Zuma's staff crisis not over

2010-07-05 10:53

Cape Town - The office of President Jacob Zuma is facing further trouble after it was revealed that more senior staff members may soon quit their jobs.

Zuma's spokesperson Vincent Magwenya apparently fell victim to infighting in the president's office. He allegedly became increasingly uncomfortable with the way in which ANC officials controlled access to the president.

The announcement on Friday about Magwenya's long-awaited resignation was followed on Sunday by reports that more senior staff members in the presidency - Vusi Mavimbela (director general) and Vusi Mona (communications head) - were on the verge of leaving.

Tensions 'normal'

This follows the earlier resignations of Joel Netshitenzhe as policy head - a position  he had held under former president Thabo Meki - and Jessie Duarte as operational head.

Magwenya, who will soon take up a senior communications post with Standard Bank, would not confirm or deny reports about Mavimbela and Mona, but said it was difficult to take faceless allegations seriously.

"The Presidency is functioning normally. There is, like in any organisation, tension and differences between those working there. It is normal. It shows they have a passion for the cause."

But Die Burger has learnt that Magwenya was the target of Zizi Kodwa and Lakela Kaunda, Zuma's confidantes in Tuynhuys and the Union Buildings, who want to control access to the head of state.

Lovechild saga

He was being held responsible by Kodwa, a special presidential advisor and Kauna, head of Zuma's private office, for the storm caused by the revelations in January that Zuma had an illegitimate child with Sonono Khoza, daughter of Safa vice-president, Irvin Khoza. He had apparently "messed up" the handling of the affair.

The Sunday Times informed the Presidency of its front page story ahead of publication. Magwenya recommended that Zuma defuse the expected public criticism by immediately making a confession and giving all details but this strategy was rejected by senior advisors, trusted sources had revealed.

In the following week, the president was heavily criticised after the Presidency allowed the situation to develop into a public relations disaster.

Magwenya's attempts to do damage control were repeatedly thwarted and Zuma's office only released a proper statement six days after the story broke.

Kodwa, who like Kaunda, is extremely loyal to Zuma, was taken from Luthuli House some weeks afterwards, and deployed in the presidency.

"The way in which people are made suspect, worked out and they are gossiped about, is reprehensible, unprofessional and shows a lack of respect for the office of the president," said a figure of authority close to the president.