President Jacob Zuma is waging a desperate battle for his political survival and has gone all out in a war against his perceived enemies inside and outside the ANC.
With the tide turning against him in the party, Zuma has resorted to tried-and-tested tactics that have ensured his staying power: playing the victim and appealing directly to the grass roots ANC membership.
In the past few days, the president has gone on the offensive.
In a series of rallies on his home turf of KwaZulu-Natal, and in sympathetic Mpumalanga, Zuma has fired salvoes at his own comrades, party veterans, opposition parties, white business and Western powers, all of whom he accused of being in a conspiracy to bring down the ANC.
The rallies – dubbed cadre forums – have been organised by his most loyal supporters in partisan provinces to mobilise the defence of his embattled presidency.
More such forums, which are meant for the political education of branch members, are expected in the coming weeks.
This weekend’s rallies come on the eve of what is expected to be a hostile meeting tomorrow between the ANC’s national working committee and a delegation from the so-called 101 veterans, who have called for Zuma’s resignation and the convening of a consultative conference to fix the ANC.
A shaky Zuma will then go into next weekend’s national executive committee meeting uncertain of the mood in the ANC body which has traditionally shielded him.
In the rallies Zuma has:
- Compared the attacks on him and the ANC to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ
- Said he is not “crazy”
- Accused close colleagues and comrades – without naming them – of painting him as a thief while they themselves are stealing
- Warned those whom he is accusing that they “know who they are” – a thinly veiled admonishment to his foes
- Labelled his detractors within the ANC as “witches”
- Alluded to Western powers having a hand in the ANC’s woes, claiming they want to destroy the Brics bloc – referring to the five emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) – and that they see South Africa as an easy target in this quest.
Speaking at a rally in Acornhoek in Mpumalanga yesterday, Zuma urged ANC members to defend their party – and, by extension, him – against its enemies, such as the Western powers and white capital, which he accused of using people as pawns to further their agendas.
“Our enemies buy certain people to be used as zombies ... Let us stand with the ANC and build a strong alliance. They do not want the ANC because it is doing good for the country. Even Jesus Christ was crucified because he came here to save us,” he said.
The party’s KwaZulu-Natal chairperson, Sihle Zikalala, and his Mpumalanga counterpart, David Mabuza, used their respective platforms to vow that Zuma was going nowhere.
In his address to ANC cadres at a packed Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Friday, Zuma also linked the calls for his removal to South Africa’s membership of Brics, which is establishing its own international bank, the New Development Bank.
“We did not even go to that bank called the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, to ask for money. Most people do not like this because we cannot be told what to do,” he said.
In Acornhoek he blasted ANC veterans and cast aspersions on their motives for speaking out.
“Our enemies are paid big monies to kill the ANC. Some of them claim to have been members of the ANC for many years, but when they complain, they do not follow ANC procedures.”
Zuma added that, instead of following ANC procedures, they ran to the media.
“They don’t complain within ANC structures, but they speak to the media. Where is ANC discipline? They claim to have ANC values, but they don’t talk to the ANC.”
Zuma said that the ANC’s enemies complained about corruption, even though the party had established institutions to fight it. “Just because we are fighting corruption, they change the story and say the ANC is corrupt. We always take steps against corruption.”
The real reason he and the ANC were under pressure, he said, was that white business was scared about economic transformation. “They have the money ... In all countries of the world, the indigenous people are in charge of everything – politics, the economy and security.
“Even here, African countries with weak economies have Africans owning the economy, but in South Africa black people do not own the economy,” he said.
In Pietermaritzburg he made oblique reference to the reaction to his removal of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. Talking about “what happened last December”, he repeated his allegation that he was forced to drop his chosen replacement, Des van Rooyen, by forces who threatened to “burn the country”.
He insisted that he was of sound mind and was not afraid of his enemies.
“At least I know who [my enemies] are and what they are doing. I am not worried. If I was crazy, I would make the whole of South Africa crazy as well.”
Meanwhile, the delegation of ANC stalwarts calling for Zuma to go could find a hostile reception at a scheduled meeting with the ANC’s national working committee tomorrow.
In a batch of emails leaked to the media, concerns were expressed among the party’s former leaders that the working committee was a “factional” group which was unlikely to offer “a mature political discussion”.
The stalwarts want the party to hold a special consultative conference, at which the resignation of the current leadership can be discussed.
Veteran ANC participants, such as former finance minister Trevor Manuel and Khulu Mbatha, said they would rather press for a smaller meeting with the ANC’s top six than go as a large group to face the 25-member working committee.
Mavuso Msimang, the former director-general of home affairs, said his understanding was always that the 101 stalwarts requested a meeting with the ANC leadership “to discuss or inform them about the content and timing of the planned consultative conference”.
Msimang said he “would not be averse to our meeting the working committee delegation if the purpose of such a meeting is to recapitulate the objectives of the 101 elders and not subject them to renegotiation”.
The concerned group’s posture has been described by those backing Zuma as “disingenuous and dishonest”.
“Going to meet the national working committee with a predetermined outcome and expectations – and even insulting the ANC structure as being a pro-Zuma group – is wrong and defeats the purpose of engaging genuinely,” said a Zuma sympathiser.
The involvement of Mbatha, a known ally of former president Kgalema Motlanthe; Eureka Smith, the personal assistant of Tokyo Sexwale; and Mukoni Ratshitanga, the spokesperson for former president Thabo Mbeki, had also been questioned – because “they are not veterans”.
“Mbeki, Motlanthe and Sexwale cannot be exonerated from having a covert hand and being the masters of the destruction of the ANC, because they are having proxies in the mail chain who are far from being called stalwarts of the ANC,” said the loyalist.
Ratshitanga said yesterday he was included in the group to keep his elderly father, Rashaka Ratshitanga, informed of developments.
Zuma is also gradually losing the support of labour federation Cosatu, having already lost that of his party’s other tripartite ally, the SA Communist Party.
The latest battle will be fought at Cosatu’s central executive committee this week, during which affiliates will pressurise the federation to adopt a position for Zuma to resign.
The Communication Workers’ Union and the National Health and Allied Workers’ Union have already pronounced that Zuma should leave for the sake of the ANC.
City Press has learnt that leaders of affiliates have been unhappy about Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini’s attempts to frustrate this discussion.