ANALYSIS: Zuma's threats and claims can unleash a firestorm in the ANC

2019-07-16 07:51
Former president Jacob Zuma.

Former president Jacob Zuma. (Felix Dlangamandla)

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“I have been provoked and provoked to the last degree…I have been wanting to save the organisation (the ANC) and the country, but they made stories…they do everything…Some might know for a fact that I know things about them. I have behaved for decades, not played around with intelligence information, I have lived with people who don’t know what I know about them…but these comrades have provoked me…" – Former president Jacob Zuma testifying at the state capture commission of inquiry, July 15, 2019.

Former president Jacob Zuma's dramatic claims about plots and conspiracies against him could very well threaten to engulf the ANC in a firestorm of witch hunts and retribution if left unchecked and unchallenged.

Zuma, who for 16 years has been involved in a perennial battle to avoid being tried for fraud and corruption related to the multibillion-rand arms deal, is enmeshed in allegations of state capture after his nine years as head of state. And on Monday, he took to the stand at the state capture commission of inquiry claiming victimhood, alleging grand conspiracies and lacing his narrative with open threats to former comrades and colleagues.

His opening statement, which lasted from 10:34 to 13:05, spanned the period from 1990 to the present day. In it, he accused the ANC leadership structures under former president Nelson Mandela and President Cyril Ramaphosa of conspiring against him: the former by removing him as intelligence chief in 1991 and the latter by removing him as head of state in February 2018.

READ MORE | ANALYSIS: A menacing, threatening and snarling Zuma readying for scorched earth

Both these inflexion points were seemingly brought about by a plot involving two foreign intelligence services in cahoots with a local intelligence institution. This conspiracy has been an ongoing project for almost 30 years, with spies planted inside the ANC and "nurtured" so that they could eventually take over the party leadership, Zuma alleges.

If Zuma's statement is true, it will rip open the ANC because it delegitimises the party's whole post-1994 history. It violates Mandela, it involves Mbeki and it accuses two ANC national executive committees of being unduly influenced by outside forces. But most importantly, it seems to imply that Ramaphosa is beholden to interests foreign to party structures and party interests. And that's exactly what Zuma seeks to achieve. He wants to sow dissent and distrust. 

Monday's testimony, stripped of the political theatre and hyperbole, was an open threat to Ramaphosa and his allies to stop persecuting Zuma. And it was delivered against the backdrop of the resistance movement opposing governance reforms growing ever stronger, thanks to a renewed Bell Pottinger-type disinformation campaign and the Public Protector assisting the compromised EFF to do the dirty on Pravin Gordhan, Zuma's bête noire.

READ MORE | 'I've been vilified as the most corrupt': Read the full transcript of Zuma's opening statement at Zondo

There is no worse accusation in the liberation movement than that of being an apartheid spy, collaborator or askari. It implies betrayal of the struggle, of the people and the cause. It is considered high treason.

That is what Zuma accused two-time Cabinet minister Ngoako Ramathlodi of when he claimed he was recruited as a spy by one of the mysterious three intelligence agencies (without naming them) that have been running the plot against him. And that is what he claimed unnamed and serving senior ANC leaders are.

Was his reference to spies who infiltrated the ANC and who were nurtured to perhaps one day "lead the organisation" a reference to Ramaphosa?

In Anthony Butler's biography of Ramaphosa, he recounts how Zuma was tasked to do a background check on Ramaphosa before joining the SACP, and that in his report, he flagged security concerns about the future president's history. Zuma, Butler writes, was "sympathetic to the theory that any accomplished young member of the liberation movement was quite likely a spy".

READ MORE: Zuma delivers heavy blow to already wounded ANC

Because the only way that the three intelligence agencies, acting in concert with planted spies who were groomed to take over the leadership one day, could take Zuma "out" was to remove him via a decision by the party's leadership.

And who is the leader? Ramaphosa.

"Finally, because I'm here, I'm about to finish my second term, those people perhaps who were part of the decision that Zuma must not be chief of intelligence, within my organisation, feel they failed to do the task. Those who are tasked to ensure that Zuma goes. They create a situation, as we're about to go for the State of the Nation…they say Zuma must not do this one. Including the NEC. It's part of the implementation of the plans of the intelligence organisations that Zuma must go," he said.

The theme of Zuma's testimony was that he is the victim of a grand conspiracy hatched in the early 1990s and led to its natural conclusion with the assistance of ANC leaders beholden to alien interests. He has failed to give any substantive answers to questions put to him by evidence leader Paul Pretorius, SC, opting to use his appearance for political grandstanding and whipping up support (his first nine answers were variations of: "No, I cannot remember").

He waved around a piece of paper, saying he has names, that he knows things, that maybe the time to stop being polite is over. He threatened the ANC leadership and he threatened the party itself. 

He's lobbed a grenade into the heart of the ANC. And there are plenty of operators in the shadows of the governing party who would like nothing more than to detonate it. Including Zuma himself.

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