Zuma on the ropes but his supporters are ready to defend him

2017-04-04 18:39
President Jacob Zuma. (File, City Press)

President Jacob Zuma. (File, City Press)

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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's supporters within the ANC are gearing up for an all-out battle to shield him from criticism following his divisive Cabinet reshuffle.

This comes as calls grow across all sectors of society for Zuma to step down.

"We have the balance of forces [in our favour]," said a Zuma loyalist who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

Zuma's backers are expected to take aim at Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, secretary general Gwede Mantashe and treasurer Zweli Mkhize at the special extended national working committee (NWC) meeting on Tuesday.

The urgent meeting of the NWC - a structure responsible for the party's day-to-day business of the organisation - was called amidst deepening divisions that saw the three leaders condemning the Cabinet reshuffle.

Ramaphosa, Mantashe and Mkhize made an unprecedented move and publicly lashed out at Zuma for refusing to take advice from the party, particularly on his decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister.

The trio has come under attack from Mpumalanga ANC chairperson Premier David Mabuza who labelled them "ill-disciplined".

'The future is bright'

The extended NWC, which includes Mabuza and other provincial leaders, is expected to lay bare the divisions within the party.

Zuma's supporters believe the numbers are in their favour.

Mabuza is expected to get backing from North West, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal leaders who support Zuma.

The ANC youth and women's leagues have also come out in support of Zuma. The youth league is due to host Zuma at a rally in Germiston on Wednesday, titled: "The Future is Bright Assembly – All we want is radical economic transformation". 

A Zuma supporter told News24 that the reshuffle should not be on the table for discussion but Ramaphosa, Mantashe and Mkhize must be slammed for their public anti-Zuma comments.

"Who were they pleasing going to the media? Consultation doesn't mean let's make a list together; the president has the prerogative," a Zuma supporter said.

'We are not toy telephones'

Mantashe is expected to argue that the ANC 2007 policy conference took a resolution that the president, premiers and mayors have to consult the party on changes to the executive.

The resolution was adopted following complaints at the time from within the party that former president Thabo Mbeki had increasingly left Luthuli House out of key government decisions. 

"It is a principle," Mantashe told News24 on Monday.

He warned that without consultation, the rest of the top six would be rendered useless. He was hitting back at Mabuza who argued Zuma did not have to consult with anyone on changes to his Cabinet.

"What I don't agree with is that people must call us names, because we have taken a stance, and make us toy telephones. We don't need to be consulted, therefore there is no need to elect the six officials," Mantashe said.

The Mantashe group can count on support from Gauteng, while the Northern Cape, Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape are seen as divided.

Zuma will also come face to face with some of the ministers he fired. Former tourism minister Derek Hanekom and energy minister Tina Joemat Pettersson are part of the NWC.

Other ministers that have openly called for him to step down who are also in the NWC include Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande, secretary general of the SACP that has demanded Zuma's resignation. Another member of the NWC calling for Zuma to go is parliamentary chief whip Jackson Mthembu. 

Economic downgrade

The SACP held another meeting of its extended Central Committee yesterday that confirmed its politburo meeting resolution for Zuma to step down. 

"We will take the discussions right inside the ANC as members," SACP second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said. 

Another anti-Zuma leader said the using the NWC to resolve the matter was the wrong strategy as the committee is made up of members who will try and protect Zuma.

"Some of the leaders condone corruption, the Guptas, and it is unpalatable for a political party to be a proxy," the leader said. 

"They have no interest in the party, but ANC need to take a firm decision if it has any sense of revolutionary morality," he said. 

Cosatu has also joined the calls for Zuma to go. On Tuesday, Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said Zuma has to step aside so that the mandate of the movement can continue. He said the organisation will meet with members of the central executive committee to ask for Zuma to be recalled. 

The anti-Zuma group could also use the downgrade of the country's economy to junk status on Monday as more reason to justify their stance.

However, they are up against the likes of Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  johannesburg  |  cabinet reshuffle

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