The flurry of speculation, long wait and anxiety all came to naught on Wednesday when ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa issued his first “clarity” statement on President Jacob Zuma’s future as head of state.
South Africa has been on tenterhooks since Sunday night when the ANC top six met Zuma to tell him that his time is up, followed by Monday’s special national working committee meeting, a postponed special national executive meeting on Tuesday and another meeting between Ramaphosa and Zuma later that night.
As a result of the ANC’s shambolic house the nation, for the first time in history, witnessed a postponement of the country’s annual state of the nation address, which is a programme of action for government in the new year.
If anything, Ramaphosa’s statement was expected to provide a sense of closure and chart a new future but all he managed to confirm was that Zuma was holding the ANC at ransom and he was challenging its authority.
The head of state, like mayors, councillors and all other ANC public representatives, is a deployee of the party.
We have been used to members of the provincial legislature, municipal managers and councillors defying the party and refusing to resign but this marks the first time that a high-ranking ANC member publicly shows the party a middle finger.
Ramaphosa says he met Zuma on Tuesday night and they “began direct discussions on the transition and matters relating to his position as the president of the republic”.
A special national executive committee meeting was scheduled today to with a view to seal Zuma’s fate but Ramaphosa says it was pushed back because he was suddenly making better “progress” than he did on Sunday.
There are also “pertinent matters” – whatever that means – standing between the ANC’s call and Zuma’s exit.
He repeats the vague chorus that the ANC fed the public over the last 24 hours, bar the promise for “a speedy resolution”.
“The discussions were constructive and lay the basis for a speedy resolution of the matter in the interests of the country and its people.”
So far South Africans are in the dark about the real “problem” and the best assumption to make is that Zuma does not see any reason or urgency behind the ANC’s call for him to step down.
Clearly, the ANC and Ramaphosa also have a lot of time in their hands.
On Friday he will be taking a walk at a train station in Cape Town, have breakfast with the family of the late ANC stalwart Dullah Omar, visit a historic site, talk about the water crisis and meet members of the clergy, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The rest of the ANC officials will be engaged in the same exercise elsewhere in the Cape.
It’s business as usual.
Ramaphosa says he expects to meet with Zuma again, and he has seemingly requested a few more “days” to make up his mind.
“This will enable President Zuma and myself to conclude our discussions and report back to our organisation and the country in the coming days.” The end is clearly not nigh.
Ramaphosa and his ANC colleagues are not oblivious to the damage caused by the uncertainty surrounding Zuma’s position.
He concedes the same, saying he is “aware that the uncertainty surrounding the position of the head of state and government is a cause for concern among many South Africans. This is understandable.”
His consolation is that “the process we have now embarked on will achieve an outcome that not only addresses these concerns”.
Parliament and government will continue with work as usual, he says.
I am doubtful these words will soothe the agony South Africans have endured since Sunday.