NEWS
08/02/2018 06:11 SAST | Updated 08/02/2018 11:09 SAST

The End Is Looming, But Zuma Keeps Stalling

Our president seems determined to leave office on his own terms and not under instructions by the ANC.

Theuns Kruger/Graphics24

While it seems certain that President Jacob Zuma will leave office, he appears to be stalling the process, determined to leave office on his own terms and not under instructions by the ANC.

On Wednesday night, it emerged that Zuma flatly refused to leave when asked to do so by the ANC's top six on Sunday night, stubbornly pretending not to know what the word "transition" meant.

And according to reports, Zuma still has ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa locked in talks over the conditions of his resignation. In the meantime, the country has had to postpone the state of the nation address (Sona) to accommodate negotiations with a defiant Zuma.

Sumaya Hisham / Reuters
Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa leaves Tuynhuys, the office of the Presidency at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile confirmed in a leaked recording that the ANC would have recalled President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday night, if he had not agreed to resign, TimesLive reported. This would have been after a meeting of the ANC's national executive committee (NEC), which was cancelled at the last minute, after talks between Zuma and Ramaphosa.

Zuma reportedly wants time to "say goodbye" to his Cabinet, among a plethora of other unknown demands, and this is just one of the reasons why he is apparently delaying leaving office.

Ramaphosa issued a statement on Wednesday in which he tried to assure the country that the leadership impasse would be resolved, but the statement stopped short of saying whether or not the country would have a new president soon. Ramaphosa only said that "pertinent matters" were still under discussion.

The government communications team issued photographs on Wednesday showing a smiling Ramaphosa and Zuma at a Cabinet meeting, in what could only have been an effort to make it seem as if there were no ructions in the national executive.

But in the recording released by TimesLive, Mashatile's tone seems to imply that the top six are frustrated by Zuma's unwillingness to step aside.

Mashatile, addressing investors at the Mining Indaba on Tuesday night, was clearly not aware that the NEC meeting was off. He explained that, on Sunday night, the ANC's top six had met with Zuma in an effort to persuade him to resign.

Zuma, he said, asked what the word "transition" meant, adding that this was a "funny" word that had been coined by the top six. They explained that this meant handing over power to Ramaphosa.

Zuma told the top six that he was not going anywhere, and said that this was why the ANC's national working committee (NWC) met on Monday. The NWC resolved to call a meeting of the NEC, which is the only structure that can recall Zuma.

"If the president does not want to resign voluntarily we will recall him like we did Mbeki, and that we will do tomorrow night," Mashatile said on Tuesday night, to applause from those in the room.

AFP/Getty Images
ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile.

He assured his audience that the new leadership was focused on good governance, having come from an era where there were concerns about state capture.

Mashatile said that Zuma was prepared to go through a motion of no confidence vote in the National Assembly or even impeachment proceedings.

"He is prepared to go through that, we are not," Mashatile. He said this was why the Sona was postponed.

"The one who is leaving who can't give the message for the future. For me it's as simple as that," he said.

"He can't tell us what to do because we [the top six] have been elected. The buck in this country stops with Cyril Ramaphosa. We've worked with Zuma for years but now it's time for change."

In an unusual show of unity, opposition parties met on Wednesday to discuss the way forward after Zuma's exit from office, according to TimesLive.

In a statement, the parties reportedly said that the country "cannot grind to a halt to allow for a compromised ANC to fight their internal battles".

We cannot sit around and wait for the two centres of power to fight their war of attrition while our country is left in limbo. The ANC cannot hold our country to ransom. As opposition parties in Parliament‚ we will work together in the best interests of SA and its people," they said.

If Zuma is impeached, he will lose his post-presidency benefits. But if he resigns, he will earn his salary for the rest of his life, according to Business Day.

This means Zuma will earn R2,989,845 per year and will be provided with an official vehicle, an office, a secretary and security, and will be entitled to free domestic flights on SAA, according to Business Day.

Sumaya Hisham / Reuters
President Jacob Zuma leaves Tuynhuys, the office of the Presidency at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

Sources who spoke to Business Day reportedly said Zuma is still negotiating the terms of his exit with Ramaphosa. "Pertinent matters" are reportedly still under discussion, as Ramaphosa races against time to ensure that Zuma resigns in time for a Sona to be delivered before the budget speech later this month.

The budget reportedly must be tabled by March 14 to allow for any changes to personal income tax in company payrolls at the beginning of the new tax year, according to Business Day. But given all the processes that must take place once the budget has been tabled, it may already be too late.

An NEC source said the postponement of Wednesday's NEC meeting was yet another stalling tactic by Zuma.

"If he is going, why does he keep postponing it? It does not make sense to postpone it for two days. He might be playing Ramaphosa."

There is still speculation that Zuma wants to be assured that he will not be prosecuted for corruption if he leaves office, but there has been no official word on what his terms are.

What is clear, however, is that his exit is now a matter of when, not if.

On Wednesday, former tourism minister Derek Hanekom sent out a tweet indicating that Zuma could be gone in a matter of days.