new leader.
THE MABUZA FACTOR
Insiders say new ANC deputy president David Mabuza has proposed a compromise that would see failed presidential candidate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma come in as the country’s deputy president until the 2019 elections. Mabuza would retain his premiership of Mpumalanga until then and use his national political profile to promote unity.
Mabuza is said to have made the proposal to Zuma and Ramaphosa at a meeting in KwaZulu-Natal last weekend, following the ANC top six’s courtesy visit to Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.
Those privy to the process say Ramaphosa is reluctant to have Dlamini-Zuma as his right-hand woman. He has instead set his sights on Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who was the deputy president candidate on his ticket at the ANC’s conference last month.
Many have questioned Mabuza’s “sacrifice” offer. There are suggestions that he is only looking to save his own skin and win favour with the KwaZulu-Natal ANC. Talk in the party is that Zuma’s associates have threatened to release a damning dossier implicating him in wrongful activities, as revenge for betraying Zuma by throwing Mpumalanga’s support behind Ramaphosa at the elective conference.
People familiar with the weekend discussions said that, after Mabuza left the room, Zuma and Ramaphosa turned to discussing governance, particularly dealing decisively with corruption and state capture. This is a message Ramaphosa emphasised throughout his activities this week.
It is believed it is this moment that may have pushed Zuma to agree to the state capture inquiry, because if he is seen to be refusing to comply with an ANC directive, it would strengthen the argument for his removal.
A senior ANC leader said that if Zuma had refused to act on the state capture inquiry, the argument would have been made that “he is defying the organisation as a deployee and must therefore be recalled on the basis that he is no longer agreeing to be held accountable to it”.
Winning the concession on the commission also means that “the law will take its course and he [Zuma] will have to answer for his sins, legally speaking”.
A senior leader said: “Either way, it is a win for Ramaphosa’s side because they will be rid of him any which way.”
Ramaphosa continued his anticorruption and anti-state capture theme in Saturday’s speech, vowing to personally take to task anyone – from branch level to national leadership – who defies the party line on theft from the public purse. He suggested that action would be taken against some guilty individuals by June.
Speaking in Tshivenda, Ramaphosa said that those who had been stealing money meant for the poor were known and would be dealt with.
“We shall work to restore the integrity and credibility of the ANC. We need cadres who are committed to serve no other interest than the interests of the people, who seek no advantage for themselves or their families from the positions they occupy, and who safeguard public resources.”
He said the party’s integrity commission would be strengthened and the status of its decisions – which had been treated as advisory under Zuma – would be finalised by June.
Welcoming Zuma’s appointment of Zondo to head the state capture inquiry, Ramaphosa was adamant that its terms of reference should be in line with the findings of former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report. Zuma, current Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and some elements in the ANC want to water the inquiry down by broadening its mandate, thus making it lengthy and unwieldy.
Ramaphosa said any crackdown must include “corruption, collusion and other criminal activity in the private sector, which must be fought with equal diligence and determination”.
Zuma’s imminent departure has sparked fresh talks of a Cabinet reshuffle. Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi are said to be headed for the door. Energy Minister David Mahlobo and State Security Minister Bongani Bongo are in the firing line as well.
This will open the way for an injection of fresh blood into Cabinet and the return of veteran ministers who Zuma dumped.
“Whether he resigns or not, there has to be some agreement for an immediate intervention to show that the ANC is serious about turning the tide for the better, especially removing some of the dead wood, and people who are openly seen as corrupt and those who have failed,” said an insider in the Ramaphosa camp.
Ramaphosa hinted at a Cabinet reshuffle, speaking of a need for a complete overhaul in embattled state-owned entities that have been paralysed by state capture. At Friday’s gala dinner, Ramaphosa added fuel to the reshuffle fire when he welcomed guests, including “ministers of president Zuma’s Cabinet”.
The Cosatu, which backed Ramaphosa’s candidacy as ANC president from the beginning, is expected to present him with a list of demands. These could include the removal of senior Cabinet ministers who are seen to be incompetent or embroiled in state capture allegations.
Wednesday’s special NEC sitting avoided discussing Zuma, but it was not without drama.
City Press heard that ANC leaders from KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State – whose provincial leadership structures were nullified by the courts last year – were kicked out of the gathering shortly after the presentation of credentials by ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte.
“They were asked to excuse themselves and sit outside,” said a source.
It is understood that even ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe stood firm on this decision during that session, even as some people raised their hands to speak using the unity ticket.
Ramaphosa has been at pains this week to emphasise unity in the party. He said this was the mandate given to the newly elected leaders.
At Friday night’s gala dinner, he said leaders and members who did not speak with one voice, or who were divisive, would be violating a mandate given to them at conference.