‘We note Zuma’s mistakes’

2011-12-03 16:31

President Jacob Zuma’s detractors are looking to use his “questionable” ­appointments in government to weaken his campaign to retain the ANC presidency next year.

One key appointment, that of advocate Menzi Simelane as national director of public prosecutions, was trashed as “irrational” by five Supreme Court of Appeal judges on Thursday.

Zuma also made a surprise announcement on Tuesday that retired judge ­Willem Heath has been returned as head of the Special Investigating Unit, which he had founded in 1996.

An ex-officio member of the ANC ­national executive committee (NEC), with close links to the ANC Youth League, said a team of strategists ­consisting of both youth league and senior ANC members are lobbying for leadership change and watching all of Zuma’s “mistakes”.

The ANC is set to hold its elective ­conference in Mangaung next year.

“We did say to those people that they should check everything that Zuma does wrong and that will form part of our campaign,” said the ex-officio member, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being reprimanded.

Zuma’s appointment of ANC veteran Mac Maharaj as his spokesperson has also come under fire after fresh revelations that Maharaj allegedly lied to the former Scorpions.

Zuma has also been accused by NEC members and sources close to the ANC of being increasingly paranoid.
He has kept recent decisions on appointments secret even from close associates in government and the ANC leaders whom City Press has spoken to.

The ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference stressed that its government deployees should consult with the party before making big decisions.

As the ANC’s internal battles heat up, Zuma made it clear in an NEC meeting last weekend that he would clamp down on any leaks to the media about confidential party discussions.

Zuma defender Kebby Maphatsoe, who is chairperson of the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association, said the president had initially been accused of being indecisive, but when he acts, he is being criticised of campaigning to hang on to the presidency.

He said: “It is clear that there is an attempt to taint Zuma as a failure.

“Why are people complaining when he strengthens his office in government? It’s not like he’s doing this in an ANC office without consulting.”

Some within the ANC and legal circles have criticised Heath’s appointment saying that, at age 66, he might be too old for the job.

They also said Heath had courted controversy in his defence of Zuma as part of the “brains trust” that helped get corruption charges against him dropped, prompting an NEC member to label Heath an “arse-licker”.

Another NEC source, who is sympathetic to Zuma, said Heath, as founding head of the SIU, had a good anti-corruption track record and that the Constitution prohibited age discrimination.

A government source who is also close to the ANC said some senior members of the governing party are ­beginning to question the quality of ­Zuma’s legal advice.

“There is a view that we should start doing things differently. Comrades think No 1 (Zuma) is surrounded by legal advisers who leave more questions than answers.”

Zuma has recently appointed his former personal lawyer, Michael Hulley, as legal adviser on a part-time basis, in addition to Bonisiwe Makhene, whom he appointed in 2009.

An NEC source, who also wished to remain anonymous, said Zuma should consult more widely. “In the party we can do what we want, but in the state, things are different.”

Another legal source speculated that the arms deal inquiry might end up in the SIU’s hands should the commission the president recently appointed, not get off the ground.

He said the commission, headed by Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Willie Seriti, could not start work because it had not received its complete terms of reference yet. There are also questions about whether it was proper for sitting judges to serve on the commission.

» The intelligence community is also in turmoil as spy boss Jeff Maqetuka ­resigned this week. He is the second of the three top spy bosses to resign, after domestic intelligence chief Gibson Njenje left in September.

Moe Shaik, head of foreign intelligence, is also ­reported to be on his way out.

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