Is this the end for Zuma's presidency?

By Almari Wessels
17 March 2016

Is Guptagate the nail in Jacob Zuma's coffin? The experts weigh in.

After years of rumours and speculation about Gupta brothers Ajav, Atul and Rajesh’s influence on the president from their luxurious home in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, the unthinkable happened this week: two senior ANC stalwarts, Mcebisi Jonas (the deputy minister of finance) and Vytjie Mentor (a former member of Parliament) revealed that the Guptas had offered them cabinet posts – in exchange for certain political favours.

Read more: Zuma takes the hot seat in Parliament

These revelations don’t surprise her, says Rhoda Kadalie, a human rights activist and chief executive of Impumulelo (Stellenbosch Academy for Social Innovation).

“Long ago I asked who these carpetbaggers were who were stealing the family silver with no consequences,” she says.

This begs the question: Now that the scandal has come to light, how much longer will South Africans be referring to Jacob Zuma as the state president?

The political tide is definitely turning against the president, says Professor Daryl Glaser, head of political studies at Wits. “I think we’re seeing things coming to a head after a long period. We have had a very long build-up of frustration over the perceived corporate capture of our state.”

With Zuma having made a reversal on the issue of state spending on his Nkandla home in the Constitutional Court he has turned his back on many of his supporters and if the tide keeps turning they could leave him in the lurch, he says.

Will the ANC recall the president?

No, this scandal is not the final nail in the Zuma presidency’s coffin, says Rhoda, who points out that a recall might take place in the future. “Why is it that people are coming out now, who for years protected him. They’re jumping off a sinking ship.”

Daryl believes it’s too soon to say whether the ANC will recall the president this week – even though certain analysts believe the meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) this weekend could bring things to a head.

“It’s remarkable that outsiders know so little about the sentiments of the NEC – they have always fully supported Zuma. But the fact that someone like Gwede Mantashe’s (the secretary general) support for Zuma presently looks wobbly might be an indication of a larger movement in the NEC.”

He says the Constitutional Court’s finding on the controversial improvements to Nkandla, which cost the taxpayer R250 million, will be crucial for the president’s lifespan and afterwards he’ll have to get over the decisive hurdles of the municipal elections.

At present it looks as if the ANC can expect a real hiding.

But if you take into account how quickly the party turned against former president Thabo Mbeki when he was recalled in 2008 an early surprise may be waiting for Zuma.

“A big question will be how many powerful people owe the Guptas something. If this is revealed it could cause great embarrassment to the party,” Daryl says.

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