Wily Zuma has outwitted his detractors, say analysts

2011-10-25 00:00

A PRESIDENT against the ropes or one who has outwitted and outplayed his opponents? That’s the range of reactions from analysts who were asked “Why now and why all at once” regarding the timing and significance of the changes announced by President Jacob Zuma yesterday.

Nhlanhla Mtaka, managing director of the Ingabadi Group, a political think-tank, believes the president has outwitted his opponents.

He said Zuma must be commended for respecting the processes of government. Zuma was fired by a president a few years ago without due process being followed, Ntaka said, so he would not leave himself open to be accused of doing the same; he outplayed his detractors by making certain he went by the book.

Ntaka said he has spoken to fellow analyst Adam Habib, who agreed with him that Zuma has outmanoeuvred his detractors in the calibre of his appointments to both the arms commission and the inquiry into suspended Police Commissioner Bheki Cele. They are judges from the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeals, Mtaka said.

As for due process, the analyst noted that Cele is protected by the SA Police Service Act, which states that when there is a problem with the commissioner a board of inquiry should be set up.

Similarly, he said, cabinet ministers Sicelo Shiceka and Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde had to be given a chance to make their own legal representation on the Public Protector’s recommendations.

“People have questioned why the president took so long.

“I say that the difference between a dictatorship and a democracy is that it is easy for a dictator to just act. Under a democracy there has to be consultation and the following of due process,” Mtaka said.

Stellenbosch academic Amanda Gous believes Zuma had no choice but to act given the ANC Youth League’s pending economic freedom march later this week.

“We must not lose sight of the ANC’s Manguang elective conference and the looming succession battle. Zuma needed to bolster his support, he needed to look strong and in control,” Gous said.

She agrees with Mtaka about the wisdom of Zuma’s choice of judges for his commissions and his choice of ministers to replace their sacked colleagues, because they would need little training and would be able to fit in and allow for continuity.

Prince Mashele, executive director of the Centre for Politics and Research, a think-tank based in Pretoria, believes it was the growing burden of negative commentary that prompted Zuma to act.

There are perceptions in the public domain that he is indecisive and he needed to address this once and for all,which is why he dealt with a range of matters in his announcement, said Mashele.

He added that the president wanted to send a message to the country that he has been applying his mind and wanted to make sure he had covered all bases.

Analyst and author William Gumede remains concerned that some of Zuma’s moves may backfire. Gumede said Cele will be on suspension and in terms of the ongoing succession battle this leaves him free to lobby in his home turf of KwaZulu-Natal.

Gumede also believes that Richard Baloyi may not have been the best choice for Minister of

Co-operative Governance as his performance in government has not been spectacular.

“Roy Padayachee has done a good job at Communications; perhaps moving him to Public Service and Administration is an attempt to get him to do in this department what he did in Communications,” Gumede said.

Arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne told Sapa that Zuma’s choice of three judges to chair the inquiry into the arms deal indicates that he is serious about the matter.

ANC insiders say they had been aware for four weeks that the reshuffle was on the cards.

Some believe Cele may have been aware of what was going to happen, but they were not sure if the other cabinet ministers knew.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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