29. November 2016

Zuma survives rebellion within the ANC's top body

South African President Jacob Zuma survived the most serious challenge to his leadership yet, after a contingent of top officials failed to force him from office during a meeting of the ruling party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) which ended a prolonged three-day meeting late Monday.

The motion for Zuma to resign, which took many ANC leaders by surprise, was first tabled by Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom at the party’s national executive committee meeting at St Georges Hotel outside Pretoria on Saturday. The motion was supported by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, his deputy Joe Phaahla, Rural Development deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi. Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, and Jackson Mthembu, the ANC’s chief whip in Parliament, also supported the motion, according to news reports. A group of ministers threatened to resign at the meeting if Zuma remains in his position.

In a press conference at Luthuli House in Johannesburg on Tuesday, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said: „Following robust, honest, candid and at times difficult discussions, the ANC NEC did not support the call for the President to step down.“ As it seems, there has not been a formal voting on Hanekom's proposal as – according to Zuma loyalists – voting „is not the traditional practice in the NEC“.

Zuma’s seven-year tenure as president has been marred by a succession of scandals and policy missteps that have weighed on the rand and put the nation’s investment-grade credit rating at risk. While Zuma, 74, has survived several previous challenges to his leadership, the fact that members of his own cabinet have openly turned against him is the clearest sign yet that his grip on power is slipping. He’s scheduled to step down as the ANC’s leader in December next year and his second term as president ends in 2019.
The rebellion within the ANC comes almost a month after the nation’s graft ombudsman released a report indicating that Zuma may have allowed members of a wealthy family, who are his friends and in business with his son, to influence cabinet appointments and the awarding of state contracts. Zuma denies the allegation and is challenging the ombudsman’s findings in court. 

In March, the nation’s top court ruled that he violated his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer funds spent on upgrading his private home. In August, the ANC suffered its worst electoral performance in a local government vote, losing control of the capital, Pretoria, and the economic hub of Johannesburg.

While Zuma on Tuesday was scheduled to travel to Cuba to attend Fidel Castro’s funeral, the oppositional Economic Freedom Fighters (EEF) have applied to National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete for an urgent vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma to be included in the order paper of Tuesday's sitting.

An EFF source said that the request was with the Speaker who had yet to decide on whether to grant the request. However, a source has revealed that ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu would support this request from the EFF.

At the NEC, sources in the anti-Zuma camp revealed that the ANC caucus in Parliament would vote with the opposition if a motion of no confidence in the president was moved in the National Assembly. (various sources)


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