POLITICS
12/02/2018 13:37 SAST | Updated 12/02/2018 14:50 SAST

Zexit: This Is Ramaphosa's Worst-Case Scenario

There is nothing in President Jacob Zuma’s tenure as head of state that suggests he will act in the interests of the country — or his party, for that matter.

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ANALYSIS

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa put his reputation on the line in his speech in Cape Town on Sunday when he said the ANC's executive committee (NEC) will on Monday seek "finality" and "closure" on President Jacob Zuma's future.

Conventional political theory suggests that Zuma will be recalled from office on Monday, or that Ramaphosa will be sharing the final details of the rogue president's departure with his colleagues. Surely, the national mood suggests, this is the final hour?

DID RAMAPHOSA DO ALL HE COULD?

Ramaphosa has explored every avenue available to him to attempt to secure Zuma's relatively painless exit from the political stage.

He's coaxed, cajoled and convinced those that needed it to build a broad coalition in support of Zuma's exit, he's addressed NECs, ANC working committees, international gatherings, private meetings and traditional leaders.

The ANC's leadership seemingly tried its best to reason with and mollycoddle Zuma, almost breaking its spine in bending over backwards to accommodate him. It hasn't worked.

THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO

Zuma is a cynical operator.

He attempted to shut down the Nkandla investigation and then dismissed the only credible findings into it. He enabled the state capture network and also tried to hobble the investigation.

And he has manipulated the state to try to quash his prosecution on 18 charges and 783 counts of fraud, corruption, money-laundering and racketeering against him.

If the NEC decides to recall Zuma, as they did with former president Thabo Mbeki, he can just say "no". There is no constitutional imperative on him to follow the ANC's orders. He is elected by the National Assembly, not the NEC.

It will be a disaster for the ANC.

WHY WOULD HE DO SO?

Why won't he, should be the question!

There is no incentive from him to resign from office. He is acutely aware that the moment he quits, he will be exposed to prosecution and jail. And Ramaphosa cannot offer him immunity from prosecution, well, at least not legally.

If any details about any form of political solution surface, it will be challenged in court. The longer he remains in office, the longer he retains access and influence.

WHAT THEN?

The ANC will be plunged into crisis. it will mean it is unable to reason with its highest deployee and that there are no internal options left to discipline the wayward cadre.

If Zuma decides to defy the ANC — which will be momentous and pretty unprecedented — the governing party will have to seek recourse in Parliament.

A motion of no confidence in the president is the swiftest but certainly the messiest way of dealing with Zuma. And the ANC wants to avoid this as far as it can because it will hurt the party and further expose divisions.

Symbolically, it will be significant because it will mean the ANC sacrifices the man it mandated to lead government on the altar of the opposition. The ANC cannot remove Zuma without the DA, EFF and other parties' help. It would be a major, major calamity if that is the only option left to the ANC.

If Zuma is removed by a motion of no confidence the whole Cabinet is also forced to resign, with the speaker who will then be acting president until a new head of state is elected.

The damage to the party will be enormous. And Zuma? He will again be cast as the victim, as he has manufactured countless times before. He knows he's going down... he just doesn't want to go alone.

IS THIS REALLY A WORST-CASE SCENARIO?

Well, in a logical, political-theory-type world, yes. Zuma hasn't yet threatened martial law or a state of emergency. We haven't had any indication of the military being mobilised and there isn't anything to suggest that.

Of course, this might all be moot if Zuma agrees to the NEC's instruction and addresses the nation at 7pm!