Zuma in bid to regain ground with reshuffle

2010-03-21 09:25

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has embarked on a campaign to regain the

ground he lost during his recent baby scandal, amid a battle for control in his

office.

The latest source of tension in the president’s office arose when

Zizi Kodwa was appointed as Zuma’s special adviser on communications – a move

that has left spin-doctor Vincent Magwenya jittery.

Magwenya, unlike Kodwa, is said to have given a lukewarm

performance in the embattled Zuma administration. Sources said he was apparently

concerned that Kodwa’s arrival might be seen as a vote of no confidence in him.

As a result he will now be shunted to the office of Lakela Kaunda, head of the

president’s private office, from April 1.

“The move will make it easy for Vincent to access the president. If

there is an issue, Vincent can go to Lakela and say, ‘I need to speak to the

president’. Lakela can then take him directly to the president because she has

unfettered access to ­Zuma. At the moment Vincent does not have that type of

access, which creates a problem for a spin-doctor,” a top ANC official privy to

the battles in the Union Buildings said.

Kodwa did not help the situation when he told a daily newspaper he

was “in charge of the entire communications of the president, including Luthuli

House”.

“It was difficult for me to speak on ­behalf of the president

mainly on ANC matters, but now I will be able to combine the two roles,” Kodwa

told The Times newspaper on Wednesday.

There is also talk that Thoraya Pandy, the head of communications

at the treasury, will join the president’s office as a spokesperson for Trevor

Manuel, the minister in the presidency who is in charge of the National Planning

Commission. “She has already resigned at treasury. She and Manuel go back a long

way,” one official said.

Pandy confirmed that she had resigned from the treasury, but said

she was not going to the presidency.

Chief operations officer Jessie Duarte is said to have taken

“fed-up leave” to make up her mind about her future. She cited a smear campaign,

gossip and vilification as among her reasons for wanting to quit. She and Kaunda

are said to have rubbed each other up the wrong way.

“Lakela is the most powerful woman in the president’s office. She

is centralising power in herself and does not care whether you are a minister or

an ANC national executive committee (NEC) member,” another official said.

“She attends NEC meetings as support staff for the president. She

does not participate in the discussions. Jessie does. Therefore Jessie cannot

come to the ­Union Buildings and throw her weight around,” a third source

said.

Yesterday Duarte said: “I am sorry. I do not talk to the press,

whatever it is (you want to talk about). Goodbye.”

Kodwa was Zuma’s spokesperson and the political manager in the

president’s office at Luthuli House, the ANC’s head ­office in central

Johannesburg.

Zuma has already visited Soweto’s Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital

and Madelakufa informal settlement in Tembisa. On Tuesday the president will

travel to Eastern Cape’s OR Tambo region to ­visit the home affairs department

offices there before returning to Pretoria West to meet poor Afrikaner

communities.

Next week’s visit will be the second since 2008. Two years ago he

visited the Bethlehem settlement in Pretoria West, where the community had

complained about housing, medical care and social security.

A visit to Siyathemba in Balfour, Mpumalanga, was also being

planned.

The move, officials said, was couched in such a way that it

appeared Zuma was “genuinely visiting communities” whereas in fact it was to

help him regain confidence ­following the scandal that broke after he ­fathered

a child with Sonono Khoza, the daughter of Orlando ­Pirates boss Irvin

Khoza.

Magwenya could not be reached for comment.

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