POLITICS

Zuma Probably Won't Go, But This Is Not The End. We're Just Getting Started.

We have a junk president that no official process will remove. But South Africans have a trick up our sleeves: our sheer tenacity.

07/04/2017 06:06 SAST | Updated 07/04/2017 09:45 SAST

ANALYSIS

President Jacob Zuma's victory could not have been more total. He will not be removed as African National Congress (ANC) president or president of the country by Parliament.

The media briefing by a severely chastised Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday made it clear: the ANC national working committee (NWC) the previous day had seen Zuma not only win the day against a party on the cusp of revolting against him, but wrangling apologies from those who had dared to publicly criticise him.

Hopes that the NWC meeting would signal the ANC's move to recall Zuma as ANC president, as they did with his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, were buried.

One moment the country was on the edge of dizzy optimism that the ANC would find its senses and oust the leader that has dragged the once great movement so far down they're in danger of losing power entirely in the next election. The next, we were subjected to leaders who were apologising and literally likening themselves to an abused spouse.

If you find me with a blue eye‚ I can develop a narrative that I bumped against a pole or something‚ rather than the leaders of the ANC going public with their disagreements.Gwede Mantashe

"The point we are making is that we find it adult enough to close a door‚ beat each other up and‚ if you find me with a blue eye‚ I can develop a narrative that I bumped against a pole or something‚ rather than the leaders of the ANC going public with their disagreements‚" Mantashe said at Monday's media briefing -- with a completely straight face.

Before that moment, Mantashe had almost found his voice and come out against the great abuses of one Jacob Zuma. He'd nearly managed to face South Africa and do the right thing.

Along with two others in the top six, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and treasury general Zweli Mkhize, Mantashe voiced his disapproval of the cabinet reshuffle that saw Pravin Gordhan removed as finance minister and the three went public saying they were not consulted about the decisions but merely informed. It was an unprecedented split at the most senior level of the party under Zuma.

But something happened on Monday that saw Mantashe scurrying back into his corner, like so many other ANC leaders who looked for one golden moment like they were about to actually do something.

Zuma's disciplining hand was evident everywhere. Grown men who had dared raise their heads were suddenly bowed down, apologising meekly or desperately making U-turns on previous comments and showing how absolutely, 100% they were behind their leader.

The chief whip of the ANC had become increasingly and rather bravely critical of Zuma.

Take Jackson Mthembu for instance.

The chief whip of the ANC had become increasingly and rather bravely critical of Zuma. He made it clear that he did not care for the consequences of speaking his mind, as he had to obey his conscience.

Until those consequences came knocking.

He had previous vocally supported Zuma's deputy Cyril Ramaphosa to take over from Zuma, called for the party to self-correct and the NEC to resign after heavy losses in the last local government elections and, crucially, has repeatedly disagreed with how the former finance minister and his team were treated. He saw that state resources were being used to pursue an agenda with the notorious Gupta business family at the centre, bent on state capture.

"I'm not doing this to be a hero in the media but to protect the ANC from all these wrongs," he has previously said. "I'm not doing this to profile myself but to restore the dignity of the organisation. I don't care if I lose my position."

That resolute stance either disappeared on Thursday or Mthembu has been neutered. A statement was sent out from his office dashing hopes that ANC members of parliament (MPs) would vote with opposition to remove Zuma in a motion of no confidence debate that has been set down for 18 April in the House of Assembly. The statement was stridently, almost hysterically, in Zuma's corner.

"We have been inundated with mischievous calls, text messages and emails by faceless individuals and organisations lobbying us to disregard the party line."ANC office of the chief whip

"We will abide by the decision of the ANC National Working Committee as announced by ANC Secretary General comrade Gwede Mantashe that the ANC does not and will not support this motion," it read.

"We will also not be supporting the call for a secret ballot in the motion of no confidence."

The parliamentary process to remove Zuma as president of the republic was the second hope many were clinging to, after the ANC process stalled and reversed.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane previously told the media that his party was in talks with ANC MPs who had expressed interest in voting with the opposition when anger with Zuma was at its height after the reshuffle. The move triggered a downgrade in the country's rating by S&P to junk status.

Zuma will probably not be removed: not by official processes at least within his party or government.

But the statement on Thursday from the office of the chief whip, issued not by Mthembu but an unknown media liaison officer, put paid to that notion. The motion of no confidence will come and go with the ANC using its parliamentary majority to squash it, as it has done four times previously.

It was the last nail in the coffin for hopes to formally remove Zuma ahead of the end of his term as ANC president in December 2017 and president of the country in 2019.

So Zuma will probably not be removed: not by official processes within his party or government.

But something else is happening: an undeniable groundswell of movements, organisations and individuals at almost every level of society who have had it with their president.

Not all will take part in the protests organised on Friday, as class concerns divide the day's plans. But the resistance to Zuma is bigger than one day. The alliance is in tatters with the ANC's two partners in the so-called ruling alliance, SACP and Cosatu, asking for Zuma to go.

The Guptas and Zuma probably didn't realise just how strong our institutions are and how stubborn the various elements of our civil society can be.

And even if the movements are purely a middle-class moment, that's nothing to be sneezed at. Regime change protests across the world often are sparked by this very class. Middle-class South Africans are largely not googling how to emigrate to Australia. They're trying to find out where the next march is, how they can consciously get involved and force out a president. There is heated debate on where they're choosing to spend their energies but there's one thing that unites nearly everyone in the country right now*: Zuma is a rubbish president who has brought us nothing but junk. A junk business family, not satisfied with the millions they've taken and intent on getting more. Junk status that has impoverished all of us overnight. And a junking of our once proud ANC: a liberation movement brought lower than low.

He may be artificially protected by a cabal of loyalists but the rising consensus that he must go will not be silenced. The Guptas and Zuma probably didn't realise just how strong our institutions are and how stubborn the various elements of our civil society can be. The call for Zuma to go will ring out clear, again and again, until he leaves.

And then we'll start rebuilding.

*Except perhaps for those reportedly paid by the Gupta family to put out an "alternative narrative". But we're not in the business of repeating fake news here.

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