The yellow ANC T-shirts bearing former president Jacob Zuma’s image will make a comeback outside the Durban High Court this Friday, in a week that could see President Cyril Ramaphosa’s tenuous grip on power in the party tested.
Last weekend’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting left a number of loose ends, including uncertainty around early elections, indecisiveness about whether to hold provincial elective conferences and confusion about supporting Zuma in court.
This was interpreted as indicative that the party is still divided between Ramaphosa supporters and those who have not yet warmed up to him and are loosely associated with Zuma.
The ANC has warned its structures not to associate the party and its colours with Zuma’s trial and instead show support as individuals.
Zuma’s supporters are furious that the former president was good enough to lead campaigning in KwaZulu-Natal during the recent voter registration weekend, but that he should be abandoned when he appears in court.
So incensed are some members by the NEC’s decision to distance the ANC from its former president, that they are mobilising support for him, which is expected to intensify this week.
City Press has seen T-shirts with Zuma’s face and the ANC logo printed on them, in defiance of the NEC’s decision.
Churches, traditional leaders and business forums across KwaZulu-Natal and some from outside are in talks about holding a night vigil on the eve of Zuma’s court appearance.
Senior leaders, such as ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) deputy president Sisi Ntombela, say they will come to court as individuals, along with ANC Youth League members in the province who have pledged support for Zuma.
“We as the ANCWL have long taken a decision that we are going to support him,” said Ntombela. “We are comrades. It doesn’t mean that when one of our comrades is in trouble, then we must turn around against him. We can support him as individuals, it’s fine, but we will still discuss it.”
On Friday, Ramaphosa went to the KwaZulu-Natal north coast – a stronghold of his supporters in the province – for a church service. He was accompanied by former provincial ANC chairperson and ally Senzo Mchunu and provincial interim committee (PIC) convener Mike Mabuyakhulu.
Zuma attended church services in eThekwini with PIC coordinator and former KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala.
Zuma told congregants: “People are free, but I am not. They are still after me.
“Even after I have left, they are still after me, but that is our issue. I am pleading to you Christians to lead us towards God and ask that he softens peoples’ hearts before we get to a place that is not good.”
DA KwaZulu-Natal leader Zwakele Mncwango has raised concerns about the calibre of those mobilising on Zuma’s behalf.
“What does it say about the former president’s integrity that he is working with hooligans who have been destructive in eThekwini?
“Delangokubona [business forum] have made our lives miserable, stopping contractors and impacting service delivery.
“Zuma is reconsolidating these guys. There was a period when they were sort of fracturing, but Zuma has regrouped them,” Mncwango said.
“They demand 30% from contractors and call it subcontracting, but they don’t do the work. They take the money and leave.”
Zuma’s loyalists are planning to block the Ramaphosa-backed idea to halt all regional and provincial ANC elective conferences – which they suspect to be a ploy to weaken his dominance in provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and North West.
An NEC member aligned with the Zuma group said that in these provinces “the predominant faction will always be ready”. “Those who are weak are the ones trying to impose this agenda of postponement.
“The reality is that we are divided and others [the Ramaphosa group] have misread their strength and now want to postpone under the guise of focusing on 2019.”
Another KwaZulu-Natal insider aligned with the Ramaphosa faction confirmed that they were pushing for conferences to be postponed long enough to give their camp enough time to get their house in order in preparation for the bitterly divided province.
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said after the weekend’s meeting that a special NEC meeting would be called to conclude the matter.
EARLY NGC OR NOT?
Ramaphosa has been blamed for failing to implement ANC national conference resolutions like nationalising the SA Reserve Bank, providing free education across the board and not just for first-year students, as well as “doublespeak” on changing the Constitution to provide for land expropriation without compensation.
These allegations form the backbone of a lobby for the ANC to call a special national general council (NGC), where Ramaphosa would be made to feel the heat.
Some Zuma loyalists would like to use the NGC to discuss Zuma’s recall and the NEC’s decision to distance the party from his trial.
Initially, talk of the special NGC had been raised from some in the Ramaphosa camp as a way to remove Magashule and replace him with Mchunu.
An insider from the Ramaphosa camp said it was still too soon for the NGC.
“We can’t afford NGC talk now, because the plan was to use that special NGC to remove Ace and maybe DD [ANC deputy president David Mabuza].”
However, the commission of inquiry into state capture first had to complete its work, or “cast enough of a shadow on Ace for the push for him to be removed at NGC to make sense”.
“Or if the commission completes its work and does not deal with Ace, then the NGC does. So, at this stage, it doesn’t make sense to have an NGC,” the insider said.
Magashule said last week that delegates at the national elective conference at Nasrec had resolved to hold an NGC to look at issues which were not finalised there. He said a date for this had not been determined yet.
EARLY ELECTIONS REJECTED
Parliament this week adopted an extended constituency period, leading opposition parties to speculate that the ANC wanted to utilise that extra time for electioneering.
The ANC has denied this.
The National Assembly will take a two-month break from June until August.
However, ANC caucus sources said they have not been informed of any election plans, if these exist at all. The extended stay away from Parliament is the result of a resolution, taken about two years ago, for MPs to spend more time in their constituencies.
“We are trying to manage things better. We have a monitoring team and it really assists us, because not only do they monitor our work, we now get to go to the constituencies to report back,” said one source.
Last week’s NEC floated and then seemingly withdrew support for holding an early election, signalling a sober appreciation that joy about Ramaphosa’s election, or “Ramaphoria”, may not yet translate into votes, despite his growing popularity since Zuma’s exit.
“Ramaphoria is real, but there is not yet total buy-in,” said one aide.
“There were concerns of how quickly the party could raise enough funds to contend with the deep pockets of the main opposition.”
The Constitution empowers Ramaphosa to call and set the date for an election, provided the National Assembly dissolves, which it can do through a simple majority.
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