Jacob Zuma's going nowhere, but ...

2014-08-31 15:00

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ANC structures insist that President Jacob Zuma will not be forced to step down over Nkandla, but there is increasing concern his deteriorating health could lead to his early exit from office.

City Press has learnt the ANC is concerned about the damage caused by the Nkandla matter and will advise Zuma to pay back a portion of the money the state spent on his home once this has been determined by the police minister and National Treasury.

This is meant to ease the public pressure on him caused by the Nkandla debacle.

Yesterday, a top ANC leader said: “There is a serious discussion about how to manage Nkandla?...?There is pressure on him to pay something. The president has to pay. The amount will be decided by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, who is senior in the movement, and [Public Works Minister] Thulas Nxesi. Together they will make a determination of the amount with the Treasury.

“We have to take clear and decisive action on this because the damage to the ANC always comes up.”

In her report, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela orders Zuma to “pay a reasonable percentage of the cost of the ­measures as determined with the assistance of National ­Treasury, also considering the department of public works apportionment document”.

The original public works apportionment document, dated March 2011, was authored by Durban regional public works manager Bheki Khanyile, who sent a memorandum to his former minister, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, which tallies Zuma’s portion of the Nkandla bill at more than R10.6?million.

President Zuma’s health has been in the news since he abandoned a Cabinet meeting in June due to neck pain and then took a week to recuperate.

This week, an unusual “working” visit to Russia prompted speculation that Zuma had gone for health reasons. Zuma went for six days, but his only known appointments were with Russian President Vladimir Putin and a visit to the graves of South African liberation heroes buried there.

A government statement issued a day before he left said besides meeting Putin, he would attend “low-level” meetings and use the period to rest.

Over the past two weeks, the Nkandla debacle has been top of mind, with the leaking of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s letter to Zuma in which she takes issue with him for not responding to the findings contained in her report.

Also last week, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Parliament forced Zuma to abandon his response session with chants of “pay back the money”.

While they acknowledge Zuma has become a liability, most ANC leaders from different structures who spoke to City Press said they would not allow the EFF or Madonsela to dictate any exit strategy and would defend Zuma vigorously.

City Press spoke to 18 ANC leaders across the country and the governing party’s political structures.

One long-serving ANC MP said: “The EFF is using completely the wrong tactics. They are frustrated because they only have 6% and cannot force anything in the House if we are against it. Their focus on the president will only make us more resolute in defending him.”

Another ANC MP, who also spoke on condition of ­anonymity, agreed, saying the party would ensure that the EFF’s tactics of open hostility towards the president was met with resistance from ANC benches.

“This is not about Zuma. It is about defending both theorganisation and the office. We know he has many scandals and issues, and of course we are concerned about that. But when it comes to that office, we cannot allow [EFF leader Julius] Malema or Madonsela to dictate to us what to do.”

ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said he told EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu that the EFF’s strategy of targeting Zuma was bound to fail. “It’s disrespecting the institution of the president. Their personal hatred of the president is a problem for them. Anyone who targets one individual, instead of ANC policies, will fail,” he said.

A member of the ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) in KwaZulu-Natal said: “There is no way we will dump the president. No way. This province will support the president all the way. There will be no demand from KZN that he resign. None.

“None of these reports show any wrongdoing by him, so why should he stand down? The reports have cleared him. Let those who have been identified and who pushed up costs face the law, not the president. He has done nothing wrong.”

An ANC Youth League national task team member said it was in the interests of those who supported Zuma and benefited from his leadership to keep him in place.

“A stepping down would surprise us all,” he said.

But he said it was likely major moves would come in mid-2015, when the ANC holds its national general council (NGC).

“Typically, the NGC reveals battle lines,” he said.

The league’s new leader, set to be elected at its conference at the end of September, is likely to be sympathetic to Zuma.

The frontrunners are former league treasurer Pule Mabe, who was elected to the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) in 2012 after he threw his weight behind Zuma; and Magasela Mzobe, who is related to Zuma.

Insiders reckon neither of the two will launch an offensive against Zuma at the NGC. Former league deputy president Ronald Lamola is also in the running, but he has little in the way of preliminary support expressed by league regions at recent conferences.

ANC Women’s League treasurer Hlengiwe Mkhize said the EFF’s approach to the Zuma response time had worried her.

“It has almost been like a kangaroo court,” she said, adding that as an MP and deputy minister she was concerned that the EFF could treat her or any of her colleagues in the same way as they did Zuma.

“Women do not flourish in a conflict situation,” she said. “If MPs had started fighting, it is us as women who will be sitting on the mattress. Once you fight in Parliament, it goes to the townships. It is scary.”

At least three PEC members in Gauteng said Zuma should go – or at least pay up what he owed for Nkandla. One leader said he was “gatvol” of the whole situation and said ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s spin was costing the ANC “dearly” in public trust.

He said: “They first told us that a swimming pool was a fire pool. Gwede went there and back to confirm the opposite. This is glaringly dishonest.”

An NEC member said Zuma would not finish his full term in office. “He is likely to go before the end of the term, but not because of you guys [the media] and all of the noise being made by many people, including our enemies.

“He will go because of what’s determined to be good for the ANC and for the country.”

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