The African National Congress (ANC) is caught in a vortex of arrogance, hubris and fear from which it is unable to escape. It is unwilling to pull President Jacob Zuma into line, unable to make difficult decisions, too illiterate to read the signs and too blind to see the mortal injury to self and country.
The ANC is unwilling to pull President Jacob Zuma into line, unable to make difficult decisions, too illiterate to read the signs and too blind to see the mortal injury to self and country.
That much was clear from the ANC's National Executive Committee (NEC) statement, presented by Gwede Mantashe in the party's American-style media auditorium at Luthuli House, Johannesburg, on Wednesday.
Mantashe, accompanied by his deputy, Jessie Duarte, and Zizi Kodwa, national spokesperson, chastised the large media contingent that its running commentary about the motion put forward at the NEC — that Zuma steps down as head of state — was unwelcome and ill-informed.
The NEC, Manatshe said, debated the issue extensively and eventually decided there wasn't enough support for the motion. The party's leaders resolved to work towards unity and decried the "negative narrative directed towards the president". It also warned against the emergence of "racism, ethnic nationalism and monopoly capital".
There are three pervasive themes running through the NEC statement:
- the quest for party unity (intimating that there is division);
- negativity around Zuma is a perception (and not reality); and
- there are other forces, like monopoly capital, at work (and the problem doesn't lie within).
There is no doubt frustration with Zuma is increasing, growing and mutating. The mere fact that someone as senior as Derek Hanekom, supported by the likes of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, was able to introduce the debate around Zuma into the NEC means that frustration has now reached the top echelons of the party. There is no turning back.
The reality is however Hanekom and Co have been manifestly unsuccessful to unseat Zuma. And it is becoming increasingly unlikely that it will happen anytime soon.
Zuma has been treated with impunity by Mantashe, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize after every single calamitous event that has rocked government and the party.
What were the repercussions after the disastrous sacking of ex-finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December last year?
Or the devastating Nkandla judgment by the Constitutional Court in March where Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng declared Zuma "failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution"?
Or the continuous accusations, by senior ANC members, of how Zuma was involved in assuaging his friends, the Guptas, by manipulating government process and procedure?
Or the disastrous results in the municipal elections in August, where Zuma's ANC lost control of three metro councils and suffered a drop in support of eight percentage points?
Or the embarrassment which was the public protector's report into so-called state capture, with the head of state literally explaining his flexible views on ethics?
Fact and fiction
Mantashe and Duarte, at Wednesday's press conference, mocked an effort by the Economic Freedom Fighters to introduce another vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly. Duarte, grinning and turning to an equally bemused Mantashe, asked: "What is it, the fourth one this year? That is the opposition's only weapon ... they can only cause disturbances and try to destabilise ... such a vote doesn't bother us."
"What is it, the fourth one this year? That is the opposition's only weapon ... they can only cause disturbances and try to destabilise ... such a vote doesn't bother us."Jessie Duarte
These events — from Nene to all the votes of no confidence — aren't normal, despite what Mantashe and Duarte want South Africans to believe. Because of this, the divisions are real, although it is clear the split is uneven and in Zuma's favour.
The NEC's contention that the perception around Zuma is a "negative narrative" is also patently false. This perception is fed by empirical, verifiable facts and based on real, actual events — not on gossip or unnamed sources feeding the media falsehoods.
Nene, Nkandla, state capture, the elections — these aren't wooly, amoeba-like figments of somebody's imagination. It actually happened.
The ANC today cannot be analysed by drawing conclusions from how internal systems, frameworks and events historically shaped the party. Zuma's ANC is very different from Thabo Mbeki's, unrecognisable from Nelson Mandela's and incomparable with Oliver Tambo's. Apart from considering the consequences, it's also futile to compare Mbeki's recall with current events, because the power-relationships are vastly different.
Accepted political models, historical precedent or established behaviour, therefore, do not apply and also explain why the attempted putsch by Hanekom failed.
The NEC revolt has shaken Zuma and his supporters and altered internal dynamics. But the ANC remains convinced, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, that Zuma should still steer the ANC ship.
And he's steering her towards the rocks.
Watch below video: Julius Malema: An ANC under Kgalema Motlanthe would be much stronger.